Our Trip to Israel - The Dead Sea

From Masada to Qumran

 

 This was the driest, most desolate place. This was taken as we left the main road to go up to Masada where Herod had built his fortress. There were a few scattered oasis, but other than that it seemed to be only rock, dirt and sand. While driving along the Dead Sea, we encountered two war planes flying down the shoreline on patrol.

 Masada is a large flat-topped hill or mesa appearing somewhat like an island in a sea. It is approximately the height of the surrounding cliffs. It is arid and desolate - not my idea of a place to put your summer palace. But here, in spite of the oppressive heat, was everything you needed to live in comfort. Herod's "three- story" palace occupied the north end of the mesa. There was a synagogue, a bathhouse with swimming pool, places to store both food and large cisterns for water. Herod held court on the other end of the mesa from his palace where there were comforts for the guests who waited to see him.

 

 

After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., a band of Zealots fled to Masada where they held out against the Romans until 73 C.E. From the top of Masada, you can easily see the remains of the Roman encampments and the wall that they built around Masada during the siege. On the opposite side, the Romans build a ramp to the top of Masada and used their battering rams and siege engines to breach the walls and take the fortress. When the Romans entered they found the people dead by their own hand.

 Somewhat north of Masada is the area of Ein Gedi. Ein Gedi is one of the few oasis along the Dead Sea. Fountains of water emerging from underground springs to feed the stream that runs down the ravine. There is a waterfall at the top of the ravine. This is where David took refuge and hid in a cave while King Saul searched for him. This is also the place where David cut of a part of Saul's shirt to show him that he could have killed him. As you walk up the ravine, you find many caves along the way. There was very little refuge from the heat and it was a hard climb going up most of the way. It gave me a lot of respect for David and others who climbed up here before there were paths and steps carved in the stone to make the trip easier. You can see Halvor, our guide, at the top of the right hand bush. Sam took this picture when I had to stop to rest for a minute.

 

Above: About halfway up the ravine, we were able to relax and cool off in a small natural pool formed by the rocks.

Above right: We finally made it to the top of the ravine where the water plummets down from the cliffs above. Here are the brave who dared to make the climb.

Right: The trek back down - you can see the Dead Sea in the back ground and the trees lining the stream far below us.

Here is a portion of the ruins at Qumran. Contrary to my imaginations, Qumran was a well-developed city with aqueducts, cisterns and buildings consisting of worship center, communal kitchens, eating areas and numerous other buildings. A thriving community of Jewish believers. John the baptizer was believed to be a member of the Essene sect who had their headquarters here. Some people believe Jesus may have been an Essene, too.

Much mystery has surrounded the Essenes and their community. It was here that the greatest discovery of the century was made. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in several caves (one of them is shown at the right) surrounding Qumran.

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