The last three days have been full of adventure. Brad had only one morning class Thursday, we had a class together Friday morning, and then nothing all day on Saturday; so, we decided to rent a car for the three days and do some day trips. Thursday, we started out into the Judea wilderness to Wadi Qilt. The landscape is amazing and can only be done justice through pictures (so hopefully we’ll get some up from the weekend soon). It’s endless desert hills that are astounding. From the lookout point where we were, you could see the Dead Sea and Jordan to Jericho to Jerusalem. It’s amazing the viewpoints you can get here.
From there we went on to Jericho, and after driving around for what seemed like hours, asking for help that turned out to be no help at all, and having lunch in our car on the side of the road because we couldn’t wait any longer to find a picnic spot, we finally found the New Testament King Herod palace that sat along the edge of Wadi Qilt. The ruins are not well marked and we actually drove by them three times before Brad was able to get a hold of his professor for more clarification on where they were. We had to park our car and walk down into the wadi, then back up to get to the site. It was not the most impressive Herod building we’ve seen, but it was impressive. Typical to Herod, there were numerous baths and pools and it was in the desert. Brad had a sketch of the location in his study manual for class so that helped us to get a layout of the site.
After Jericho we headed to Qumran—the site known as the dwelling place of the group called the Essenes. These were devout followers of God in Biblical times who believed there was no better place to remain focused in their devotion to God than out in the middle of the desert. It is amazing what they were able to build including cisterns and an aqueduct system that brought water from springs in the surrounding hills. The place is just on the western border of the Dead Sea, about 40 kilometers north of the desert oasis “En Gedi.” Most famously, Qumran is the location of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1950s. The cave where they were found is clearly marked and visible, although not accessible. Brad and I were here together two summers ago and did an incredible climb to the top of the mountain range where Qumran is located. There was not enough time and too difficult to do with Denyon on our back to do that climb this time.
On Friday, we started with several lookout points from the top of Mt. Scopus. Mt. Scopus is the location of the main hospital here in Jerusalem and the Hebrew University. From here, you can see nearly the whole city of Jerusalem (old and new), the Kidron Valley, the city of David, the Dead Sea, Jericho, the mountains of Moab, the Herodian, the foothills of Jerusalem, and the Judea wilderness. It’s amazing what you can see.
We then headed out to Maresha. This is a location about half way between Jerusalem and the coast in an area called the “shepela.” The location comprises the ancient biblical city of Maresha, but most importantly an ancient city where numerous caves and dwellings were dug underground. The caves were extensive with water cisterns, olive presses, hiding places, columbariums (storehouses for pigeons), and common dwelling areas. The caves were carved out of the soft limestone that is common to that geographical area. Some of the cisterns were nearly 70 feet high! We are continually amazed at what people were able to build without the conveniences of modern technology.
After Maresha, we wondered around trying to find Tel Yarmut…a location we discussed extensively earlier that day in class. It was not marked again and this time we were unsuccessful at finding it. Maybe another day.
We ended our day at the Western Wall. This is the holiday season for the Jews and just last Monday was the Jewish New Year. From then until Yom Kippur, which is Thursday October 9, is considered the high holy days. So going to the wall this night was particularly crowded because it was the evening of Sabbath and the holiday. The area was filled with men and women worshipping, praising, singing, and dancing at or near the wall. To look upon is astounding and everyone is dressed their best…the men in black suits and top hats and the women in long dresses and scarves. It truly is a remarkable site to see and makes us reflect on our own faith. These Jews are so faithful and devout to the same God we serve although they do not accept Jesus as their Messiah. And sometimes we don’t even have time or make the time to pray! It is easy to learn a lesson of commitment from them.
To end our weekend we spent Saturday at the beach. We went to a beach called Nizzanim Beach just south of Tel Aviv about 40 kilometers on the Mediterranean Sea. It was beautiful and very much needed. Denyon loved playing in the sand as usual and enjoyed the water very much. The salt water didn’t seem to bother him at all. It was so nice not having to get brave enough to go into the water like we do when we’re at the beach in Holland entering Lake Michigan. The temperature was perfect and the air was just right with the breeze from the sea. The beach offered a nice umbrella for shade and beach chairs as well. We couldn’t have imagined a better way to finish off a wonderful weekend of travel.
Until next time…shalom!