Thursday, October 14, 2010

Holy Land Tour Day 11

Pilgrims in the tomb of Lazarus at Bethany
Bethany, Qumran,
Masada, Dead Sea

After six exciting days in and around Jerusalem today we packed up early and headed south in a new bus with a new driver for a totally new experience.

Although Bethany is only 2 miles or so from Jerusalem it is a 20 minute bus trip in a round about way into and through Palestinian villages. The contrast between Jewish settlements and places like Bethany, which is Palestinian, is stark.

The home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus is now a Franciscan church and the tomb where Lazarus was laid and where Jesus wept is only a few metres up a lane. We visited both places and were particularly struck by the lovely modern Church with its realist style mosaics.

Back in the bus and we are off to the site of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Along the way we passed the Good Samaritan Hotel and the city of Jericho and the hill of Jesus' temptation. The landscape in this area is lunar-like. Hardly a blade of grass to be seen but with the occasional oasis - like Jericho.
One of the caves at the site of the discovery of the Dead
Sea Scrolls in 1954

The Qumran community was monastic style Jewish order around the time of Christ with about 200 members. John the Baptist is thought to have been one of them for 2 years. This community had some peculiar rituals mostly they were about being pure and transcribing the scriptures. Their precious scrolls were hidden in pottery urns in caves and discovered by pure chance by a Bedouin shepherd in 1954.

There is an extensive archeological site and despite blistering heat most of the pilgrims enjoyed a tour of the whole site and the audio visual presentation which preceded it.

Glenys and Di at Masada
Masada is probably the biggest surprise packet of the tour so far. This ancient fort of gigantic proportions sits on top of a huge mountain by the Dead Sea. It is a World Heritage Site, not because of its phenomenal Roman Architecture, many baths, cisterns, store houses, synagogue, Byzantine Chapel and last but not least the Palace of King Herod which terraces down three levels from the top of the mountain.

How they managed to build these extensive structures in Herod's time is amazing. We ascended the mountain in a matter of minutes by cable car (holding 80 people at once). But none of this makes it a World Heritage Site, it is the pristine Roman ruins of the temporary forts that surround Masada that qualify it for that status. Masada was eventually attacked by the Romans who built a ramp and used a catapult and fire and weapons of war to engage the locals however the thousand remaining Jews decided to take their own lives rather than fall into the hands of the Romans.

Shila and Ranji and others floated in the Dead Seal
Arriving at our magnificent hotel - Le Meridian - on the Dead Sea by mid afternoon with a temperature well into the 30s most of us were keen to strip off and give the healing waters of the Dead Sea a chance to do its thing.

There is no doubt this a weird experience the high level of salt makes it very easy to float but don't get the water in your eyes or your mouth because it really stings!

After our regular evening prayers we adjourned to the dining room for the best feast of the pilgrimage so far.. and that's saying something.

Keep those comments coming in.


  1. Glen & Ray, Could you please ask Helen to contact Mark or Judy? Not urgent no problem. Anybody manage to read a book floating? I'll bet Helen didn't go in the water. It would have been too cold!!!

  2. You're looking so relaxed, Glenys. You must be having a great time - and what a win for the pies just before you left.... It's very wet and wild here so enjoy the warm weather...

  3. PS: Great blog... I'll send it out to everyone at work on Monday!!

  4. Hi Grandma (Helen)! I hope all is well. Dad and I are reading through Father Ray's blog which is very interesting. Great photos! Look forward to seeing you next week (Tuesday?)
    Love Edward

  5. Back in mobile range {Katherine NT} & caught up to the last couple of days .What a wonderful trip your all having.I know there are people reading your blog with out posting comments ,so you realy have a big folling Glenys & Ray.