Thursday – March 5 – Qumran – Masada – Dead Sea

We departed early at 8am for the long drive south and down to Masada.  It was a beautiful sunny and warm day as we traveled past Bethany where we visited yesterday, and continued down south along the western coast of the Dead Sea down to Masada.  We watched a short movie before jamming into the cable car for the fast ride up to the top.  Rimon walked us around the palace area and gave us information about the palace buildings and the later structures built by the Jews as well as the monks who built a church here later.20150305_10371720150305_10365720150305_10365320150305_103626 photo 220150305_10433920150305_11223120150305_11230120150305_11212820150305_10483320150305_10484120150305_112538 20150305_11250420150305_103611

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A key feature for survival at such a remote protected fortress was the availability of water, which was achieved through a system of cisterns through the fortress.20150305_10555920150305_105632

The most protected area of Masada was the place where Herod had his private residence.  The model display showed how ornate the building was, even though Herod never retreated to Masada.20150305_111546

After the cable car ride back down, we continued on back up along the western shore of the Dead Sea to the NW corner, where there is the site of Qumran, the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.  Because it was now after noon, we first went in to the kibbutz restaurant for lunch.  This is where Pat Lyren and Joan Fox hosted their Foyer Group, and as a result set the world record for having their group travel the greatest distance from St. Joseph’s to have a foyer gathering.  20150305_130240After the lunch, we gathered to see some of the area where the Essene Community who created the scrolls lived, and we could see up on the hills the caves where the scrolls were discovered.  (We will see the actual Dead Sea Scrolls in the Israel Museum tomorrow.)20150305_14125420150305_14124020150305_141551

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Next, we drove down to the shore of the Dead Sea, where everyone had the opportunity to put their feet in the water, or to take the full plunge and float around.  There were lots of laughter and also lots of mud.IMG_0701IMG_0689IMG_0686IMG_0679IMG_0672IMG_0671

IMG_0676photo 4After swimming, we drove into Jericho where we celebrated Eucharist at the Church of the Good Shepherd. Since it was in this area that Zaccheus climbed up a sycamore tree to see Jesus, we used the account as found in Luke for our Gospel Reading.IMG_0712

We finished another great day with a visit to a ceramics factory on the way home.  Rimon had called ahead and asked the store owner to arrange for the bakery to bring buy a special middle Eastern dessert for us all to try, which is called Knefe.  It was incredibly good, and it was still warm as it had been made by the bakery and delivered to the store just in time for our arrival.

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After the ride back to the hotel, we delayed our gathering and dinner until 7:30pm, and after a celebratory gathering, we all went up to bed to get ready to pack for our departure tomorrow.

 

Copy and paste the link below to read this article from This Week in Palestine, published Wednesday, which features our friend and pilgrim leader Rimon:  http://thisweekinpalestine.com/limelight/rimon-makhlouf/