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En Gedi

A View of En Gedi

Earlier this week, Melanie Lidman wrote an excellent article that was published in Times of Israel about the declining water in the Dead Sea. I have written about this situation a number of times in my journal. I even briefly mentioned it in Episode 3 of Appian Media's "Following the Messiah" series when we visited the traditional baptismal site of Jesus. 

In the article Ms. Lidman references the changes to Highway 90, which runs along the western side of the Dead Sea. About three years ago, potholes developed around the bridge near En Gedi. Repairs to the bridge pillars were attempted, but the damage to the surrounding ground was too severe. The road was eventually rerouted and roundabouts were inserted. 

I have driven over this new road a number of times. But, last June, I was able to climb up above En Gedi and see the whole area for myself. The picture at the top of this post was my view from that vantage point. I have put a red circle around the bridge that was mentioned in the article and which is no longer in use. The En Gedi Visitor Center is in the bottom left and if you look carefully, you can see the new road as it leaves the shore of the Dead Sea and bypasses the bridge. 

The other interesting feature of note is the presence of trees and shrubs in the picture. This is the result of water that continually flows through the valleys of the Judean Wilderness. This water is collected and drains through this area, feeding the local vegetation. It is no wonder why David ran to this area while he was being pursued by King Saul. He needed water...and that could easily be found at En Gedi. 

The Lowest Place on Earth

The Lowest Place on Earth


Sunday is always a special day. But I always especially enjoy gathering with fellow Christians while traveling in Israel. Today was no exception. Members of the tour led us in prayer, led songs and presented thoughts for our consideration. It was nice to pause our tour and take time to worship God. Afterwards, we left the hotel and headed toward the Dead Sea. Our first stop was at Masada. King Herod built a huge palace on the top of this plateau to visit when he wanted to escape Jerusalem. In 70AD, almost 1,000 Jews hid on that mountain and finally took their own lives instead of becoming Roman slaves. The view from the top was a little hazy, but still breathtaking.

Our next stop was at En Gedi. Bible students know that this was the place that David fled to when he was being pursued by King Saul. Of course, he went there because there was water there. Even today, there was water flowing over a waterfall even though it has not rained here in six months.

The site of Qumran is famous because it is here where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. After eating lunch, we were able to visit this site and learn how they were found and what it means to us.

We ended the day by driving down to the shores of the Dead Sea and allowing those who wanted to, the opportunity to float in this beautiful sea. Fun was had by all.

Tomorrow will bring new adventures and more things to discover. Until then, shalom.


To read other blogs about the tour, here are a couple of links:

Jeremy Dehut -

Jane Britnell -

One Year Ago - The Lowest Place on Earth

Herod's Palace at Masada NOTE: I am continuing my series of retrospective posts on the our tour one year ago. I invite you to start at the beginning and read through all of them.

A year ago today, we went to the lowest place on earth, the Dead Sea. This beautiful body of water does not live up to its exceeds it. The water in the Dead Sea is a beautiful shade of blue and is actually quite clear for several feet.

We began the day by driving down to Masada, where Herod built a beautiful palace. Years later, nearly a thousand Jewish zealots held off the Roman army for a couple of years by using this "stronghold".

Our next stop was at En Gedi, for a short walk up a path to a waterfall. It is interesting to see the abundance of water in this place given the arid environment around it. It is no wonder why David fled to this location while being pursued by Saul.

After a stop at Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found), we visited one of the oldest cities in the world, Jericho. You can visualize so many Biblical stories from this location.

We finished our day by trying to take a dip in the Dead Sea. Of course, everyone just floated to the top. But, it was a great day to end the day.

Tomorrow: We visit the Old City.

2015 Israel Poster B

Have you been enjoying these posts on last year's tour? Are you interested in traveling with me this year? Then, I would love to have you join me. Our 12-day tour is scheduled for October 12-23. We will stay one night on the Mediterranean Sea, three nights on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and five nights in beautiful Jerusalem. During the day, we will visit dozens of sites that will enhance your understanding of the land and of the Biblical stories that take place in them. Reservations are coming in, but we still have some availability! This is a first-class tour with many extras thrown in that many Israel tours overlook. If you are interested, I encourage you to read the itinerary and contact me personally for more details.

