Desert Day

We had an early start this morning so that we had plenty of time to spend in the desert. Our first stop of the day was Masada. It was a smoking 28 degrees by the time we took the gondola to the top of the fortress. Masada is a fortress built on top of an escarpment or a butte in the middle of the desert. It was built by Herod the Great and even now is very impressive. The other fascinating part of its history are the 900 Jews that completed a mass suicide there, sometime after it had been abandoned by Herod. As we wandered around the site, it was not entirely difficult to imagine the luxury Herod must have lived in, on top of Masada. We’ve spent some time on this trip considering the people on the periphery of the stories we hear. I may have mentioned the other day that one of our students had spent a lot of time wondering about the Apostle Peter’s wife and how she must have felt when he went and followed Jesus. There are so many ways, that as we are out and about, that we are interacting with millions of peoples’ stories that will continue to go unheard. But it is certainly something to spend time pondering. And if it’s not worth considering, it is at least entertaining.

Our next stop was En Gedi. This is where David hid from Saul and when Saul was busy relieving himself, David cut off a piece of his robe, to later show him that he could have killed him, but chose not to, because he respected him as king. So if you could, for a moment imagine, that we are in the middle of the desert. There are a few trees, but they look to have been planted by the Israel Parks board. We went for a hike in, on a narrow, rocky path upwards, when suddenly there’s an oasis – a waterfall, succulents, greenery. It is quite stunning when you see that and this is where Cameron chose to spend some time on reflecting on God as our Living Water, in a dry and thirsty land. He reminded us of the desert we were in the midst of and the massive, dry cisterns we had observed up at Masada. Then, as we looked around at the waterfall, at the streams, we were reminded that this had been here when David needed it, as he ran from his enemies. Cameron later brought up that verse, Psalm 42:1 “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you.” I drank about 3.5 litres of water today because it was so hot. I can hardly imagine what it would be like to wander around a desert for any length of time and how thirsty I might get. The water situation here makes me think about how much for granted we take water! It came up yesterday because while we were at Dheisheh, we learned that their water will turn on once every 15 days for a number of hours. They aren’t told when exactly it will happen, it just does. Then it’s a mad scramble as they collect water in water tanks on their roofs. If they miss it, then they either have to wait another 15 days for water or they can order a water tank to come by and fill it for $100. This is something that I will never have to think of, as long as I live in Canada. This is another thought I will have to continue to ponder.


Our final stop for the day was the Dead Sea. The beach was packed when we got there but the students had fun floating around on their backs and slopping mud all over their bodies.


Tomorrow we head into the Old City for church and then we’ve got a couple of museums on this list. It’s hard to believe – only 2 more days in Israel!

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