Day three South Qumran- Judaean Desert & the Dead Sea


Wednesday 2nd June 2004   8.30 AM ( Central European Time ( Local Time)  6.30 AM BST

Up and ready for trip to the Dead sea and the Qumran area. I am really  enjoying this trip, as I think we all are. On the way there we will go from the Mediterranean sea to the Dead sea. We are told that we will be overlooking Jericho but that  we cannot enter the city due to the current situation ( ie the intifada – Palestinian uprising).

At devotions this morning Glynn read the passage from Mark 10 – Bartimaeus begging at the gate of Jericho.

Mark 10:46-47 (NKJV) 46 Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

9.30 AM  Leaving Netanya now  for the  Judean desert another experience – another reminder of the Lord’s temptation in the wilderness. As we journey down highway 6 – we skirt the Israeli security fence, the so called wall which is really only a wall when it reaches the road. Contrary to the often skewed reports of western media. We can see the  West Bank towns  of Nablus, Jenin and Ramallah etc. All very depressing, shambolic places. A pall of smoke seems to permanently hang over many of the West bank towns, which Moshe explains is due to burning rubbish being the most common method of waste disposal employed. On the other side of the coach we can see the very different and very prosperous urban sprawl of Tel Aviv, Israel’s large  modern conurbation. A sprawling Modern city which has grown Los Angeles style to absorb several surrounding towns.

On the other side are Biblical towns such as Bethlehem , Ramah, (  the town of Samuel ),  and especially Jericho are no go areas dominated by Palestinian extremism. The converse is true in several Jewish towns where orthodox and Ultra orthodox Jews have the ascendancy. Several times  during our stay we have seen young orthodox Jews handing out tracts or leaflets at road junctions to drivers stopped at traffic lights. Reminds me of Paul’s words that he had been “ as for zeal persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness faultless. ( Phil 3: 6 NIV) 

Moshe has just warned us on the coach intercom about water intake, we are to ensure we take plenty fluids in the dead sea area. For the past two days I have suffered from headaches, which I suspect were caused by dehydration.

We journey through the suburbs of Jerusalem and on South and East into the Judean desert. After reaching the heights of Jerusalem at 900 metres above sea level ( the height of the Clisham). We reach the depths at over 450 metres below sea level at the Dead Sea. We pass genuine Bedouin encampments little changed since biblical times. ( Peggy is very moved by the sight of them).

We visited the excavations of the Qumran community in the Judaean desert. It is searingly hot , and we are glad to get back into our air-conditioned coach. Yudah our driver is enterprising and sells us bottles of chilled spring water from a fridge he has on board.  Qumran does nothing for me really , and there is not much to see here.  I think that is due to the fact that it doesn’t figure in the Bible narrative, but is mostly famous for the finding of the Dead Sea scrolls in a cave here by an Arab shepherd boy just after world war two .

Some of the Caves at Qumran

Some of the desert caves at Qumran

The wilderness of Judaea is an awe-inspiring place though, and it is easy to see how  a wild-eyed prophet like John the Baptist  or Elijah would be perfectly suited to this harsh rugged environment. We saw a woman and child on a donkey on a roadside path, and men with Camels. Saw flocks of sheep & herds of goats watch over by their shepherds. Truly Alfie’s point that in no country are the shepherd and sheep closer than in Israel borne out. ( More about Alfie at the scripture garden of Ein Karem here).  We pass a Bedouin camp which is composed of tin shacks of corrugated iron and tents. The Bedouin are becoming urbanized and increasingly scarce.  In the vicinity of the Dead Sea is the supposed site of Sodom and Gomorrah , and here can be seen Lot’s wife the famous pillar of salt in the desert near Sodom.  1280px-MountSodom061607-1

We stop at the dead sea resort of Kalia. I have had my first experience (and possibly last!) of floating in the dead sea. It is a wonderfully bizarre

Floating in the Dead Sea

experience, and took quite a bit of getting used to. Having to  just lie back and float, quite hard to do at first . I realized too late about my ring we were warned to remove jewelry to prevent tarnishing from the highly saline water. In a panic I ran up to a beach front shower , and got ring off.  Calumina & Tayo took some pictures of me. The evidence will probably  end up in Fios sometime. Great just to float though.

A gaggle of “japanee”  (A remark from a Siarach !) take over the beach front area, showers and changing area, and are totally oblivious to anyone else. Common western courtesies are totally lost on them.  I think they were actually Korean, but having experienced Koreans in my University days, know that queuing up is just not in their way of thinking. Moshe seeks to assert his authority and get them to give us room at the showers to no avail. It was actually hilarious to see them covering themselves liberally in Dead Sea mud and then go to wash it off.  Budding entrepreneurs had set up signs around the resort and other places with signs saying “MUD FOR SALE !”. I jokingly said that I could sell mud as well as I thought of our peats drying in Ness.

After the Dead sea we stopped on the way back to Jerusalem at the Inn of the good Samaritan. Glynn expounded the familiar passage from Luke 10. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.

The climb from the Dead Sea and the Jordan  took us past this famous tourist stop. Jericho is closed to western tourists. Driving through the wilderness of Judea we saw some bedouin encampments. One can just imagine the setting of Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan. the hills on either side are steep and foreboding, and we could imagine robbers and highway men waiting to prey on unsuspecting travellers.  It is here that the Mount of Olives and Mount Scopus come into view gave travellers from Jericho their first glimpse of Jerusalem.

4 And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south. Zechariah 14:4 (NKJV)

 17.05 ( Local Time) ( 15.05 BST)  I write this entry on the outskirts of Jerusalem ,  we have just gone through an IDF checkpoint without a hitch, God’s amazing provision for us. For me Bethlehem was the scariest moment so far. Although you feel a bit uneasy at all the security  everywhere. Get used to being stopped and questioned. In many ways despite  this being  a Democracy, due to the Palestinian Intifada , you get the feeling that Israel is a Police state.

10.10 PM ( local Time ) 8.10 BST About to head for bed, not feeling as tired as in previous days. Others in the group have expressed the same feeling. I can only put this down to the healthy air of the dead sea, which has 15% more oxygen than at sea level. The  topchoice on Israeli TV tonight is SKY News ( I hear there will be fuel protests in the UK next week).