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Dead Sea area and Jerusalem Again

Days Nine and Ten

Hello friends,

I am writing one last time from Jerusalem. It has been a good trip, but I am ready to be home and see all those whom I left behind and miss dearly. These last two days were a little more low key than the previous, so I decided to take a brief break from writing. But now I have a little time before dinner and our bus ride to Ben Gurion airport.

Yesterday we drove down from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, a drop of roughly three thousand feet. The environment in many ways reminded me of the deserts of Arizona, while Jerusalem reminds me of the mountains in Arizona. Even the temperature change made me think of driving from Phoenix to Prescott and that sudden chill I feel when I finally get home.

The first stop we made was Masada where we learned about Herod's giant fortress palace there. While Herod ended up using the place very little, a group of a thousand or so Jewish rebels withstood the onslaught of 20 or 40 thousand Roman soldiers after the fall of Jerusalem for several years. There is a 1980s Hollywood production about it that some might be familiar with.

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Waiting for the cable car to the top

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The two Roman encampments

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The ramp built by the Romans that helped them finally break down the walls.

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One of the things the Jewish rebels did to survive was trapping pigeons in these little holes. I saw this pigeon at the top.

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A mosaic left over from Herod.

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This Rabbi was at the top doing scribe work. I didn't really understand why he was there, but it was neat to see.

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This was the smallest of several cisterns that they used for water. At the bottom of the mountain, there is a wash that Herod damned so that the water would be pushed into other cisterns and then it was carried up. Because the wash was at the bottom of a canyon of sorts the rebels were far enough from the Romans that they could safely get to the bottom to get water.

Next, we went to Qumran. We learned a bit about the Essene community and the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is interesting, they went out into the wilderness because they thought the world was ending. In some senses, it would seem it did.

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A cave that archeologists opened up a little bit so we could see what they look like without risking disturbing anything. Our guide told us they found many parchment pieces on the bottom of this cave.

Our final stop yesterday was the Dead Sea. I was pretty ambivalent about that stop, but that's okay.

Today we did a little more exploring of Jerusalem. We went to the Israel Museum which has a massive model of the Old City of Jerusalem and is next to the Shrine of the Book and exhibits about the Dead Sea Scrolls. Pictures weren't allowed at the Shrine of the Book, but I was able to get a panoramic of the model:

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Next, we went to the Garden Tomb. This was another one of those things that I had mixed feelings about - but it was definitely interesting. This is the "protestant" location of the crucifixion and resurrection. As one person in our group noted, it was easier to imagine here - because there's less over the site, but at the same time, it's so new. At the end of the day - I think we want to rest in the hope of our resurrected Lord, not on where he buried.

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Golgatha

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Inside the tomb

Next, we went to Yad Vashem - the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

I didn't want to take pictures while I was here - but you can visit their website here: https://www.yadvashem.org/visiting.html

I have three immediate thoughts on this:

1 - I spent about 40 or 50 minutes talking with someone whom I disagree with politically and theologically, but he's thoughtful, and we found there was much we did agree on. We both found it distressing how polarized and angry our country is. We could both see how it feels as though it's a tinder box and how much it has changed since we were in college (he's about my age). We talked about how profoundly nuanced things are now. I guess my take away from this conversation is this - let us learn from our history - remember that "the other" whoever they may be - a Jewish person, an immigrant, our political rival, or someone from the middle east is a fellow human being. I know there are dangerous people out there. I know that life can be scary - but there are two hope-filled things for the Christian - our security, the only one that will never fail us is Jesus Christ and our hope as Christians is not a temporal one but an eternal one. (Okay - enough of a sermon for now).

2 - One of the things that the museum does is display a ton of primary sources. So we can read the actual letters victims were writing. It made this horrible period of human history all the more real and tangible.

3 - As you leave the museum you face out over a valley. All I could think of was our eternal hope and Andrew Peterson's song "After the Last Tear Falls." (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GiPb6gwuPQ) It is a hope-filled thing - this final promise of eternity with our Lord who will wipe away all our tears, who will bring justice.

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The view leaving Yad Vashem.

After we left the museum we went up to an overlook that looked at the city from the south and from there I shall bid you ado. Please pray for our group's safe travel home. There are several people who sound like they may be getting sick - please pray that they will not, and please pray that I won't get sick!

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Till we meet again.

Posted by revbeard 05:59 Archived in Israel

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