Soon I will be leaving Jerusalem and heading into Jordan to begin the journey back to my own promised land--Asheville, North Carolina. We leave the hotel before 7:30 in the morning and it is after midnight. (My mind seems to be unwilling to slow down for rest. . . )
Our guide and our lead professor told us that today's first two sites were not biblical sites per se but rather historical sites. But me, I'm a fool for a set of ruins so I couldn't wait to get to first Masada and then to Qumran. The plan was to leave Qumran after lunch and head to the Dead Sea for a swim before going to the Garden Tomb for our final worship experience in Jerusalem. It was an amazing day.
Masada, positioned off the coast of the Dead Sea, stands out from the rocky desert mountain landscape as fortresses are prone to do. The ruins there amazed me--towers, aqueducts, baths, a sauna, even an early version of a post office. Unbelievable. I got great pictures there.
Do you know where Qumran is? Well, it's right down the road from Masada, but that's not the important thing about this little mountain range of caves. I'll get to that in a minute. First, let me ask you this. Have you heard of Ein Gedi? What about En Gedi? (Same place.) En Gedi is a desert Oasis and we went through it today between Masada and Qumran. I don't have the scriptures handy, but you may remember the story of David pursuing Saul into a cave at En Gedi? Saul had gone in there to. . . well. . .you know. . .and then he fell asleep (note to self, never fall asleep on the toilet). David finds him there, decides not to kill him but just cuts a swatch of fabric from his robe (maybe to have himself a king's robe made?) much to the protests of his soldiers. En Gedi. That's the place. We went through it today and it is so plush and green in the middle of this rocky, sandy, ruddy desert. Beautiful.
Okay, so Qumran. Did you go over to Wikipedia and look it up? Well that was silly because I was getting ready to tell you. Qumran is the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Remember I told you that Qumran is down the street from Masada and that Masada is off the cost of the Dead Sea? Thus the name. Dead Sea Scrolls. And I was there. Right there. Blessed Assurance.
Next we went to the Dead Sea itself where we floated and played in the water. We covered ourselves in the mud--supposedly it's good for the skin. Very refreshing.
We ended our day back here in Jerusalem at the Garden Tomb. As with much that happens here in the Holy Land, these sites are often disputed. Some believe absolutely that this site is the site where Jesus was laid. Our guide and our professor don't really think it is possible. Instead they challenged us to see it as the type of tomb were Jesus could have been laid. This was most instructive and helpful.
The Garden is lovely. The landscape includes ancient artifacts, blooming flowers and trees while small chapels hide here and there all around the garden. The Garden guide, an older man from the UK with a thick British accent, said before we went to our appointed chapel, "I don't know what you believe about this place being the place where Jesus was taken to be buried and I don't care. Because we who are Christians do not serve a dead God, we serve a living God. Our faith is not about where Jesus was laid when he died; It is about where he lives now that he is resurrected."
Our communion service will hold a private, special place in my memory forever. It was so sacred, so precious. And such a perfect ending. . . no beginning. . .to our Jerusalem story.
On my way back to God's Country,
Well I've come out of Egypt and am in Jericho now. It seems Egyptian computers don't speak Aileen. I could not access my website the whole time I was there. Oh well, I'm in Jericho for a moment or so and thought I'd sent a quick update.
We arrived in Cairo safe, sound and sleepy. We spent three nights there and two full days exploring Cairo and Memphis. The great pyramids of Egypt are something to see, but the venders who lurk there are something to avoid. The Egyptian museum offered lots of treasures, including the artifacts from King Tuts tomb. Here's something I learned: King Tut was so young and such a minor king that his treasures were really pocket change compared to what a great and older king would have had. Amazing. I actually saw the coffin mask--the coffin mask that is in all the text books. Hard to believe I was standing there looking at it.
Yesterday we visited a carpet factory where they make Egyptian rugs. They were so beautiful, so artistic. Children go to school at this factory to learn to make the rugs so that they can graduate with a skill. I took video there so you could see how fast their fingers move. You wouldn't be able to imagine it if I tried to tell you.
We also went to a papyrus institute. Paper was invented by Egyptians; did you know that? Indeed the word paper comes from Papyrus. The art there was captivating.
Today we spent travelling. Tonight we sleep and get up tomorrow to tour Jericho. As we travelled from Egypt to Jericho, I thought about the children of Israel. It is such a barren wasteland and I can't imagine what those people must have been experiencing. Egypt, even then, would have been so bustling and alive. The desert--the wilderness--so void, so dead. How bewildered they must have been once the running game stopped and they looked around to see where they'd landed. It is no wonder it took them 40 years to get their bearings straight.
As we were coming through the desert, at first we hit miles and miles of emptiness. Next, we approached mountains--and they looked nothing like the Blue Ridge. These mountains are jagged, red earth, with no place to even grab a foot hold, much less for a plant to take root. It must have been so scary for the Israelites. It's a wonder they didn't turn back. They must have been walking towards a promise. . .
Walking with the Children of Israel,