Sunday, February 16, 2014

Return to Israel

It felt like coming home today.  While we had an enjoyable time in Jordan, and were treated well, there was something nice about crossing the border back into Israel.  And it was a joy to be joined by our friend and guide Nir Nitzan and rejoined by our bus driver Shlome.

We loaded up and headed south along the Dead Sea road to Masada.  Riding up the crowded cable car, we were immediately struck by this massive fortress in the desert.  Herod had it built likely to govern the perfume trade of the Nabateans from Petra to Gaza and also as a place of escape if faced with treachery. We visited the ancient storage rooms, bath house, palace area and synagogue.  We saw the remnants of the ramp used by the Romans to attack the rebel Jews who fled here following the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  960 people committed suicide the night before they broke through.

We then made our way to Qumran, the location where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found by a bedouin shepherd boy in 1947.    They saw themselves as the "children of the light", fighting against the darkness of a corrupt priesthood in Jerusalem. They focused on the copying of the Scriptures and prayer.  A complete copy of Isaiah and pieces of every other Old Testament book were found here except for Ezra and Esther.  We will see these fragments later in Jerusalem.

Because our crossing took so long this morning, we only had time left for our travels up through the Jordan Valley.  Before dark we did catch a glimpse of Jericho.  But the blessing was that we traveled most of the way in rain.  Israel has had drought conditions this winter and the water was very welcomed.  We reached the Scots Hotel in Tiberius for our first night in the Galilee.

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