We left Kibbutz Kalia in the bright morning light and arrived at En Gedi about 8:40. We hiked up the wadi to the waterfall. Some of us pulled off our shoes and waded in the pool at the base of the falls, at least I did.
On the way back down we sat on some benches and Tom told us the story of Esther and correlated it to our purpose in life (Isaiah 62). Today is Purim, the holiday that celebrates the courage of Esther.
Then we went to the Dead Sea where Judy, Shawn, Sharon, Terry and Dave experienced the buoyancy of the mineral rich waters. Those who got splashed in the face said that the water was very nasty tasting and irritating. Sharon got carried away and took her passport and money in with her. Connie and Laura eventually waded in and got their feet wet, taking pictures for all of the floaters. Meanwhile Gordon, Tom, Pat & Harry visited the nearby partially restored Byzantine synagogue with its beautiful mosaic floor. About noon we piled back on the bus and headed for Masada.
The first view of Masada is awe-inspiring. Our second view, of the line waiting to board the cable car, was frightening. We learned that a cruise ship had sent about ten bus loads of passengers to see Masada, and they arrived about the same time we did. Fortunately the line moved quickly and we waited only about a half hour before we were on our way up. Most of us enjoyed the view of the ground receding as the cable car took us to the top but Judy got into the center of the packed car where she didn't have to look down.
At the top we met Tali Gini, an American who is the archaeological inspector for this area and much of the Negev. She talked about the extensive restoration going on at Masada while Gordon recorded her for his BOOK & THE SPADE program. Then we walked through some warehouses, the bath house, and the uppermost portion of Herod's northern palace. We also sat for awhile in what is believed to be the ancient synagogue, and walked through a byzantine church.
We left Masada on foot, walking down the ramp that the Romans built in A.D. 70 when they besieged and conquered the fortified mountain hold-out of the zealots, who had committed suicide rather than be taken prisoner.
A short time later we stopped in Arad for a belated lunch at a snack shop. Nearby Tel Arad was supposed to be our last stop of the day. We arrived shortly after 4:00pm only to find it had closed for the day promptly at 4:00pm. So we had to be content with viewing the hill from the road as we started out trip up to Jerusalem and listened to Tom explain the history of the area.
We reached Jerusalem late in the afternoon and drove through traffic to our hotel, the YMCA on Nablus Street in Arab East Jerusalem. After an hour or so to settle in we had supper in the top floor dining room. We finally succumbed to curiousity to find out what the meat was and asked the waiter--it was turkey.
So then I joined Ben in a food protest. Only Ben wanted more American style food, preferably burgers, I wanted more middle-eastern food, preferably tabouli.
Since Tom had cautioned us about leaving the hotel in the evening, we stayed in and did exciting things like washing out our clothes. But we knew, even in the midst of the mundane, that we were spending our first night in the holiest city in the world and could look forward to walking in Christ's footsteps the next day.
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