Descend through the Judean Desert to the Dead Sea, passing the Inn of the Good Samaritan and Jericho. Ascend by cable car to the Herodian palace/fortress on Masada where the Zealots were overcome by the Romans in 73 CE. Walk, without a guide, the well-marked trail in the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. Roadside View of the caves in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered at Qumran.
As we descend 1,200 meters from Jerusalem through the wilderness of the Judean Desert to the Dead Sea, we pass the Inn of the Good Samaritan and stop briefly at the “sea level” marker. In the distance we see Jericho, the oldest city in the world, perhaps due to its luxuriant oasis and its proximity to the Dead Sea, an ancient source of salt and we recall the conquest of Jericho by the Israelite tribes, led by Joshua, who had just crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land. (Josh 6).
We continue along the shores of the Dead Sea to Masada. As we ascend in the cable car, we look down at the Snake path which was used two thousand years ago when King Herod built this fortress cum palace. In fact, there were two palaces, as well as a swimming pool and a well-preserved beautiful bath-house.
Maintained by a small Roman legion after the death of Herod, it was seized by Jewish zealots at the beginning of the Jewish revolt against the Romans which culminated in the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 CE. We stand over the ramp, built for the Romans by their Jewish slaves, which facilitated the breaching of the wall after three years of siege.
The synagogue, which was built by Herod, proved conclusively to those who doubted that there were synagogues even while the Second Temple stood. We see where the first piece of parchment to be discovered in an Israeli archaeological excavation was found. And on it, legible to the naked eye were the words of the prophet Ezekiel, the “dry bones” prophecy, ending with the promise “I will take the children of Israel from among the nations … and bring them in to their own land … and the nations shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel …” (Ezek 37)
On our return journey we stop at the oasis of Ein Gedi where David hid from the wrath of King Saul (I Sam 24:1ff). Here you will be able to walk along the well-marked trail through the unique nature reserve which, although in the middle of the arid wilderness is tropical by definition.
Most of the forty tropical plant species are concentrated close to the spring. There are also numerous birds, including the Tristram grackle which is to be found only in the area stretching from Yemen through Sinai and to the Arava. Among the many animals to be found Ein Gedi is also a “refuge for the wild ibex and the rocks for the coney”. (Ps 104:18) On our return journey we will view the caves at Qumran where the two thousand year old Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.