Feb 21, 2012

Day 7 in Israel

Another fantastic day in Israel.

We left for Masada, the Dead Sea, and Qumran via the Jordean Desert. It's remarkable how quickly the landscape changes once you leave Jerusalem. 

The desert is a beautiful place but I can't even begin to imagine traveling through the desert without the comfort of an air-conditioned bus. When we left Jerusalem it was in the fifties but as soon as we arrived in the desert the temperatures were in the 70's and 80's. 
The views from Masada are amazing. You can see why the desert monks chose this place as a place of refuge. If you didn't know this place was here, there would be very little purpose for coming here.

Herod the Great built a palace here to escape the cold winters in Jerusalem.

And as you know, this was the place where the last remaining free Jews made their last stand against the Romans.
You have a commanding 360 degree view of the entire landscape. That's the Dead Sea in the distance.
The ruins of Herod's private residence
You can still see the ruins of where the Romans made their camps to lay siege on Masada. The Romans completely encircled Masada. There were over 10,000 Roman soldiers against 300 or so Jewish resistance fighters.
One of the encampments of the Roman soldiers below Masada 
This is the ruins of Herod's public palace. This is where he conducted his official business.
A model of Herod's private palace, equipped with his own bath house and sauna
When the Romans realized that the Jewish rebels had enough water and food to sustain themselves, they began building this rampart to break through the surrounding walls that were protecting the Jewish rebels. They used captured Jews from Jerusalem to build this huge earthen rampart. The Jewish rebels had no choice but to rain down burning oil, rocks, spears, and arrows on their own countrymen to protect themselves.

In the end the Romans were able to break through the defenses. But because it was close to sun down they chose not to attack that evening.

It was that fateful evening when the remaining 300 rebels and close to a 1,000 civilians chose to take their own lives rather than become slaves to the Roman Empire.

Beautiful mosaic dating to Herod the Great in his official palace.
After spending the morning on Masada, we took a break to float on the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is by far the saltiest water I've ever been in. As soon as you immerse yourself, you can feel a burning sensation against your skin. The water is oily from the many minerals in the water. This is an experience like no other.

The beautiful Dead Sea 
The water was cold but once you got in the water, it was quite pleasant...that is besides the burning sensation.
Floating on the Dead Sea
The final stop of the day was at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by goat herders. One of the goats went astray and when a goat herder went to find the goat, he discovered some caves. When he threw a rock in to hear what the cave contained, he heard the rock shattering against pottery. When he went in to investigate what was there, he discovered vases containing old scrolls.

And the rest is history.

One of the reasons why the find at Qumran is such a treasure is because prior to the Qumran discovery, the oldest Old Testament text available was about a 1,000 years old. But the Dead Sea scrolls date to pre-Jesus days. When archaeologists started studying the Dead Sea Scrolls, they were pleasantly surprised to discover that our Old Testament is identical to the scrolls from Jesus' days. That proves that what we have in the Old Testament has been handed down to the modern days without error.

The name of the place, Qumran, comes from the river that flows during the rainy season in the area.
Rain water flows downs in a rapid during the rainy season
One of the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered


Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking us with you, if only through the cameras eye. Godspeed on your trip home. Carol & Don.

James Kim said...

Carol and Don, Thanks for following along with us through the blog. The experience has been awesome for us. I hope you will be able to see and experience Israel for yourselves in person in the near future.