One of the benefits of having an award-winning guide like ours’ is that when changes need to be made, he/she has many other options to offer! With the winter rains Israel recently experienced, there was flash flooding and road closures. Therefore, we had to make some changes to our itinerary, as it was impossible to reach Ein Gedi and Masada.
Our first stop of the day was Qumran. This famous site is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Many scholars believe the location was home to a Hebrew sect, probably the Essenes. The scrolls were found in a series of eleven caves around the community, some accessible only through the Qumran community. Some scholars assert that the caves were the permanent libraries of the sect, due to the presence of the remains of a shelving system.
Baruch spoke to us about the different manuscripts of the Bible texts known to exist today and how significant this find was. These manuscripts are about 800 years older than the previous oldest.
Because this community dealt with copying Scripture, and may have had priestly connections, the ritual baths were extremely important. There are many customs concerning the number of times to immerse each day while dealing with Biblical texts, etc.
The Dead Sea was our next stop. It is known for its restorative minerals and for its high salt content. Due to this, it is impossible to sink. I’m sure many of you have seen the picture of the man floating in the Dead Sea and reading a newspaper.
This was an opportunity for the group to relax in the sea, shop for Dead Sea products, or relax with a cup of coffee and enjoy the beautiful view.
We then headed over to the beautiful view at the Wadi Kelt. This is located in the Wilderness of Judea. We know that somewhere in this area is where Yeshua was tempted. We read in Mark 1:12-13,
12 And immediately the spirit driveth Him into the wilderness. 13 And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto Him.
If one were quiet, he could hear the waterfall in the distance. St. George’s Monastery, established around 500 AD, is located here. It is Greek Orthodox. It was destroyed by the Persians in AD 614, rebuilt in the 12th century during the Crusader period, abandoned after their defeat, and rebuilt again by Greek monks starting at the end of the 19th century. It is a place where monks come for meditation, sometimes for life.
From our perch on the other side, we could see a small portion of the ancient aqueduct, which ran from Jerusalem to Jericho.
We ended the day at the prophet Samuel’s Tomb. This is a very special place where many Jewish people come to pray and read Scripture. The women and I went on the women’s side of the tomb, which is situated below. It was a time for us to pray, read Psalms, or just contemplate the awesomeness of G-d and what He is revealing to us through this encounter with the Land.
I was so happy the sun peaked through just as I was taking this photo!