A Journal, with Pictures

The Dead Sea and Arava Desert

by on Apr.05, 2022, under Happenings

Our last leg of our trip took us out of Jerusalem into desert coun­try. We saw Bedouin camps by the high­way and as we head­ed south the ter­rain gets more rugged. We arrived at the Jor­dan Riv­er at the spot, where accord­ing to the Bible, John the Bap­tist bap­tized Jesus. We had vis­it­ed the same place from the Jor­dan­ian side a few years before (See Jor­dan trip). A dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive, same nar­ra­tive, and Mar­i­lyn the Bap­tist got to self bap­tize. The land mine warn­ing was a reminder of more recent his­to­ry at this spot.

Our next stop on the Dead Sea is an ancient set­tle­ment of a break­away Jew­ish sect that cre­at­ed the Dead Sea scrolls. The scrolls were dis­cov­ered in near­by caves.  The peo­ple of the sect took rit­u­al baths and built an elab­o­rate cis­tern and water sys­tem in their vil­lage. We then trav­eled a short dis­tance to anoth­er set­tle­ment with the ruins of an ear­ly syn­a­gogue with a well-pre­served mosa­ic floor. Near­by we stopped at the low­est point on earth 1411 feet below sea level.

Our next stop was Masa­da ( Hebrew for fortress), which is an ancient for­ti­fi­ca­tion sit­u­at­ed on top of an iso­lat­ed rock plateau over­look­ing the dead sea. Herod the Great built the palace for him­self between 31 and 37 BCE.  One account of the end of Masa­da describes a siege by the Romans of the last Jew­ish hold­outs (Sicarii rebels) between 73 and 74 CE at the end of the first Jew­ish-Roman war. The siege end­ed when the Romans built an earth­en ramp and a siege tow­er, which was set on fire by the defend­ers. Accord­ing to one account, 960 men and women com­mit­ted sui­cide in the face of the 15,000 Romans and slaves. Masa­da is well pre­served with an elab­o­rate cis­tern and water dis­tri­b­u­tion sys­tem and baths as well as the palace. The rem­nants of the Roman encamp­ment and earth­en siege ramp are still visible.

We arrived at Six Sens­es Resort and Spa and say good­bye to our great guide, Jere­my. The next day we explored the resort and get some much-need­ed R&R. The Six Sens­es resorts are 21 out-of-the-ordi­nary five-star resorts locat­ed all over the world. Six Sens­es Israel is locat­ed near the vil­lage of Shae­harut in the Ara­va desert an hour’s dri­ve from the Red Sea port city of Eilat.

Our final day of tour­ing includ­ed a dri­ve to Eilat where we met Gil, our last guide, who took us first to Arrona Spring men­tioned in the bible as a stop­ping point on the trek from Egypt. We then went on to Tim­na Park locat­ed approx­i­mate­ly 20 miles north of Eilat. The park val­ley includes unique geo­log­i­cal for­ma­tions and the site of the old­est known cop­per mines dat­ing to the 5 or 6th mil­len­ni­um BCE. The mines and ear­ly foundries were prob­a­bly worked by the Edomites the bib­li­cal foes of the Israelites. The sand­stone cliffs in the Tim­na Val­ley fea­ture a for­ma­tion called King Solomon’s pil­lars and the site of ancient wor­ship to var­i­ous “Gods” du jour.

Our last image was of an Ibex, a wild goat indi­genes to this region, and is some­what sym­bol­ic of the amaz­ing inhab­i­tants of Israel, strong, unique, and able to sur­vive in a very chal­leng­ing land. We trav­eled back to the Six Sens­es then the next morn­ing to Tel Aviv to board our flight to the Unit­ed States. We expe­ri­enced an incred­i­ble adven­ture that exposed us to the ancient, Bib­li­cal, and recent his­to­ry of the unique place called Israel.





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