Today wasn’t as busy as our first two days, which is good because, quite frankly, I needed a bit of a rest. Much of our day was taken up moving from our hotel near Tiberias to a new hotel on the south end of the Dead Sea. When I asked our guide what town our hotel is in tonight he said, “It’s not a town; just a hotel area.” Seriously, there isn’t anything other than hotels here. I think the nearest city is 150 miles away and apparently the nearest gas station is 10 miles away. I hope he remembered to fill up the van!
But, I’m getting ahead of myself here. We started this morning by going to a church in Tabgha. The altar in this church is built around a rock where it is believed that Jesus stood when he fed the 5000 (which was really more like 15,000 when you include the women and children) with five loaves and two fish.
From Tabgha we went to the baptismal site on the Jordan River. Our church practices believer’s baptism (or baptism by immersion) and we all (with the exception of a couple who had been here before) participated in a re-dedication baptism in the same river where Jesus was baptized by John. The actual site where Jesus was baptized is now located in the country of Jordan so while we were in the same river we weren’t actually in the same spot. Still, it was very cool.
After our baptism we headed to the ruins of Bet She’an (spelled Beth-shan in my English Bible.) It is here that the Philistines took over the city after the death of King Saul, cutting off the head of Saul and his sons and hanging their bodies on the city wall. I know, gruesome story, but that’s how it reads in 1 Samuel 31:1-10. Despite the gruesome details of the story it really was awesome to see the old pillars that lined what was the main road of the city. The whole city had at one time been buried underground but has been excavated over the years. Of course, they’ve had to restore some things but it’s easy to tell what is newer and what really dates back thousands of years.
Having had enough chicken shish kebob or fish the team decided today to have lunch at McDonald’s. It was a kosher McDonald’s which meant no cheeseburgers. Apparently, a kosher meal never has both dairy and meat served at the same time. This was all fine with me because I don’t eat cheeseburgers anyway. What I didn’t realize was that kosher meat – even at McDonald’s – tastes much different than your regular Mickey D’s burger. Thankfully, John had ordered light and he finished off my hamburger once I gave up after two bites. I would say that the fries and Coke I had were just a couple levels lower, nutritionally speaking, than the pita bread and hummus lunches I’ve been having. Oh well, as they say, tomorrow is another day.
Our last stop for the day was at Qumran, the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were first discovered in 1947. Our guide pointed out a cave where 30,000-40,000 scraps of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1952. Here also, we saw remains of an ancient city. The entire Old Testament, with the exception of the book of Esther has been found in these caves. The were originally discovered by a shepherd looking for one of his goats. The story is that he was too tired to go searching in every cave so he threw a rock into the caves to see if he got a response. When he heard it hit some of the vessels that the scrolls were found in, he went in to investigate. No word on whether he ever found the missing goat.
All in all, it has been an excellent day. We’re done a little early tonight and this hotel has an amazing hot tub, dead sea tub and sauna so, until tomorrow . . . Shalom.
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