Friday, June 22, 2018

Israel Day 4/9: Jordan River

Our next stop was the western bank of the Jordan River across from Bethany Beyond the Jordan, the place believed to be where John baptized Jesus. Is it considered to be the place where Joshua and the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land and where Elijah was taken to heaven in the fiery chariot.

Bethany Beyond the Jordan is actually in the country of Jordan was on the other side of the river.

you can see the dome of the Greek Orthodox Church
of St. John the Baptist 

But the site has a more modern history as well...

Between 1967 and 1994, it was a heavily mined military zone. A peace treaty in 1994 meant that pilgrims could visit the area only twice a year to celebrate the baptism of Jesus, once in January for the Orthodox and in October for the Catholics. It wasn't opened to the public until 2011.

there are still signs in the area warning of buried landmines

these 2 IDF soldiers said we could take their picture

Every year more than a half a million people come to be baptized or renew their baptism here. 

Some in our group chose to remember their baptism...

When I saw the water I realized why Naaman reacted the way he did to Elisha telling him to dip himself in the Jordan to be healed of leprosy. Ugh!

Israel Day 4/9: Qumran

From Beit She'an we drove south into Palestine towards the Dead Sea.

a Bedouin camp

the landscape was so rock and dotted with small caves

this wasn't the only gas station with a camel to ride that 
we drove by :) 

Qumran was a sect of devout Jews, called Essenes, who stayed here in a sort of monastic lifestyle. Bothered by Jewish corruption, they believed it would also usher in the arrival of the Messiah who would lead an army in an epic, end-of-the-world battle between good and evil. Most Essenes never married in order to remain ritually pure for the coming Messiah's arrival. 

Because of the massive amounts of water needed for twice daily ritual baths, the Essenes built and dam and aqueduct to reroute water to the community.

There was also a large communal dining room where 1000 complete eating vessels (cups, plates & bowls) were found.

Much of their day was spent studying and copying the Scriptures in the Scriptorium, using sharpened reed pens and parchment.

The Essenes at Qumran were driven out and completely destroyed by the Romans in about 68-70 AD. Their precious scrolls were placed in caves near by to save them from destruction.

And they stayed there for nearly 2000 years...

"In the summer of 1947, Bedouin shepherds were pasturing their flocks near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea. While looking for a goat that wandered off into the cliffs, they came across a curious rock crevice. When they threw a stone into a cave opening they found, they were surprised to hear a strange echo. 

They crawled inside, and in the dimness they spied large, whole jars standing on the floor. Inside the jars, they folded pieces of leather, some of which were wrapped in cloth. That is how the secret of the Qumran scrolls began to be revealed." 

The seven scrolls were found in the first cave.

Between 1948-1956, five miles of the cliff face caves near Qumran were searched. Eleven of those caves proved to hold 850-900 scrolls, most in fragments. The largest was 26 feet long! Eventually, every book of the Old Testament except Esther would be found here.

It is believed that because searchers were paid by the fragment, that even some whole scrolls were torn up and distributed in order to receive more pay for more people.

But Cave 4 yielded the largest find: 15,000 fragments from over 200 books, 122 of them were biblical scrolls or fragments.

Cave 4

After lunch, we were given a couple of hours to wander around the site and shop for the world-famous Dead Sea products. But as soon as we knew all of the cliffs were accessible to hikers and climbers, we made other plans.

We ate as quickly as we could and took off with Melissa and Ashley to see what we could find.

It was quite a hike and there really wasn't much of a trail once we hit the rocks...

But we felt just like adventurers and mountain goats, exploring nooks and crannies and soaking in the incredible views!

Melissa and Ashley made it! 

that little blue dot is Ashley

I probably wouldn't have worn these shoes if I had known
we'd be climbing in rocks but they were amazing! 

Then it was time to head back to the bus. 

We saw some real rock climbers on the way down...

We were so fast that Ashley and I had time to do a little bit of shopping at the discount store before we had to get on the bus. :)