Saturday, June 23, 2012

Israel Day 7

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 spring

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 ruins

Qumran mikveh (see below)

The Cave
 Regarding the mikveh... the Jewish people are the originators of baptism and the idea of being "born again."  The immersion into the mikveh (baptism) figuratively takes a person back to the place where they were the most innocent: fresh from the womb, thus the expression "born again."  Under the Mosaic Covenant, frequent mikvehs were observed; just as at the temple, frequent sacrifices were made.  But as Yeshua came to be the final atoning sacrifice once for all who will believe, now there is also only one baptism for those who belive in Him - see Ephesians 4:5.

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
As we approached the city of Jerusalem from the east, our bus driver put on the song "Jerusalem," which played as the city first came into view from Mt. Scopus. I don't know about the red bus (the other half of our tour group), but our blue bus had plenty of tears shed on board!

Jerusalem from Mt. Scopus

Our Zion's Hope tour group

 We then proceeded to our hotel and had the rest of the evening free.  Our hotel was next to the convention center, and we took a walk and ended up in a crowd of thousands of Orthodox Jewish girls, all dressed exactly the same, who were at some sort of event there.  It created a huge traffic jam in the area.  The pictures didn't turn out very well, and we stood out like sore thumbs.  This was the second time on this trip that we ended up in a very large crowd of Israeli people, and I began to understand the heart of Yeshua as He wept over them in Matthew 23:37 - “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
Orthodox girls' event at the convention center

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