Last day of Arad! As much as I loved and looked forward to visiting the Negev, Arad was a bit of a struggle for me between the language barrier (Russian of all things), food issues, and not feeling well. I’m glad I took the middle day off because I have been looking forward to Masada for a long time, so I was thankful for the time to recover before going there. The tale of the Jewish Revolt breaks my heart. Whether it is fact or fiction, the immense antisemitism and strength of the Jews brings me to a place of mourning. No people group should have to be faced with the choice between slavery or suicide. I had never heard of the controversy over why the Byzantine church was placed there atop Masada. Because I’m sick of all the anti-Jew efforts by Christians, I’m going to go with the idea that the church was built as a remembrance of the Jews rather than a way to shoo away the Jews. As we ventured into the baths, there was an odd man in the with a scarf on his head that was saying, “they’re all rocks. You won’t remember any of this when you go home.” It was rather obnoxious.
Next step: Dead Sea! I wish I didn’t get it in my eye. The whole time while I was crawling towards water to flush it out, I was thinking, “at least this is my bad eye, so if I go blind I won’t be cross-eyed anymore!” I’m melodramatic.
En Gedi was not at all what I expected. Debbie told me stories of how relaxing it was swimming at the waterfall, but I was shocked by the amount of high school (and rather rude) tourists. I had a strange amount of satisfaction walking by the other JUC group getting a lecture while we just had relaxation time there. As hard as Dr. Phillips pushes us, she gives us fun times–like a whole hour to play in natural pools.
Qumran was such a treat. I was glad that most of the background knowledge was repeat for me after taking Intro to Biblical Studies so I could focus on the sights and the specific details of Qumran. It breaks my heart to think of all the scrolls that have washed away over the millenia. So many things we’ll never know! The whole idea that John may have grown up in Qumran is rather fascinating. There is a theory that with him having grown up in the wilderness with good knowledge of Scriptures, his parents could have brought him to the Qumran community to be raised and taught there safely. I would be interested to read more into that (reading suggestions?) The degree to which this community as well as monastic communities follow the call to study the Word and live in a setting in which you must depend on God has challenged me in how I live my life. In what ways do I live in excess? What things can I cut out to devote more time to prayer and study?
Coming back to the Gloria Hotel in Jerusalem was like a family reunion. Going to the kitchen, seeing the friendly faces, and bantering with the chef and wait staff was so joyous. It’s good to be home.
Originally written May 29, 2014.