On our way out to the Dead Sea (south west of Jerusalem), we saw desert mountains with herds of sheep and Bedouin shepherds. Tali explained to us that only in the Middle East do shepherds lead their sheep, not follow them. The sheep come to know the voice of their shepherd. There are about 140,000 Bedouin people still living nomadically here in tents or portable huts.
We drove to the lowest place on earth, to the Dead Sea. It sits 1300 feet below sea level. Because of the plunging elevation I "lost my ears" before I arrived there. I decided that, at only 9.30 a.m., I didn’t want to descend to the sea’s shore, lie in the 30% salted water, then cover myself with mud, then shower, then climb way back up the hill, dry off, get redressed, and fight off the flies (which were a real problem). Instead, I caused a little excitement when I used one of the toilets and wondered why men were invading it as I was exiting! My mistake. Whoops!
As we traveled, to our next destination we got some stats from Tali: the Dead Sea is 48 miles long, 9 miles across, and another 1300 feet deep at its deepest point. Although nothing can live in the Dead Sea, it is rich in minerals, salt and many healing properties. The people of Israel are experts in desert irrigation and agriculture, and Israel produces some of the best fruit and vegetables on the earth, due to the small amount of salt used in the water, which makes their produce taste a little sweeter than most.
Tali (a Jewish believer in Yeshua) told us this joke: There were three kids bragging about their dads. One was American, one French, and one Jewish. The American boy said, “my Dad built the Empire State Building!” The French boy said “my Dad built the Eiffel Tower!” The Jewish boy, knowing there are no tall buildings in Israel said, “my Dad is so great, he killed the Dead Sea!” Anyway…
Next we went to En Gede, meaning the Goats’ Spring. Remember, this is serious desert – serious mountain desert – with no water other than the Dead Sea (and that isn't potable). En Gede is where soldiers came to get drinking water, and where King Saul was trying to kill David, who was next in line. In one of these enormous caves is where David could have killed King Saul, but didn’t. Where does the spring come from? It runs naturally from far away Jerusalem, due to the fact that we are well below sea level. Also, the limestone mountains hold any water that does come, and the water is released when needed.
Next we travelled to Masada. This story is too big to tell here, so look it up if you can! Masada means 'strong, fortress.' It had been King Herod’s fortress and castle just before the fall of the Roman Empire (ca. 70 A.D.). This Empire had been ravaging all of the known world, and was in complete control of The Middle East during the time of Christ. The natural flat-topped mountain stands approximately 3000 feet above the plain below. The Jews had rebelled and were running for their lives, and ended up in the fortress. About 970 men, women, and children were hiding out there. The Roman army came with 9,000 soldiers and 15,000 slaves (captured Jews), and set up stations around the fortress’ perimeter. The ruins are there today. I saw them! Using the slaves for labour, the Romans built a ramp – I’m talking a 3000-foot ramp with wood, stones, and rock to get at the fortress! The Jews did everything they could to defend themselves, but when they realized that they could not hold off their enemies, they committed a mass suicide, so they would not be captured and put into slavery. When the Romans broke through, they found only the dead.
Next we moved onto a Jewish settlement where a friend of Ruth's has a very controversial and powerful sculpture exhibit in his home, called "Fountain of Tears." The artist is a Canadian, Rick Wienecke.
We ended up in Beer Sheba, where we are staying for the night. Everyone is tired!
On the way here, we got a report from the news that starting today, only 45 Jews will be allowed on The Temple Mount each morning, and only 15 in the afternoon, and that they will require special permits to do so. Also, tour guides are now forbidden to say that the Jewish Temple once stood where the Rock of the Dome now stands today. Not good.
The adventure continues tomorrow….