Podcast #8 - The Oasis of En Gedi

[soundcloud url="" params="auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" iframe="true" /] In 1 Samuel 23, David is being pursued by King Saul in the Wilderness of Judea. Since it is a hot and dry area, David needs to find protection and water. He finds both in the oasis of En Gedi. That is what we will be discussing on this program.

NOTE: If you are viewing this post from an email, then go to our Podcasts page to listen to the audio.

Oasis of En Gedi

IMG_2631 Located on the western shore of the Dead Sea, the oasis of En Gedi provides a solitary location of pure, clean water in an otherwise inhospitable place. It is no wonder why David fled where when he was in this area about 3,000 years ago.

The Lowest Place On Earth

The Lowest Place On Earth


masadaToday was spent the entire day around the lowest place on the earth, the Dead Sea. After breakfast, we headed toward Masada. Our goal was to beat the crowds and the heat of the day. We arrived around 9:15 and went to the top. This is a great stop. This site is one of the top tourist attractions in Israel. From a Biblical perspective, it is interesting to see the lifestyle of King Herod and knowing that it was this man's family that was the ruling party in the First Century. Our next stop was En Gedi, which included a brief hike up to a waterfall. During David's life, he went to En Gedi and after visiting the site, you know why. In the middle of the Wilderness of Judea, it was this location that had water. Even today, water continually flows from the mountains as it makes its way to the Dead Sea.

Traveling north up the coast, we found ourselves at Qumran, the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. We enjoyed learning about the Essenes and their lifestyle in this arid climate.

Our next stop was at the traditional baptismal site of Jesus. The Bible tells us that John the Baptist was baptizing at "Bethany beyond the Jordan", which means that John was baptizing at some location on the other side of the Jordan from where we were located. Due to various reasons, the River Jordan is very small through here. It is only about 20 feet wide and about 2 feet deep. In many ways, it is very depressing. However, the Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians are all working on this problem.

(Side note: While we were visiting this site, we learned that the mother of our driver had passed away. The travel company made arrangements for a new driver to meet us within a few minutes. I feel bad for Fawzi, our driver. I have known him for about five years and know that he and his family are going through a rough time right now.)

dead_seaJericho was next on our list. This site is very special for me because so many Biblical sites took place here. We discussed many of these events as well as the architectural finds that have been made here.

Having a smaller group (about 30) has its advantages. We were able to squeeze some extra time in our schedule to take everyone to the Qumran kibbutz and allow them the opportunity to float in the Dead Sea. And, they did!

Overall, another great day today. Tomorrow will be a walk around the Old City of Jerusalem which is always very interesting. Until then...

Raising the Water Level in the Dead Sea

Raising the Water Level in the Dead Sea


For the past 50 years, the water level has been dropping in the Dead Sea.  Some of this has been caused by the natural climate oscillation over time.  However, some of the drop has been caused by the population growth that has taken place in Israel and Jordan. The citizens of those two countries have been diverting water for drinking and irrigation.  Water is not reaching the tributaries leading to the Jordan River and consequently, not reaching the Dead Sea.  During the past few years, the level of the Dead Sea has been declining at a rate of nearly one meter per year. For many years, there have been efforts made to reverse this situation.  The most common proposal is to pump water about 100 miles from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea (commonly nicknamed "Red-to-Dead" plan).  This plan has been hashed and rehashed a number of times.  As you can imagine, this would be a major undertaking.

A couple of weeks ago, the Washington Post reported that a tentative deal has been put in place to achieve this goal.  The plan would pump water out of the Red Sea, where it would go through a desalination process.  The clean water would be used by Israel, Jordan and the West Bank for human consumption.  The left over water would be pumped into the Dead Sea.

