Psalm 126:4 says, “Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev!” We have a much better appreciation of that statement now. Today we awoke to rain in Jerusalem (about 15 degrees Celsius and rain) and Reuven, our guide said it was old man winter trying to let go. [Maritimeres may insert customary groaning and rolling eyes here]. We traveled the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, and we stopped for a brilliant lookout over the Judean wilderness. From there we continued south, making our descent into the Dead Sea area. The rain was still falling and Reuven pointed out that it hardly ever rains where we were and never in April. It was a harbinger of things to come. Because on the trip back home at the end of the day, sections of the road were almost impassable and water poured through dried up river beds, and tumbled off high cliffs as we looked out our bus windows in amazement. Reuven, who has guided in Israel for a lifetime, told us he had never seen anything like it. He described it as a once in a lifetime experience. Like streams in the Negev indeed.
We spent part of our day trying to stay out of the damp wind which blew while we were on top of Masada, Herod’s Dead Sea fortress, which fell to the Romans under Vespasian. The Jews who were holed up there killed themselves rather than be taken prisoner of Rome. From there we were supposed to hike upon En Gedi, but because so much water had fallen, the site was closed, because the hiking path would have been slippery and dangerous.
So we decided to dip in the Dead Sea a little ahead of schedule. We bounced and floated, laughed and relaxed as the refreshing minerals supposedly rejuvenated our skin. I don’t look twenty years younger, so I’m not sure if the stuff really works. I forgot to mention our bathroom stop at the Ahava factory outlet, where our group hurriedly bought up age-defying creams and tonics for healthier skins. Just in case, I hope they got their money back guarantee!
Finally we enjoyed a stop at Qumran, one of my favorite sites, because of the importance of the find that happened here. In 1947 a young Bedouin discovered the most significant archaeological find in all of modern history: The Dead Sea scrolls. These ancient scrolls contained almost the entire bible and at the time of their discovery were a thousand years older than any scroll that had previously been found. The
story of how they arrived in Israel is one of international intrigue and mystery, and I think we were the most quiet we have been all trip (we haven’t been quiet much!) while Reuven told us the story. These scrolls are now preserved in the Israel museum in the Shrine of the Book, a place we will visit tomorrow.
We are now back at our hotel and resting. Tomorrow night we are planning a shopping experience in the Old City after a day of touring and in not too many days it will be time to return. Caleb has already declared that he wants to stay. We’ll have to see what his mom says about that!
From Jerusalem, Pastor Herb