8:40 pm

In the last 24 hours, I’ve been in the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, and the Dead Sea.  That is quite a feat for a lifetime, let alone a span of 24 hours.  I must say they were all quite warm, but the Sea of Galilee was the most refreshing, the Jordan River the most moving, and the Dead Sea most interesting.

The day began in Galiliee.  Our last morning to watch the sun rise over the Golan Heights.  Never a great day!  But we were all early to the bus (as we always are) and ready to head out before 8 am.  Wow.  That’s with luggage and bills paid and keys return.  Sweet.

Mt. Arbel
Mt. Arbel
Off to Mt. Arbel and one final lingering look at the Sea of Galilee and the ministry area of Jesus.  It was a bit hazy, but really, one of the best days to view the area of all I’ve experienced.  You could see the outline of Mt. Hermon in the distant horizon.  You could see Capernaum and Magdala (well, it’s just at the base of the hill so if you can’t see Magdala, why go up there) and Tiberius and the Mt of Beatitudes and water, lots of water.  The hillsides are brown (it is much more striking in spring – but the skies were nice and clear this trip).  We spent some time enjoying the view and soaking in the Galiliee one last time.  It was going to be a warm day again – and the hike up and back was making us all sweat.

Back to the bus and back through Tiberius and on to Bet Shean.  It is Shabbat, so the streets and highways are deserted.  The shops are all closed.  We had the way cleared and it was a lovely drive back through Tiberius.

Andre suggested we go the “back way” to Bet Shean – and I ALWAYS love to tackle that site from the back.  But, it is Shabbat so they can’t bring you the key to the gate.  So I went with Tarek (the bus driver) back around to the front entrance, picked the key (actually, two rings of keys since the guy didn’t know exactly which key we needed).  Then back to the gate and Andre selected the correct key on the first try.  Impressive.

Mt. Gilboa from Bet Shean
Mt. Gilboa from Bet Shean
We were on  our way into Bet Shean.  It is still a bit of a hike to get to the top – and it is not getting any cooler.  But we made it and caught the amazing view of Mt. Gilboa on one side and Jabesh Gilead on the other.  Oh, and the Jordan Valley and Jezreel Valley too.  It’s a great site.  We read the account of the death of Saul and then David’s lament for the death of Saul and Jonathan.  Moving text in 2 Samuel 1.

Down a bit we catch our first glimpse of the first century city of Bet Shean – or Scythopolis.  It would have been around during the days of Jesus and the ruins today are spectacular.  The city was destroyed by an earthquake in 749 I believe, and then the floods buried it all – and have preserved some wonderful archeological discoveries.  We didn’t spend too much time, but just enough to appreciate all the site has to offer.

It was hot.  Have I mentioned that yet?

So it was back to the bus (they’ve nixed the tram system so we could just walk to our own bus – what a relief).  Down the Jordan Valley we went.  That’s always a nice ride.  Barren.  Desolate.  But you get near the border with Jordan and get to see all the Israeli agriculture as you drive along.

New friends!
New friends!
We saw Jericho from a distance.  I might have been dozing during that point of the trip, but I know we had to have passed it.  We went to a new site, Kasser-Al-Yahud, the baptismal site on the Israeli side of the Jordan River.  I’d been the Jordanian side (probably most authentic) but this is the first time on the Israeli side.  There were many Ethiopian believers singing and dancing their way to the river to celebrate some baptisms.

We skirted around them, changed clothes, and enjoyed some wonderful moments – the baptisms of Judy Law and Jennifer Carson.  What a special time.  Of course, Karen had to fall in love with one of the adorable Ethiopian children, who had apparently not seen much white skin or blonde long hair.  The pictures are cute.

Back to bus for the drive down valley to Qumran.  Which means lunch.  And which also usually means a hectic and crowded lunch.  But it might have been due to the time (1:30 pm) or the time of year (October) or the season (during the midst of some Jewish holidays) or the day (Shabbat) – but the place was a little deserted.  A few buses, no line for lunch, and lots and lots of empty tables to enjoy our meal.  What a nice treat.

After lunch we toured Qumran (the air conditioned movie was a treat).  It was a good visit – and we found some shade to hear all about the Essenes and the story of Qumran.

Our view from our hotel - Dead Sea
Our view from our hotel - Dead Sea
Back on the bus for the trek on down to our hotel.  It was too late to visit En Gedi, and probably too hot for the walk as well.  At least for some in our crew.  But we came down south to our hotel so we could enjoy a lovely swim in the Dead Sea.

So I swam last night I the Sea of Galilee.  Baptized two people in the Jordan River.  Then went with most of our group for a “swim” in the Dead Sea.  What a 24 hours.  They have really fixed things up down by the Dead Sea.  No rocks as you get into the water.  It is super shallow (Mike Potier looked like he was walking on water when he stood up and took off to explore a bit).  And, it was almost too warm.  It was never more than a foot or two deep – so by late afternoon, the water has heated up considerably.

But it was a nice swim – and an even better shower back in the room to get all cleaned up for dinner.  Time to load up pictures for the website and now finish up the journal.  Bed is drawing near – that’ll be nice since no one in our room slept all that well last night.

Tomorrow we head to Masada and Arad and Bethlehem.  We will spend the night IN Bethlehem, that’s a first.  Of course, it would be nice to just plant ourselves somewhere but this will be a unique experience.  I’m looking forward to that night.

Guess that about wraps things up for today.  It’s been another great one.  We continue to all be healthy and enjoying one another and are all amazed at the sites we experience together.

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