For the majority of our time in Israel we stayed at this hotel – Prima Kings. It’s a very nice hotel within walking distance of the Old City.
Andy and I liked sitting on this terrace and people watching. It was such a busy intersection right underneath us. People are aggressive drivers and like to honk a lot. Made for interesting entertainment.
So, our last touring day. We headed to the desert. And, Baby, it was hot! Notice the changing geography as we headed out of Jerusalem into the Dead Sea area.
Date palms. They use cherry pickers to get the dates at the top. Donkeys mow the grass below.
Camels by a gas station.
The terrain gets rocky and barren very fast.
Kidron Valley below.
We arrived at Masada. I didn’t know anything about this towering mountain until I toured it. Such an interesting and unexpected place. If you look closely at the photo below, you can see where the gondola reaches a station at the top. You can take the gondola ORrrrrr you can climb that path. What would you do in 100 degree heat?
At the bottom of Masada at the visitor center.
Getting ready to get on the gondola. There were about 50 of us in it, all standing close to one another. No air conditioning, so it’s good it went fairly quickly. You can see some of the stairways leading up to the top.
Whew, we made it! What a view! You can see the Dead Sea in the background.
We learned about how this place was built as a palace and fortress for Herod and was later used as a fortress for fleeing rebel Zealot Jews after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. Around 74 A.D. Roman soldiers were able to finally breach the walls of Masada only to find that all 960 inhabitants, except for a couple of women and children who escaped to tell about it, had committed mass suicide and burned all their buildings and supplies except for the food storehouse. They wanted to show that their death was not caused by starvation. It was so heart-wrenching to think that fathers killed their wives and children, and the men killed each other, ending in a suicide, so that their families would not end up as slaves, mistreated terribly.
I encourage you to read the signs I’m posting. It is so interesting.
The Snake Path is the winding one up the side of the mountain.
Here is a google photo of the top of Masada.
Look at the model below that Sheila is taking in. Can you imagine this palace being built on the side and top of that rocky hill? Many slaves died building it.
What an incredible view from the top. The rectangular areas are where the Romans camped outside of Masada to get ready to storm it in pursuit of the Zealots living there.
The tiered palace on the side of the mountain.
The birds are used to friendly visitors.
Entrance to Bath House.
They had different rooms for cold, tepid and steam baths.
Huge cistern for water.
Model showing how the water came down the valleys into cisterns and was gathered.
More Roman encampment areas.
A boy’s bar mitzvah with family.
Animals for eating and for sacrificing were kept here.
Headed back down.
We drove along the Dead Sea again.
Because the water level is so low, sink holes are popping up all over near the coastline. It’s a big dilemma because water from the Jordan is pumped to so many other areas. It can be very dangerous to walk in these areas because you can fall in a hole 10 to 15 feet deep!
This road and tourist area were destroyed.
It’s taking down trees.
A family of Ibex!
Coastline of the Dead Sea. You can see the salt around the edges.
More sink holes.
Another tourist area destroyed. Sue on our team said that she had swam there about 8 years ago.
Baby palm trees planted.
Next, we traveled to Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Three Bedouin shepherds were tending their sheep in these mountains, tossed a rock into a cave and heard it hit something. They went in to investigate and found some scrolls in jars, took them into town, tried to sell them to a dealer in Bethlehem who said they were worthless. Later they were sold to a Syrian Christian man.
Next we got to go swim in the Dead Sea! What a trippy dip! You get in and it feels like regular water but then you try to sit on the bottom and you only bob like a bobber. You can’t sink. If you get onto your stomach, you feel as if your face is going to go under, so you have to turn on your side to get upright. In the deeper parts I tried to push my arms up in order to touch the bottom. Couldn’t happen. In the Dead Sea there is 10 times the amount of salt as in the ocean, so you are 10 times more buoyant. You have to wear shoes here because the sand is SO hot in the summer and you can hurt your feet because of salt formations. The dark clay at the bottom felt amazing and soft. It’s no wonder they sell so many beautifying treatments from the Dead Sea.
Back to Jerusalem where we met King George! He is a shop owner who is an Arab Christian. These Christians are persecuted by their muslim neighbors. We were glad to give him some business. He sold beautiful works of art made out of olive wood.
Notice how Andy isn’t enjoying the shopping? I think he’s worried. The big nativity set in front of him is probably a few thousand dollars.
My favorite piece.
So, that was the end of our journey. The next morning we got up at 2:45 am and had good, uneventful flights back home.
We now have Israel in our hearts, like never before.
I’m so thankful for this amazing team and for our fearless leaders, all a testament to the Holy Spirit’s power and grace. I can’t wait to get back to Israel.
Thanks for coming on this journey with me!
The Lord gives strength to His people;
the Lord blesses His people with peace.
– Psalm 29:11 (NIV)
The LORD bless you, O abode of righteousness, O holy hill!
– Jeremiah 31:23 (NIV)
Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the Lord has blessed.
– Isaiah 61:9 (NIV)
Photos by Susie Stewart