Feb 11, 2020
Day 9 of the Holy Land pilgrimage was a low key day. We didn’t visit many sites – but they all had something to do with rocks.
The first site was full of big, ancient rocks. It was another city in ruins. However, this one was important because it’s Masada. In case you’re not familiar with the story of Masada, it has a long history but it is most famous for being a Jewish hold out during the Jewish-Roman War in the mid-1st century. The Jews were acting as a line of defense to protect Jerusalem from Rome. Even though they did a good job for a while, in the end, the people of Masada decided they would rather die than be taken as slaves by Rome – so they killed themselves before the Romans could make it up the mountain to their city. In the picture, the square that is just left of center is the remains of one of the Roman soldiers’ camps. In the bottom right corner, you can see the railing of the lookout where we were standing. Even though the Romans were close to the Jews on Masada, they were still far away – because the mountain is high and arrows can fly only 50 yards. I bet it was still unnerving, though, to see the Romans that close to their home.
Our next stop was made famous because of a rock. Once upon a time in the year 1947, in a place called Qumran, a Bedouin shepherd was trying to scare off some animals to protect his flock. He threw a rock into a cave to make the animals go away, heard a crack from inside the cave, and went in to investigate. His rock had broken a jar which had some scrolls in it. There were other jars with other scrolls in them too. Today, we know them as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Although we didn’t get to go into the cave that the rock made famous, we got to see it – as the picture shows. As it turns out, there are hundreds of caves in the area. The community who lived in Qumran was the Essenes, and it is thought that John the Baptist started off as one of them.
Our last stop of the day had rocks buried under famous mud and very salty water. In other words, we went swimming in the Dead Sea – the lowest point on earth. It is around 1500 feet below sea level. The mud from the Dead Sea is supposed to be great for your skin. Also, because of the extremely high concentration of salt and minerals in the water, you don’t really swim in the water. You float. It was a cool experience. (To give you some perspective about the amount of salt in the water, the average ocean is 4-5% salt, the Great Salt Lake in Utah is 19% salt, and the Dead Sea is 33% salt.) There is a touristy beach right by the swimming area. Here is one of their signs.
The last thing dealing with rocks today is what we saw by some rocks from the bus on our way back from the Dead Sea. As luck would have it, the bus had to slow down for traffic at the exact moment that some Bedouin shepherds were leading their flock right outside my window. That meant I could get a nice, sharp picture of them. The shepherds are a little hard to see the picture, but they are leading the way for the herd.
Tomorrow is our last day of exploring the Holy Land. We will leave the hotel to head to the airport tomorrow night at 8pm (which is 1pm Eastern). Although all of us have had a great experience, a number of us have said that we are exhausted, missing our families, and ready to be home.
Thanks for “joining” me on this incredible adventure. I really appreciate it.