My Journey To Jerusalem The Gospel According To Terrence
High Up - Masada
by Terrence G. Clark Chapter Six - Day 5
Masada, Qumran, and Salt
It was our last morning in Galilee. Up early, with some help from guest services. The watch always set by Gershon. I had completely adjusted to Israeli time. Still, I always asked for an early wake-up, so I could have time for prayer.
Bags were packed the night before with instructions to leave them out the room's door before joining for breakfast. The tour company---Ed Hill Tours had well planned our visit to the Holy Land and there was little labor to do (unless we wanted to) with our luggage. Our carry-ons were prepared a little different today because of how the day was scheduled to end, before turning towards Jerusalem.
To recap, we had started in the southeast of the country and had been traveling north to Tiberius, then to the Golan Heights at the summit. The Holy City was in the south, below where we started. Yet, it was incorrect to say we are going down to Jerusalem.
Yerushalayim (the Hebrew spelling) was always up. It is always the accent up to the city. There was a song that was sung in the Southern Baptist Church where I was raised that versed:
We’re marching, marching up to Zion That beautiful City of God Oh were marching, marching up to Zion That beautiful, that wonderful That glorious, victorious That beautiful City of God
Can you give me a lift to the top - Masada
How right. It was true, because of the elevation of the city and then the temple itself it lifted, supplied the contrast. However, just the fact that it was the city of cities and the Lord of Lord choosing to dwell there, gave it height as in dimension also.
Psalms 48:2 says the Yahweh (the God of the Hebrews and the whole earth) is beautiful for situations or elevations. It was here that his name was to reach all the earth.
What a glorious sight! See Mount Zion rising north of the city[a] high above the plains for all to see—Mount Zion, joy of all the earth, the residence of the great King.---NASB
After the last breakfast on the Galilee (in the hotel), we were off.
My refrain, Israel is a beautiful country. Moses, who renounced to Abraham’s children, what God had originally told their ancestor, was only allowed to look over and see into it. He disobeyed God after all of that. The people needed to be able to trust God, and his Word when in the land, and not a man---no matter how holy.
Joshua and Caleb had tasted of it fruits forty-years earlier and held the image for all that time waiting to return. As we traveled along the cliff like roads, we snapped image after images of mountains and caves, but also orchards and groves. Palm, orange, figs, apples, pomegranates, banana and others trees were everywhere. Occasional we spotted flocks of sheep and the proverbial cattle out on hills.
At our first bathroom stop that day our first encounter with a camel. A man, just a vendor of sorts, selling pictures with his dromedary, and that with your own camera. He waved down any unpaid attempts. Gershon said---take the picture.
No lost, down the road, we spotted antelopes in a tree. No, not a misprint antelopes in a tree. It would have been more incorrect to have written cantaloupes in a tree—they grow on vines. A baby antelope, or a creature in that family, had jumped up into a tree and was stuck. We watched as the mother tried to coax him down. Finally, he dropped, but there was another still up there.
The first tour stop---Masada Fortress. Herod had done it again, another spectacular fort, water system and all. Yet it was not invincible. It was Rome, in 73 CE---General Lucius Flavius Silva that finally conquered it. Although, Herod was not there. In fact, when Silva’s troops final invaded the fortress, there were only two women and five children---alive. According to the historian Josephus (disputed by some others), 960 Jewish rebels had committed mass suicide. Refusing to bow, and be enslaved to Rome, they gathered, and by this decree left behind, took their own lives
"Since we long ago resolved never to be servants to the Romans, nor to any other than to God Himself, Who alone is the true and just Lord of mankind, the time is now come that obliges us to make that resolution true in practice ... We were the very first that revolted, and we are the last to fight against them; and I cannot but esteem it as a favor that God has granted us, that it is still in our power to die bravely, and in a state of freedom."
Masada is a high mountain cliff, 1300 feet high, overlooking the Dead Sea from the north. The brave or fearful of straight-up heights could climb the mountain from the visitor house and museum below. The other way up, which our tour took, was up by skylift. We were pretty high up. Coming down, we decided amongst the crowd that this was probably a good time to accept the Lord as Savior. A choir from the US was with us. Someone chimed up a song of redemption, as we descended. We had church for a little bit.
Bathrooms and then back on the bus. A shorter distance to travel this time. We were still in the same neck of the mountain, over to see a sight less challenged in history, and perhaps more so confirming it.
Qumran, the home or was the home of the infamous Dead Sea scrolls, rediscovered in 1947. Two teenage Bedouin shepherds (variations depending on whose telling the story) looking for missing kids (baby goats), stumbled upon a cave. Throwing a stone inside a hole, they heard pottery shatter. After closer investigation, unbeknownst to them, the small opening in the cave, released a confirming revelation to the world.
A Jewish sect, the Essenes, who were scribes, keepers, and copiers of the Old Testament scrolls, thinking to hide the Word of God, and other sacred Hebrews books from destruction, per an invasion, hid them in clay vessels, inside of the Qumran caves. All books of the Old Testament canon were found with the exception of the book of Esther. What had been confirmed by the young shepherds, confirmed to skeptics, what believers already knew.
