I got to sit at the kids’ table at dinner – and now the “kids” have come to my room to play “Farkle.”  But as the adult at the kids table, I have to work.  If I don’t get this Monday blog uploaded, I do know that I will face the wrath of some at home.  So I will attempt to concentrate while these others play and scream and yell and have a grand time in my suite.  Yes, I can’t hide the fact that I do have a suite.  Top floor.  One and a half baths, king-sized bed with picturesque views of the Dead Sea out of every window (and there are many).  And a patio with a Jacuzzi (dry), a swing, patio furniture, and…well, an amazing view of the Dead Sea.

But – there is more than my room that needs to be shared.

The morning  began much as they usually do.  We (or at least I) am getting into a routine.  Up at 6:30 (well, I got up a bit before and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise over the Golan Heights) and a call from home (with Danny’s fabulous grade report).  This is tough to do with the volume coming out of my kitchen table.  At least they are having fun.

We were all on the bus, with suitcases in the boot….BEFORE 8 am.  This was a going to be a great day.  But, then a couple of delays with a forgotten item, then perhaps two….but we were soon back on our way to Beit Shean.  Of course, the driver hasn’t been to such remote sites (it really isn’t that remote, but not on the standard tour itinerary I guess).  He overshot the entrance, but we did eventually arrive and began our tour of Beit Shean (after another restroom stop).  The day is warm.  Going to get warmer.  But the good news is that Beit Shean really was not very crowded.  Really? 

It is always so refreshing to view the sites through fresh eyes.  The Roman ruins are impressive and massive as they lay out before us.  We toured the bath house, the theater, the cardo, the earthquake devastation - -and then the tel led before us.  Several stayed behind, which was wise…but most of us trekked up the top to enjoy the panoramic view of the Roman city from the Old Testament tel.  It is always amazing.  Next time, we will come in the back, Andre said that is still possible.

Back to the bus (on a tram) and then down the Jordan Valley we head.  It is a bit of a long ride, but no stop in Jericho.  The topic of the entire morning was the modern political situation which exists between Israel and the Palestinians.  Andre carefully review the history.  And then, as an Arab Christian, presented a balanced, logical, personal perspective on the Arab-Israeli relations.  It was great to hear the issues with pros and cons on each side.  He hit a home run and did a great job.

Lunch was at the chaos which is the cafeteria at Qumron.  I just had a falafel, which is just OK there.  It was nice to be cool and have a Diet Coke, however….and to just sit and chat with Andre for a while.  Searched for Magnum bars after lunch, to no avail.  I will not compromise!

After lunch we toured the archeological site – and it was interesting (as always).  Pictures at Cave 5.  The weather has turned very hazy at the Dead Sea.  You can see across to the other side, but barely.  The water of the sea is gray and not blue at all.  It is quite a contrast to the clarity we had enjoyed in the Jezreel Valley.  But, it is indeed hot.  Mid-90’s I suppose – which isn’t all that hot, unless you are from PV.

On the bus.  Back on the road.  Next stop:  En Gedi.  As the day heats up, we lose a few more hikers for the trip to the waterfall. And, yes, it was warm.  And yet, those who made the hike thoroughly enjoyed the hike…but especially the waterfall waiting at the end.  We read from 1 Samuel and the account of David sparing Saul’s life.  (It is REALLY loud in my kitchen…..I may get kicked out of this room…).

When we dragged our wet and exhausted bodies back onto the bus – we headed straight to the hotel at En Bokek.  Checkin was smooth and the hotel is great.  It is Independence Day (well, it began at sunset) so there is/was a BBQ for dinner (an entire story on its own).  But most headed to the Dead Sea for a swim to cool off and refresh our skin before dinner.  This beach was a bit easier to get in and out of than previous beaches.  It was relaxing – still hot (even in the water) and fun to watch people react to the buoyancy.  Some just couldn’t bring themselves to float on their back (you know who you are!).  But it was so relaxing and a wonderful way to end a day with lots of sweat and hiking.
Back to my suite for shower and prep for dinner…and uploading pictures to the website.  Then it was time for dinner.  It was opening at 7, and my group is usually wanting to eat as early as possible.  So, I headed down just at 7.  But, oh wow….what a dinner adventure this was going to be.

There must have been 150 crowded at the door to get to the outdoor dining tables and food stations.  We couldn’t find enough seating so we could all sit together.  We eventually landed inside and waiting out the crowds.  People were elbowing, shoving, and piling their plates high with food.  It was amazing.

We started with dessert because the table was empty.  Of course, we had to end with dessert too, just because we could.  They had steak, chicken, lamb/beef kabobs, sausage, falafel….just to start the list.  It was delicious, and we did eventually get our fill.  There was a lady making some sort of Moroccan dessert.  She said it needed honey or jelly, but we could never find any.  But they were fresh and not bad.

So now I am back in my noisy room.  The game continues, but I don’t think for too much longer.  We are off to Masada and Herodium and Bethlehem in the morning.  It’s a packing day and so the suitcase has to be ready by 7.  The next six nights will be in Jerusalem, which is a nice thought.

Tomorrow…..in Jerusalem.

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