Text and images on this page are from our 2014 pilgrimage. Click on the pictures to see them in larger format.
Way back in October, I blogged about this particular day in our pilgrimage itinerary, so check there for all the details about Qumran and Masada. I always look forward to this day because it’s a great opportunity to teach and learn about the political and religious context of Jesus’ time. Groups like the Essenes (Qumran) and Zealots (Masada) had such radically different ways of understanding and responding to the world around them, especially the Roman occupation. No wonder so many people had trouble understanding what kind of Messiah Jesus would be!
But I also love this day because it’s just a lot of fun. It’s always such a hoot to watch people you know from your local church flop around in the Dead Sea until they get the hang of it. (Not so funny though when I got stuck on my knees in the mud this time and couldn’t get enough traction to stand up and get out — at least not gracefully!)
And covering yourself with mud until you’re almost unrecognizable makes for a great photo op. Even if there weren’t some health benefits — skin temporarily as soft as a baby’s and muscles and joints that feel like butter — it would still be an awesome experience.
Make sure to check out the pictures in the “gallery” on a separate page for more shots of our “mud worshipers.”
Our day started out with a memorable drive on the back roads between Beit Sahour and the major Jerusalem-to-Jordan Valley highway. On previous visits we’d always stayed in the Jerusalem area for this part of the trip, so it was pretty much a “straight shot” down through the wilderness to the Dead Sea. Not this time! We got a good sample of our bus driver Walid’s maneuvering skills as he tackled the hairpin turns along the way.
I didn’t feel unsafe for even one minute, but it sure was easy to imagine what sheep (and shepherds!) must feel like meandering up and down the rocky valleys. Along the way we also crossed the borders from the tribe of Judah to the tribe of Benjamin (the road signs changed from lion to wolf), and we left the lush greenery of the hills around Bethlehem for the rocky wastes of the wilderness. And we got several glimpses of Bedouin communities, too.
In the afternoon we also visited a new site to us — the oasis of Ein Gedi, which is part of Israel’s national park system. Rich in Old Testament history, it is part of the area where David (before he was king) hid out from King Saul. Those that did the Nahal David hike were rewarded with a fine view of the stream and waterfall. And those of us that “sat out” (mainly because of “bum” knees) at the concession stand enjoyed the cool breeze, observing the other tourists and locals, and reading our Kindles.
Click here to view additional pictures of Day Two – The Wilderness and Dead Sea Area.