Friday, January 2, 2015

Day 1 and Day 2

On New Year's Eve we departed Orlando airport at 3:29 pm and flew to NYC.   We had a 3 hr layover and met up with some of the group that had flown out of New Orleans. Our flight left out of NYC at 9:20 pm.  The flight was 10 hrs and was fully loaded with a little over 300 passengers.  The time in Israel is 7 hrs ahead of the east coast which meant we had some adjusting to do.  We landed in Tel Aviv.

It was a 3 hr bus ride from the airport to our first stop near Beersheva, biblical Israel's southern most city, closely associated with Abraham in Genesis.  The hotel was named Mashabi Sade, which is in the northern Negev desert with our accommodations being unique.  The buildings were set up in little compounds with rooms grouped together in groups of 4 or 5 and then another section, etc that met only your basic necessities. The dining hall and other meetings rooms were a nice little trek "down the road."  By the way, buffet breakfasts and dinners are provided daily by our hotels.

Day 2 -  Roll call was 6:00 am.  Dont forget that meant 11:00 pm  eastern time (the previous night) to us.   We left Beersheva and visited Abraham's well and other antiquities at Tel Beersheva (a "tel" is an artificial hill built up from the remains of succeeding generations and civilizations). The pictures of the various ruins here at Beersheva reflect that ancient city as it was in Abraham's time and this area is where Abraham traveled during the Genesis time.  This is also where Abraham had the agreement with Abimelech, which was confirmed by the planting of the tamarisk tree - Genesis 21: 22-33.  Also the covenant with Isaac renewing the blessing God had made with Abraham and sanctified by Isaac who built an altar there is located here- Genesis 46: 1-3.  Also there, was where the covenant with Jacob was made and the promise that God would accompany Jacob and his family down to Egypt and redeem them as a great nation - Genesis 46: 1-3.

                                                                                     This altar is a reproduction of a                                                                                           four horned altar of Abraham's time

Van and I standing in front of Abraham's Well

       Now we are traveling through the Negev Desert


After traveling several hours through the Negev desert we took a cable car to the top of King Herod's fortress/palace Masada, where zealous Jews were the last to hold out against the Roman army after the fall of the Temple in 70 AD.  After King Herod died the place was abandoned and later the Jews came after the temple was destroyed.  The Romans, desiring to destroy the Jews, sent 5,000 men to the area with a battering ram to knock down the walls.  In order to do so, they had to build a ramp up the side of the mountain to the top where one of the walls were.  The Jews attempted to roll stones down the ramp to stop the Romans but they were overpowered.  When it was obvious that they were going to be over run, the Jews committed suicide rather than be put into Roman slavery.  King Herod was King from 37 BC until 4 BC.  At Masada, we were able to view the phenomenal ruins covering more than 40 acres of plateaued land on top a mountain.  The palace was truly a palace even though it was built before Christ.

Masada is an ancient fortification in the southern district of Israel situated on the top of an isolated rock plateau and it overlooked the Dead Sea.  The area showed the architectural advancements of the age including various buildings, the Governor's Palace, water cisterns and even churches.

This is a model of King Herod's Palace at Masada

We headed out to the caves at Qumran (pronounced Koomran) where the Dead Sea Scrolls were
found.  There are 11 caves near the City of Qumran where nearly 900 scrolls were discovered.  The scrolls were discovered in 1947-1956.  Most were written on parchment and some on papyrus.  In the area were found cisterns, Jewish ritual baths and cemeteries. Also were found a dining, or assembly room, and a room believed to have been where the scribes worked.  All of the scrolls were found in clay pots which were known to have been used to preserve documents.  The seven-Scroll discovery found in Cave 1 revolutionized the study of the Hebrew bible and the origins of Judeo-Christianity.  In Cave 2 were found fragments of many biblical books including all five books of Moses, Jeremiah and Psalms.  Cave 3 discovered in 1952, was found a unique two part copper Scroll listing what may be the sites of the Temple's buried treasure including large amounts of gold, silver, copper and aromatics.  In Cave 4 were found thousands of fragments from hundreds of manuscripts comprising 75% of all material from the Qumran Caves.  In Cave 5 were fragments of approximately 25 parchment Scrolls including biblical and sectarian texts.  In Cave 6 were 31 Scrolls mostly written on papyrus.  In Cave 7 all manuscripts found here were in Greek.  Cave 8 contained the fragments of Genesis, Psalms, a mezuzah and a hymn.  Also, they found food remains, oil lamps and 68 leather reinforcing tabs for Scrolls.  Cave 9 had only a single papyrus fragment.  In Cave 10 was found only one inscribed potsherd.  In Cave 11 were found the remains of around 30 manuscripts including Leviticus, written in paleo-Hebrew, Psalms and Job, written in Aramaic.  The most exciting find was the Temple Scroll (the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls) which rewrites the Book of Deuteronomy and details regulations pertaining to Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple.

 After lunch we traveled to the Dead Sea where we both dipped our hands into the water.  Some of our group were brave enough to get into the water and float.  It's phenominal that you won't sink when you are floating.  Actually you can pull your feet like you are sitting in a chair and just float. You are instructed not to attempt to swim or splash because if you swallow the water or get it in your eyes, you have to go to the emergency room.  The Dead Sea in the lowest point on earth, some 1500 feet below sea level.  The Jordan River flows the entire length of Israel from north to south and ends in the Dead Sea and it is believed that this flowing brings all of the minerals into the Dead Sea and there is no outlet from the Dead Sea.  While the normal ocean has less than 2% of salt and minerals, the Dead Sea has in excess of 30% salt and mineral deposits in its water.


Then we traveled another 3 hrs on the bus north through the Jordan Valley and to the southern most shore of the Sea of Galilee to check in for 4 nights at kibbutz Ma'agan hotel.   We arrived in the dark but this hotel appears wonderful.  Our room is located approximately 100 feet from the shore of the Sea of Galilee and has a large picture window.  We can't wait to see our view in the daylight. As a point of reference, the group we are traveling with are the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary School out of New Orleans and there are regularly scheduled devotions throughout the day and evening.

That's all for today.

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