We headed to the Dead Sea this morning. First stop Qumran. This is where the Dead Sea scrolls were found. They have done wonderful excavation work of where the Essenes sect lived and worshipped. Much of the scrolls contained their rule of life, how they purified themselves several times a day, their prayer life and rules for common living. As our guide said, in some ways this was the first monastery in history. The Essenes has separated from the temple as they did not believe those Jews were strict enough in their obedience to the Law.
You can see the caves where the scrolls were found by a shepherd boy in 1946. There are many caves in the rocky Judean mountains.
On to Masada, the amazing fortress built by King Herod high on a cliff overlooking the Dead Sea. It is the site of the Jewish rebels last stand after the revolt in 66 -72 AD. That story is too much to type here but well worth looking up if you don’t know it. It was a palace and a fortress with an intricate water retention and delivery system as well as huge store rooms for food. You can still see much of the elaborate mosaic floors and the ingenious water system.
It was then time for some fun! We had lunch at the beach and then many of us floated on the Dead Sea. It’s hard to describe how weird that is! The group was having a blast, rubbing the mineral loaded mud on our skin and floating raftless on our backs.
Our last stop was Jericho, a surprise from our guide. We drove past the archaeological dig of what is known to be the oldest city ever uncovered – 10,000 years old! Yes it is where Joshua made the walls come down! We drove to a small lookout where you can see the Mount of Temptation, where Jesus was tempted by Satan after his baptism. There is a stunning Greek Orthodox monastery built into the mountainside and only accessible via cable car.
While there our guide arranged for a camel for many of the group to ride! It was a blast. Jennifer was probably the most excited, a real bucket list item for her!