Our wake-up call was 5:30 am this morning- ouch! Breakfast 6:30 a.m. and the bus left at 7:30 AM as we are always waiting for the slow pokes.
Breakfast was the same fabulous spread as yesterday. I’m indulging in trusted favorites like an omelet and a selection of delicious fruit and then experimenting with some of the salads. I’m even trying some things that as of yet are unnamed and unidentifiable.
Well, I had 4 hours of sleep last night so it’s getting better. I’m very excited for today. We really begin the journey of Israel today. That is what is probably keeping me awake.
Today we are heading east to the Dead Sea area. It is about 1 hour east of Jerusalem but I think only about 13 miles. We have 4 destinations: En Gedi; Qumran; Masada; and the actual Dead Sea to float and get muddy. Can’t wait!
I’m not really sure how close our hotel is to the actual gate as it is confusing to get around here- at least when you are sitting on a bus. However, we seem to be fairly close to the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem. The gate is located in a Muslim neighborhood and leads inside to the Muslim Quarter.
There are actually four quarters in the Old City: The Muslim, Christian, Armenian and Jewish.
There are also 8 gates that I counted on the map provided by the tour company: Damascus, Herod’s, Lions, Golden, Dung, Zion, Jaffa and The New Gate. The interesting thing about Jerusalem is that the neighborhoods are at once separate and yet next to each other. You definitely do not want to accidentally enter the wrong neighborhood. That could be dangerous. Sadly, there was a terrorist attack in front of the Damascus Gate either yesterday or the day before. A Muslim “WOMAN” stabbed some people! Today as we passed by the gate, heavily armed soldiers or police – not sure which were guarding the area. Troubling, yet we go on with our tour!
We eventually made it out of the city and the highway led us into the area commonly known in the world as “The West Bank”. In reality, this is part of Israel and includes the Judean Wilderness and the Judean Desert. This country is so small it can fit inside of Lake Michigan, and is about the size of New Jersey!
A tiny country surrounded on all sides by their enemies. Lebanon to the north, Syria, and Jordan to the east, and Egypt to the south. The Mediterranean Sea is to the west about 22 miles from the beginning of Judea or the West Bank. I’ll include a couple of maps, but you can see why Israel doesn’t plan on giving this area back to Jordan who wants to eliminate them! 22 miles is crazy they would have been indefensible.
As we entered the area, we see some very nice homes on the hillside. Eli, our guide explains these are what the politicians and media call “settlements”. The ones they want to be torn down! This would be like them saying they want to tear down our homes – so crazy!
The neighborhoods give way to rolling hills that are for the most part uninhabited. You can see some towns off in the distance, but from the highway, it is open land. As the green turns to brown desert. On the hillsides and along the road you can still see Bedouins herding sheep and goats. Their lodgings are very primitive – like wooden shacks, even a tent as they lived 1000’s of years ago. The big difference is that they have a satellite dish powered by generators! Funny!
The view is beautiful! To actually reach the Sea you must climb mountains and then descend back down to the lowest place on earth. Cliffs and chalk colored hills that look like a pastel water coloring provide breathtaking views of the Dead Sea and beyond into Jordan. The country is rugged and barren and yet there are ancient rivers, like the Jordan that run into the Dead Sea.
At the Dead Sea, we head now on a two-lane road south to our first stop Qumran.
Qumran is 13 miles from Jerusalem but feels further. It is situated on a plateau and overlooks the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea.
Qumran is an archeological site and is most famous for the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Essenes’, Messianic Jews that left Jerusalem as they rejected the established Pharisees and Sadducees leaders in Jerusalem as they believed they were violating the priestly traditions.
The original settlement dated back to the 8th century and was abandoned when the Babylonian’s invaded Judea and destroyed the First Temple in 586 BC. It was resettled in the second century (Hasmonean Era) by the Essenes’ who lived there until the Roman’s invaded the area (66 to 73 AD) and destroyed the Second Temple in 70 AD.
The Essenes renounced wealth and material comforts and elected to live a communal life. We saw the remnants of their civilization including ritual baths and communal dining room, cooking areas. They were committed to living a righteous life.
We can be thankful to them for the transcribing the old testament, with the exception of Ester – so far-. These handwritten manuscripts pre-date Christ. They hid these manuscripts in clay jars in the surrounding caves. In 1947, a 12-year-old shepherd boy tending his father’s flock made an amazing discovery while looking for a lost goat. He threw a stone into a cave and heard the sound of shattering pottery. Curious, he entered the cave and found a collection of large jars containing carefully wrapped manuscripts. What he discovered was an ancient collection of handwritten copies of the Old Testament. Many archaeologists later spent years excavating the area and found many more manuscripts in 11 caves. Some books contained multiple copies. In February 2017, a 12th cave was found showing evidence that other scrolls had been there as well but looted☹
The book of Isiah was found almost in its entirety! This is important because critics claimed that Isaiah had multiple authors and that Christians later inserted Isiah’s prophecies on the coming of Christ. The Qumran manuscripts were 1000 years older than the previous translation and confirmed the later translations were indeed accurate. Amen!
Isaiah 9:6-7: For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His Kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this!
Debbie lives in Southern California with her husband Doug and her amazing children and grandchildren. She is a successful business woman and is active in her church and community.