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The Dead Sea

Today we started off with the Good Samaritan Inn. In Luke 10, Jesus iells the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is just a story, but Jesus’ parables were based on realities of life. Excavation of this site is not far from Jerusalem. They uncovered caves and a caravan stop from the time of Jesus. So it is what the people would have related to in that parable or story.

One of the things that you notice in the Holy Land is that the Byzantines built a church on any site they thought had holy significance. This one is not different. Here we saw the remains of a Byzantine church, some sarcophagi and other finds from Jesus’ day.

This is the floor of a Byzantine church. Before laying the mosaic,

they would hand draw the picture then meticulously lay these 1 inch by 1 inch tiles.

These are three Sarcophagi they found during excavation.

None were occupied. I checked !

Remember the story of the lame man lowered through the roof?

These rollers were used to press the roof layers together and smooth them out.

Next we went to Masada. Somewhere around 37-40 AD, Herod the Great built this fortress on high plateau above the Dead Sea. It gave a view in any direction of an attacking army. Since it was so high it was extremely difficult to attack. After the revolt against the Roman Empire, Roman soldiers tried to take Masada as the last holding of the Jewish people; 967 of them. The Romans expected to take Masada in 3-4 months. They underestimated a little. It took them 3 years to conquer Masada. What they eventually did was to use slave labor to build a ramp up the back side of Masada. When it was evident that the Romans would gain entry into the fortress, the Hebrews made a decision. They did not want to be prisoners of war so the men went and killed their families. Then they came back together and selected 10 men to kill the other men. Then 1 man was selected to kill the others and then he would then commit suicide.

The only way for us to get to Masada was by cable car.

The view is amazing.

These boulders are ammunition the Hebrews used to roll down the mountain

and the ramp at the Roman Soldiers.

Next, we went to Qumran, the place where they found the Dead Sea Scrolls. A goat herder was searching for a few lost goats and came across a cave. He threw a rock in the cave to see if the goats fell in the cave. After throwing the rock he heard a crash. He lowered himself into the cave and found some scrolls. He took them into Jerusalem and sold them. The merchant thought he found something special so he told the herder that he would buy more. So the herder found more scrolls and tore them up and sold the pieces.

The merchant decided to show the parchment to some scribes. When they saw what the merchant bought, they were amazed at these. So they began to excavate the area around the cave. They found two complete scrolls of Isaiah. . They also found that the floor of the cave was a gold mine. They believe the Romans found this area during their siege and tore up the scrolls of the people and threw them into the cave to destroy them. Over time, rain and mud drained into the cave, mixed with the parchment and papyrus and made a floor sealing the scriptures. When they excavated the sight, they found pieces of every book of the Old Test except for the Book of Esther.

The hole in the face of the hill was cut there for viewing and excavation.

The two holes at the top was the original entrance.

We ended the day with a swim in the Dead Sea. You really don’t swim in it. It is the lowest place on earth;1400 feet below sea level. It is like a cup. It has the Jordan River entering it and no place to exit so all the salt and minerals dump into it causing it to be so salty, nothing can live in it.

Getting in is tough because the clay is so slippery. Once you are knee deep, you just sit down and float. It is hard to maneuver because your arms and legs, rather than sink, float on the surface. Even my water shoes would float on the surface.

Once in the water, you learn what a fishing bobber feels like. You can’t sink. If you try to swim, one wrong move rolls you over on your back.

This is part of our group.

Tomorrow is our last day then 12 hours in the air for New York.

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