Day 2: Masada, Camel Ride, Bedouin Experience, Tel Arad, and The Dead Sea Swim

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Today we had our morning devotional on the shore of the dead sea. We went to the ancient ruins of Masada at the top of a mountain in the Judean desert, road a camel, enjoyed Bedouin hospitality, and finished off our day swimming in the Dead Sea.

Masada was originally built as a palace for King Herod as a fortress to escape to in the desert in times of trouble. At a certain point he abandoned it. And after the destruction of Solomon’s temple by the Roman empire in AD 70, a group of Jewish Zealots fled to the abandoned fortress to escape the Roman army. It ended in the tragic death by suicide of the whole community as the Roman army built a rampart to conquer their mountaintop stronghold.

The most interesting part of this history for me was making the connection of this story with the loss of the temple. When Solomon’s temple was destroyed in AD 70, religious leaders had to figure out what worship would look like. Masada was representative of that time of turmoil. And over time the synagogue would transform from being primarily a “community center” into the heart and center of worship in every community.

I finally got to ride a camel! I’ve been wanting to ride a camel for a long time…check that one off of the bucket list!

Bedouin hospitality is famous. In the desert, life is very hard. And we learned and observed how important extending hospitality to strangers can be for desert life. It’s more than just throwing a party. It’s helping someone feel refreshed, safe and secure, and meeting people’s basic needs so they can be strengthened for the journey.

Tel Arad was a working temple on the border of the Judean Desert. It was 1/3 the size of the exact specs of Solomon’s temple. It existed before the destruction of the temple and existed in Jesus’ day. Which begs the question: Why did it need to exist when Solomon’s Temple was the expected place of worship?

The dead sea teaches us that “Input with no output equals death.” The dead sea is the lowest elevation in the whole world. We stayed at a place that is 1300 feet below sea level. So water flows down and eventually reaches a place where it has no where left to go. The salt builds up. Everything dies. This is the exact opposite of what Jesus came to do. He is the living water. And he who drinks this water will never die but instead will have streams of living water overflowing into new life!