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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.

Mt. Nebo

Mt_Nebo_fromQumran_resize As with many places mentioned in the Bible, we may not know where the exact location is, but we can know it is “here.”  The exact point of Mt. Nebo may not be known, but from Deuteronomy 32:49, we know that if we are in Jericho and look across to Moab, we should be looking in the direction of Mt. Nebo.  This a view similar to what you would see from Jericho, just down the Dead Sea coast slightly (from Qumran, of Dead Sea Scrolls’ fame).

Qumran Ibex

5_Ibex_Herd_Qumran_Day5 Just as the Rock Badgers from Ein Gedi, another denizen of the Wilderness of Judaea and Dead Sea region is the ibex.  This herd of ibex were strolling around below the cliffs at Wadi Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.

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...

The Dead Sea Scrolls

Kando's Antiquity Store, located in Bethlehem.Earlier today, I read an interesting article on the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls from the standpoint of legitimizing the Bible. It is a really good article and I encourage you to read it. In the article, there is a picture of Khalil Iskander Shahin, otherwise known as "Kando". I have mentioned him in my post on Qumran, which is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Kando was a cobbler who lived in Bethlehem. In the back of his store, he had a small antiquities shop. He ended up being "the middle man" between the bedouins and the museum curators and scholars at the time.

Today, if you travel to Bethlehem, you can stop in a Kando's. Kando's grandson runs a very nice store which specializes in jewelry, olive wood carvings and of course, antiquities.

While we don't need the Dead Sea Scrolls to believe in the accuracy of the Bible, it is nice to know that there are people like Kando. He recognized the importance of the scrolls which were brought to him and made sure that they were preserved for others to study.

The Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit

The Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum where the Dead Sea Scrolls are on display.This morning, while visiting Israel, President Obama had the opportunity to visit the Israel Museum. In particular, he visited an area of the museum called "The Shrine of the Book", where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls are on display. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the caves of Qumran and are some of the oldest manuscripts of the Bible. Earlier today, USA Today posted a video of him visiting the site. This video is rather rare in the fact that cameras are normally not allowed in this area. Having been there a couple of times, I've been "reminded" of the rules by the kind museum employees. I guess I'll need to go get myself elected President of the United States if I want my own pictures!

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….