Israel Day 5 and 6 – Beth Shean (Sycthopolis), Harod’s Spring, Bethany by the Jordan, The Dead Sea, Masada, Qumeran, Jerusalem

Last night we did not have free internet access in our hotel, so my blog posting has been delayed.  It might have also been delayed because I spent too much time in the Dead Sea Water pool at the hotel.  Either way, I am combining days and back tracking.

Sunday morning started with a visit to Beth Shean and the roman city of Sycthopolis, here we saw some beautiful ruins from the Roman City that was the capital of the ten decapolis cities in the region.  This city was so advanced that it had indoor plumbing and a shopping mall in the 6th century AD.  It was a massive city with beautiful columns and mosaics that even in ruins it is massive.  Sycthopolis was destroyed by an earthquake that would have registered 8 or 9 on today’s scale in 749 AD.  While the region is still inhabited, the city was never rebuilt after the earthquake.

Beth Shean sits upon a hill above Sycthopolis.  It was made famous when the Philistines displayed the bodies of Saul and his sons after they were killed in battle.  You can read about that in 1 Samuel 31-2 Samuel 1 and how David rescues them and gives them a proper burial.

We then spent a bit of time visiting the cave and Harod’s spring where Gideon was told only to take 300 men into battle against the Midianites in Judges 7.  Gideon narrowed down those men by first asking those to leave who were afraid to fight.  Then God instructed him to further narrow those men by sending home those who lapped up the water like dogs. This left him with 300 men to fight the armies of Midan.

Our final stop on Sunday, before we reached the Dead Sea was Bethany by the Jordan, a place that for 1900 years has been accepted as the site where John baptized Jesus.

About mid-afternoon we checked into our hotel on the Dead Sea and soaked in the salt rich pools.  It was a fascinating experience and I’m sorry I didn’t get a family picture of everyone floating on the salt water.  Next time we need to stay for a few days to get all the medicinal benefits of this wonderful place.

Monday morning we started out early and boy was it hot.  We headed into the Judean wilderness to explore a few places there before we headed to Jerusalem where we will spend the remainder of the nights on our tour.

Our first stop on Monday was Masada.  You can read the story of Masada here or watch the mini-series on Amazon or a short video here.  What was so amazing about this palace fortress is how much is left from the days of King Herod.  There were original frescoes on the walls, mosaics in the inlaid floors of the public bathhouse and even the original plaster on some of the walls that was faux finished to look like marble.  It was amazing how much archeologists have been able to find, preserve and restore.

After leaving Masada, we headed to Qumran where they have discovered the biggest portion of the Dead Sea scrolls.  We learned about the Essenes and their ways of living in isolation and the dedication of their lives to fully studying God’s word.  When they were afraid of Roman attacks they hid their hand copied version of the scripture in the caves to keep their scrolls safe from attack.  Unfortunately, their secret died with them in the attack and their scrolls were found in the 1940s and not by the right people.  They were practically destroyed before the reached the hands of historians who wanted to make sure they were preserved.

Finally we entered Jerusalem!  Our guide Ronnie is a wealth of knowledge about everywhere that we stop and he does a great job of setting the stage for each venue.  As we entered Jerusalem, he played the song “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” over the loudspeakers.  I can’t tell you how many years it has been since I have heard that song.  But it was amazing to enter the city while hearing that song.

Until tomorrow….

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