This day was a big day! We snuck down to the beach for a last float on the Dead Sea before hopping on the bus for a monumental ride north along the Dead Sea, with stops at En Gedi, Qumran, and then a memorable trek from Jericho to Jerusalem!
En Gedi was beautiful, and I could just picture David there, running from Saul, finding him in one of the caves. En Gedi (meaning Spring of the Goats) is an oasis in an otherwise barren wilderness.
|The Biblical hyrax! (aka rock badger)|
|En Gedi caves|
Qumran was amazing. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in a cave there in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd. The scrolls had been hidden in the cave by the sect called the Essenes in the first century, presumably to hide them from the invading Roman army, who destroyed the community.
The scrolls were hidden and preserved, from the very time that the Jews were driven out of the land, to precisely the year when the UN was voting to make Israel into a modern-day nation. Coincidence??? I think NOT!
All the books of the Hebrew scriptures, in part or entirety, were found in the scrolls, with the exception of the Book of Esther. These scriptures were 1000 years older than the oldest surviving manuscripts, and they were almost exactly the same! The very scriptures that promised the land to Israel forever... and they were found by an Arab!
|Qumran mikveh (see below)|
So after our visit to Qumran, we left the Dead Sea area and went up to Jerusalem - literally. The Dead Sea is 1300 feet below sea level, and Jerusalem is 2700 feet above sea level. When you head to Jerusalem (from anywhere in Israel), you always go up!
The road from Jericho to Jerusalem was in the wilderness. Tribes of Bedoiun shepherds still live there. Our tour guide told us that some of them are descendents of the bandits that used to live in these areas, who robbed pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem (travelers would have their money with them, as there were no ATMs in Jerusalem in Biblical days).
|Bedouin community on the Jericho road|
|Jerusalem from Mt. Scopus|
|Our Zion's Hope tour group|
|Orthodox girls' event at the convention center|