Day Two

En Gedi to Qumran to a Dead sea beach

Today we hiked quite a bit and most of it was strenuous (some of our group couldn’t do it), so I loved it. We started off at En Gedi, an oasis in the wilderness near the Dead Sea and the place where David cut off Saul’s robe corner. It is a beautiful spot with little waterfalls and pools to wade in and it’s in the middle of the desert. The idea of Living Water is well illustrated here. Views from the top of the mountain were stunning.

En Gedi
En Gedi

En Gedi

From there we went to Qumran, site of the dead sea scrolls discovery. We talked about the Essenes and how they lived and what they did to preserve the Text. Another hike took us to a mountain height that looked down on a large wadi – dry river bed.


After that was a public beach access to the Dead Sea and we all took a dip and rubbed ourselves with Dead Sea mud. Supposed to be restorative and good for the skin. I thought it was pretty nasty. The water is so salty it effects water density and you float really easily. Just don’t put your face in it.

Our evening meal was at Abu Ali’s house – our driver that has accepted John as a brother. They are Muslim and John wants to continue to get to know him and show him the love of Christ. Like most Eastern culture, hospitality is way more important than what we know. They gave us a couple of salads, a huge main dish of rice, potatoes, cauliflower and chicken, yogurt from their goats, watermelon, two desserts, mint tea and coffee. It was fantastic and we all ate till we were stuffed. The family (there are 11 kids plus daughters-in-law and their kids) didn’t eat at all except for Abu Ali. They just served. Took about 3 hours and was a real treat.

Feast time!

Tomorrow we’re off to the Galilee.

Day One

Newark to Tel Aviv to Bethlehem

Our flight was shorter than expected – about 10 hours. Unfortunately I couldn’t sleep a wink, so I ended up watching 4 movies. It’s interesting that I’ve been awake for about 30 hours and I’m not really tired right now. I was about 5 hours ago, but seem to have gotten a second wind.

We hit the ground running. Directly from the airport our driver (Abu Ali – John has used him for 10 years – we are eating at his house tomorrow!) took us to our first stop, Zo’rah – the place were Sampson was from. Talked a little about Judges, how being out of community and relying on your own strength is bad for you and how God can redeem and use folks who mess up a whole lot. Also talked some general geography talk.

Then we hiked to a place that overlooked the valley of Elah – where David fought Goliath. We could see where it is thought the Israelites were on one hill and the Philistines on an opposite one with the valley in between. Then we went down into the valley of Elah in the river bed (dry in the summer) where David would have picked up his stones – pretty cool!

Elah Valley
Valley of Elah

Wadi - David's stones
Wadi – David’s stones

Then it was on to Adulam where there are a number of caves in the ground. There is one where it is thought David and his mighty men hid – it was quite cool (literally and figuratively) to crawl around in some of the other caves as well.

David's Cave
David’s Cave

Then a nice buffet at our hotel where the owners have known John for 10 years. After that, we just wandered around downtown Bethlehem for about an hour or so. I answered a trivia question correctly in the van, so John gave me 20 shekels for ice cream. Tasty.

Church of the Nativity
Church of the Nativity

Tomorrow – the Dead Sea among other things.

Testing, testing. Is this thing on?

So I leave tomorrow for Israel. John says it’s a 5-movie flight (he measures flights in the number of movies you can watch). At 11 hours, as long as each movie is 2.2 hours long, that’s doable. Yeech.

Doesn’t look too far, does it?