Today was largely a travel day here in Israel. We left the Sea of Galilee and started to head south towards the Dead Sea, where we’re staying tonight. As we left today, it was still raining pretty hard, which seemed to be the theme of our time in the Galilee. Our first stop on our way south was at a kibbutz called Kibbutz Gesher on the Jordan River. A kibbutz is a collective community in Israel that is usually surrounded around agriculture. Jewish German immigrants founded this kibbutz in 1939. In their time as an active kibbutz, they often found themselves at the front lines of many of the wars fought in the country across the 20th century. In each of those cases, it was the civilians who lived in the kibbutz left to fight against the well-trained armies of Jordan and Iraq. The kibbutz is named (gesher means “bridge”) for the three distinct and prominent bridges on the property. Here are a few pictures:
Our next stop was (another) synagogue at Beit Alpha. This synagogue had a nearly intact mosaic floor. We learned that in the fifth and sixth centuries it was fashionable to decorate synagogues with animals and even pagan gods and zodiac symbols. If you find this confusing and troubling, you would not be alone. Jewish law forbids having “graven images” in the synagogue. Despite the content of the mosaic, and the rudimentary skill level, it was really fascinating to see such a large piece on display:
Then we spent a few hours in the bus on our way to Qumran. There, we had lunch and got to do a little shopping for Dead Sea minerals. After lunch, we toured Qumran. This is the site where some shepherds in the 1940s accidentally came across what are now known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. We had a teaching on the Essenes, who were a Jewish sect who copied down scripture and hid them in caves near the Dead Sea. In doing this, they preserved these manuscripts for nearly 2000 years. Here are a few shots from Qumran:
Throughout our journey today, many made comments about the change in topography from the north of the country to the southern desert. Some said that this is what they thought Israel would look like everywhere, but in the north, we had lush greens and rolling hills.
Finally, we arrived in the Dead Sea, and many of us did a very cold float in the Dead Sea:
But here we all are! Had a great time! Tomorrow we get to SLEEP IN (not leaving until 9:30am!!!). We'll hit Masada, Ein Gedi, and Bethany on our way to Jerusalem.
Prayer requests: David had his phone stolen here at the hotel in the Dead Sea (we think). Either way, it appears to be gone. Please pray that it turns up before we leave tomorrow. Also please pray for Pat Anderson's knee, which she hurt today, and that it would be fine and she would be able to experience all in Jerusalem.
Saturday, February 14 – Fifth Day of Touring: Traveling through the desert to Masada, Ein Gedi, and Bethany on our way to Jerusalem – Pray for safe and timely travel and “Shabbat rest” as we visit sites that encourage us to explore and hike. Please also pray for our transition to city life as we move to Jerusalem for the remainder of the trip; finally, pray for Betty Fuqua, celebrating her birthday today.