Mount of Olives panorama

Mount of Olives panorama
A panoramic view of the Mount of Olives

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Paul and Denise around and IN the Dead Sea

Today we took our friends down to the Dead Sea.  Some of the sites are ones where we take the students on the Dead Sea field trip, such as Masada (see the more thorough blog posts for fall and winter semesters).  We did not go to En Gedi or Qumran, however, and we went to a different "beach" on the Dead Sea.  We also stopped at the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus (but on the Israeli side).

One additional thing we did on our way "down" (literally, because we go from 2600 feet above sea level to about 1400 feet below sea level on the shore of the Dead Sea), was to stop at the sea level marker.  Here a friendly, and enterprising, Bedouin was on hand with a camel as a prop for pictures.


The first stop on our agenda today was to see the spectacular ruins of Masada, a Hasmonean fortress that Herod the Great strengthened and converted into a complex of fabulous palaces.  Later, during the Jewish Revolt of A.D. 66-73, it was the last hold out of some extremist Jewish nationalists, who eventually committed suicide than submit to the Romans.  With the exception of a community of Byzantine monks, it remained empty until archaeologists from the modern state of Israel began to excavate and restore it.

On the lowest terrace of Herod's "Hanging Palace"

In the rebels' synagogue

Paul and I explored a bit more at the southern end of the plateau than I have before, in particular the massive southern cistern.


Floating in the Dead Sea

One of the "musts" when visiting Israel is to float in the Dead Sea.  Usually we take our students and guests to a public beach across from En Gedi.  Today we tried a private beach called Mineral Beach.  It was a bit pricey but had better, cleaner facilities and it was easier to get into the water here.  PLUS they provided the black mineral mud (which at En Gedi one needs to find and dig for one's self).


Qasr el Yahud: The Baptismal Site

At the end of our 4-day Jordan field trip, we take our students to the traditional site of Jesus' baptism.  It is always a very moving experience, especially when we are able to have a devotional, reading one of the gospel accounts and singing, testifying, and praying together.  When Mother and Lindsay were here in December, we took them to the newly developed facility on the Israeli side at Qasr el Yahud.  We took Paul and Denise there today, but some rather loud construction work kept us from actually holding a devotional.  Those who have been here at other seasons will find interesting how high, and how muddy, the water was.


Qasr el Yahud is RIGHT across the Jordan River (which is only a few meters wide) from the Kingdom of Jordan.  Heavily armed soldiers from both countries were present on their respective sides.

The Jordanian baptismal site (wooden structure)

A sign of when relations between Israel and Jordan were more hostile

Brief Footnote: As we were leaving Qasr el Yahud, a bus full of Russian pilgrims arrived. It was rather moving to see them gather, cross themselves, sing, and then go into the water to "baptize" themselves again by immersing themselves in commemoration of their own earlier baptisms (mostly as children).  Unfortunately the continuing construction sounds kept us from hearing much of their multi-part, rich singing.

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