(On a side note, remember that you look at a map of the Bible Lands, you really must think in three dimensions.  If you do this, you will notice that the Red Sea is HIGHER than the Dead Sea.  So, overall, the process of pumping the water to the Dead Sea is an activity of gravity itself as the water will be flowing downhill a majority of the way.)

As you can imagine, this would be a very expensive operation and would take many years to complete.  But, it is an interesting concept.

The Dead Sea is mentioned a number of times in the Bible.  As a young man, David fled and hid from King Saul at En Gedi, along the banks of the Dead Sea.  While in the area, David fled to a "stronghold", that could possibly be Masada.

(NOTE: The picture at the top of this post is from Jordan, looking northwest across the northern part of the Dead Sea. Across the sea, you can see Jericho and at the top of the hill, you can see the outskirts of the Jerusalem area.)

HT: Todd Bolen

2012 Israel Trip - Day Eight

2012 Israel Trip - Day Eight


Today was spent in an around the Dead Sea in the Wilderness of Judea.  We had a surprise visit this morning at Qasr al-Yahud, which is near the traditional location of the baptism of Jesus.  In the Gospels, we read that John was baptizing at "Bethany beyond the Jordan".  So, John was actually baptizing at a location on the other side of the Jordan River.  However, this is as close as we can get without going into the country of Jordan.  Due to irrigation and water control, the river at this point is very narrow compared to what it was in Biblical times. We then traveled down to the vacation home of Herod the Great, Masada.  The history of Masada is something that every person should study.  Consequently, I won't go into that now and leave that to your personal study.  Masada is never mentioned by name in the Bible, however it might have been referenced.  The word "masada" means fortress.  While in the area, the scriptures mention that David visited a fortress on three different occasions.  In addition, David mentions a fortress in four of his psalms.  So, it is highly possible that David visited here.  I had one other interesting experience at Masada, which I'll discuss later.

From there, we traveled north for a brief stop at En Gedi (where David hid while he was being pursued by Saul), Qumran (the location of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls) and Jericho.  I've been to Jericho twice and it is one of the highlights of my trip.  The tel that we visit is from Old Testament Jericho (New Testament Jericho was in a slightly different location).  From that tel, you can see the size of the city, so you know exactly how far the Israelites marched as they circled the city for seven days.  You can also envision Rahab, who built her house on the wall of the city.  She could look out her window and see the Israelites as the encamped in the plains of Moab across the Jordan River.  It is a fascinating place.

Tomorrow is an early day.  We have to leave the hotel at 7:00am in order to be in the Old City in time to enter the Temple Mount by 7:30.  So, I'll need to get to bed soon.

However, back to Masada.  I'm an amateur hiker.  I really enjoy hiking in the Smokies and have hiked many miles there.  At Masada, you have two choices to get to the top.  The first choice is a tram lift that will take you to the top in about 3 minutes.  The second is the traditional route (the same route that the people of the time would have used) via the "Snake Path".  The trail is only 2 kilometers long, but it climbs over 350 meters in that distance.  (I'll leave it as a math exercise for you to figure out how steep that is.)  There were about 10 others in the group that wanted to hike the Snake Path, so I thought that I would give it a shot.  Well, I made it.  However, it wasn't a complete success.  When we left, the temperature was about 30 degrees Celcius (another math exercise for you) with no clouds (rain rarely falls here) and very little wind (we are at the lowest place on earth).  I made the trip up okay, but soon after arriving at the top, I started to get tingling feelings in my fingers.  Since that is one of the first signs of heat exhaustion, I knew that I needed to take care of myself quickly.  I took the first tram back to the visitor's center and immediately bought a coke.  I sat down in the cool air and began to recover.  Our outstanding tour guide, Elie, and could see that I was doing better, but thought that I needed something else.  He disappeared and came back with a Gatorade.  I drank it and immediately started feeling better.  So, here is what I learned from today:  if you decide to hike the Snake Trail, you'll need at least two bottles of water, not just one.  (And, let's keep this between us.  There is no need to let Tabatha it.)

Until tomorrow….