I walked today where David walked — and didn’t find him standing there, but I did drink from where he drank, and tried to imagine what it would be like to try surviving in the barren hills of Judea with nothing but the rare oasis standing between me and a quick dessication.
The study tour from Campbell University Divinity School started the day at En Gedi, an amazing oasis on the west side of the Dead Sea, the place where David famously cut off a corner of Saul’s garment but refused to harm the king, who had gone into a cave to relieve himself while on a mission (with 3,000 men) to find and kill David, whom he deemed to be a threat.
Susan Sevier, a student at Virginia Theological Seminary who is traveling with our group, led us in a devotion from 1 Samuel 24 while also teaching us a Hebrew song, which Israeli school children joined in with gusto as they passed by on their way to an outing.
While some of the group stopped at the lowest fall, others hiked the steep trail past several other cataracts to the highest fall, which spills from a crevice in the mountain as if gushing straight from the rock — an amazing sight, especially for the thirsty.
And we were more than thirsty at Masada, a mountain fortress complete with two palaces that Herod the Great built as a potential retreat from danger, but never used. Masada is most famous as the stronghold from which nearly 1,000 Jewish zealots held out for six months against Rome’s famed 10th legion, ultimately committing mass suicide before surrendering to the Romans.
The rugged fortress, atop an isolated mountain ridge, was equipped with nine massive water cisterns to preserve what little rain falls in the area; large storerooms for grain, dried fruit, and wine; a Roman bath house complete with a cleansing pool, cool room (frigidarium), warm room (tepidarium), and steam room (calderion); and living quarters for all who resided there at different times.
A synagogue with benches built around the walls is one of the oldest surviving synagogue structures in the world, and families still come there to celebrate bar and bat mitzvahs.
Lunch at Masada offered several options, including a McDonalds which featured the “Big America” burger, which one won’t find in America.
A trip to Israel isn’t complete without an opportunity to float in the Dead Sea, which is the lowest spot on the face of the earth at 1300 feet below sea level, and 10 times saltier than ocean water. The water is so bouyant that “swimmers” can float in any sort of configuration, including vertically, and never worry about sinking. Our crew enjoyed both the sea and it’s famous mud, which is claimed to work miracles for the skin.
The day was long and hot, and tomorrow begins with a 6:00 a.m. wake-up call, but when you’ve come this far, you want to see and do all you can — including being thankful. Very thankful.
(You can find other blogs from our group at these links:
David Stratton: davidsdeliberations.blogspot.com
Josh Owens: joshuakowens.blogspot.com
Susan Sevier: sevierlybaptist.com)