In the museum at Qumran, wrapped around a wide spindle, enclosed in glass, a huge copy of the book of Isaiah, as it would have been found. I walked around the display until I found the place. There was no one with me to challenge me. I found the place where it was written (in Hebrew), like Yeshua did in Nazareth---Isaiah 61.
I was left behind that day. I was fascinated by the visit. As a writer, I was here where snippets of author’s works---some of them were God’s. They group forgave me. they were waiting on the bus when I came around the corner.
Before the caves, we saw a short film contrasting three youth---two Essenes boys and one purpose seeking kid from Jerusalem, challenging their call to God in ministry. Jesus was thought to perhaps have studied under the order of the Essenes. Quite fitting placement for one who was literally the Word of God.
From Qumran, it was time for lunch. Lunch was same in selection---mostly Mediterranean. This place was crowded. Multiple tour groups at the same time. Still, the lines moved pretty well. A lot of hungry folk from the long days treks. We would get our time to relax later that day.
In Contrast, to others in our group, this was the first time I shopped. This joint, like most had a store. This store was promoted by offering products made from the mineral-rich Dead Sea. I brought my wife and daughters some soaps and lotions. Pens and trinket for the grandkids as well. Good prices, I was told and not having to buy it out of Macys, but right here, from where they were made.
It was time. Next stop the Dead Sea to take an unsinkable swim.
“So how do you make a Christian Float?” I riddled. The team had gotten use to me by now. I think they expected my puns. Everywhere else people did, so why not in Israel.
“Take one Christian and two scoops of ice cream and put them in a glass.” Was the response.
I don’t think anyone got that. There was no response. But the answer could have been---have them sit in the Dead Sea. It’s like a resort beach. People come from all over the world to soak in its mineral-rich waters and mud.
Our bags already stuffed with bathing suits. We changed in the locker rooms and headed to the packed shore. Towels with an image map of Israel could be bought. Gershon held or belonging there under the pavilion.
“Just walk out knee deep and sit down”, he admonished us before getting off the bus.
I am not a published swimmer yet [get it]. I can make it from one side of the pool to the other, if I have to. I don’t go into the ocean except to where the tide reaches my knees. Making my way into the water wasn’t as easy as it looked. The mineral mud of the salt sea is not only black but is like walking in mire. One step at a time, sinking down deep, I was trying to keep from falling over. The men were told the night before do not shave after 10 pm. Salt in the wound or razor cuts could burn.
I had to overcome the thought of sitting uncontrollably backwards in the water. Finally, I did and there I was floating. I had never floated before. Another prayer fulfilled. This year I floated, manifested by the 30 percent ratio of salt to surf. It was fun. The weather here in the south was warmer than up north. We all floated, helped one another, and took a group picture.
After thoroughly desalting under the showers, we collected our stuff, got dress, and back to the bus. I am holding my pants up. I didn’t think I needed my belt. It seemed all the walking had overtaken all the eating and I had actually lost a few pounds.
The history was the center of the day. The afternoon we simmered in the salt of the sea. Jesus said it.
“You are the salt of the earth. If salt loses its saltiness it’s good for nothing and thrown in the street.”
Perhaps the day's lessons was first, the soaking of our heritage found in the confirming scrolls of Qumran. Lesson two, Masada reminded of the stance as the children of God, not to bow to the enemy, even to the core of life. Perhaps the saltiness of the Dead Sea continued not from itself, but from the salt of believers who continue to wade in it. We left Qumran and its salt as the afternoon light waned. With memories and expectations, we headed to Jerusalem.
We entered the Holy City at night. As tourist, we watched road signs trying to connect where we were. Our bus stopped at the checkpoint. Albert handled the business. Playing on the bus, as was bussed up into Zion, was Gospel tenor, Paul Stern singing “Jerusalem.”
We would bunk here for the last four days of our journey. We would find that what we had seen so far, in our travels, had served to build us up for what was to come.
Dinner in hotel dining room at 6:30 PM
Rona's Report - Day 5
5th Day – November 8 (Sun)
- Ruins of the ancient fortress build by Herod the Great atop an isolated rock cliff on the Judean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea
- Last Jewish stronghold against the Roman invasion; knowing they will soon be defeated, Elazar ben Yair, the Jewish leader in Masada, decided that all the Jewish defenders should commit suicide (“die bravely … in a state of freedom”)
- Ruins of a settlement, said to be the home of the Essenes, a break-away community of scribes with their own rules and practices
- Scrolls hidden in jars (Dead Sea Scrolls) were accidentally discovered in 1947 by Bedouin shepherds in caves around the area
Floated on the Dead Sea
- “Sea of Salt”, one of the saltiest body of water in the world; lowest area in Israel – over 400 meters below sea level
- Minerals from the Dead Sea have been used to create cosmetics
Entered the City of Jerusalem (with the taped song by Paul Stern, “Jerusalem”, playing in the background); checked in at Grand Court Hotel