Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day. I woke up having the most fabulous dream of my life. I dreamed that I had been on the luscious green slopes of the Mount of the Beatitudes. It was here that Jesus fed the 5000. Before me was the Sea of Galilee and within 50 feet or so is where He spoke the Sermon on the Mount. Then, miracle of miracle, I got on a boat and rode across the Sea of Galilee (I didn't have the faith even in dream to walk it) to the Golan Heights to spend the night in a beautiful kibbutz.
Then it dawned on me. This is no dream. Better yet, this was a dream come true. I was actually in Israel, in the Holy Land, having the adventure of my life. I was in the pursuit of WOW. I am where Jesus walked and lived and taught. WOW.
By 8 a.m. we are on the bus and moving out. I take one last glance at the Sea of Galilee. We are heading south, going down and down until we come to the lowest place on earth. I am as excited as a little kid going to Disneyland. Our bus driver is Hussam, who has to be one of the best in the land. He is a Muslim, ever so pleasant and pleasing to be around.
Soon we crossed a little creek. Hey, wait a minute that's the River Jordan. How many times have I read and heard about this famous river? There it is. WOW. I am wide awake. This is no dream.
Our first stop is Bet Shean. It is one of the cities of the Decapolis; the only one west of the Jordan. (Decapolis means 10 cities. In Jesus' time, they non-Jewish hellenistic centers which formed an alliance for protection and commerce.)
Bet Shean was an indescribable, magnificent city with its colonnaded streets, exquisite temples, an enormous Roman theater seating over 7000, shopping mall, a Byzantine bath house, containing hot and tepid bathing halls with a hypocaust (an incredible heating system), marble streets decked out with statues and multicolor mosaics. WOW. Today it is the largest archaeological site in Israel.
After a breathtaking tour of the whole city it was the back on the bus you bozos. Gordon finally let that out in one of his famous and inspiring devotions.
We continued south along the Jordan River. To our left, to the East, was the country of Jordan. We were right along the border. Our next stop was to visit the oldest city in the world, Jericho. Due to the unrest there it was closed. We were able to see it in the distance.
Rolling along, my mind flashed back many years to a college class where we were learning about Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls. In an hour we will be there. Another dream. No, this is real.
Our guide was Mony Ravid. Mony is the best. He was thorough, personable, inspiring and entertaining. He was one of us. He pointed out the cave where some of the scrolls were discovered. Two bedouin shepherds in the spring of 1947, in search a lost goat, threw a rock into a cave. Upon hearing a crashing sound they decided to investigate. They discovered eight large jars containing portions of the Old Testament. It was the largest archaeological and manuscript discovery of the century. Jeremiah the prophet wrote: "...thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown."
As we continued our journey on south it was on to Masada. Masada! A triple WOW. I have read about this for years, heard many speak on it, and even saw the movie. The Dead Sea is off to our left and we're now at the lowest spot on earth, 1300 feet below sea level. And then we see it. There, off in the distance, a huge mountain with horizontal cliffs on all sides.
My first thought was "wouldn't it be great to climb that" but before I could finish the thought Roger, our mountain goat, had already started out. But it was not to be. The path was closed due to the removal of cables from the old cable car. So it was up to the top in style in a nice new cable car. (Oh, if King Herod could see us now.)
Here is where King Herod built a massive mountain fortress and palace. It was also a stronghold for the Zealots. They were the last of the Jews to be defeated by the Romans after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Josephus in his Wars of the Jews describes the massive suicide just before the Romans came over the wall. What an amazing tour through the palace, warehouses, synagogue and bath that we saw on top of Masada.
Back on the bus, re-tracing our route north we arrived at Ein Gedi for a quick look at a desert waterfall. Nearby, we took a swim in the Dead Sea at Siesta Beach. Doreen is an excellent swimmer and you should see her paddling in all that salt and mineral water.
After the swim there was Lloyd, of all people riding a camel. Then Cleo, now there is a tourist attraction. Next it was Doreen, followed by Jeff and Roger and even me. True. We got pictures.
Our guide, Mony, pointed to the East across the Dead Sea to Mount Nebo. That is where God permitted Moses to view the Promised Land before he took him to his eternal reward. All I can say is WOW.
This Oh-what-a-beautiful-day comes to a close as we pull into our motel for the night. Actually, we have another beautiful kibbutz to stay in, kibbutz Almog. We are treated as always to another sumptuous dinner buffet. The sun slowly disappears. It is so quiet, so peaceful here 1300 feet below sea level. I am living a dream come true. WOW!
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