The Dead Sea

What can one do when in Jerusalem on the Sabbath, assuming that one is not observing the sabbath oneself (or at least not strictly)? A trip to the Dead Sea is an option. I took a tour through Mike’s Center, which I had already heard of and was considering, and just happened across yesterday when I was leaving the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

The first stop was Qumran, and although there was an introductory film, it jumped right in with a fictional tale of a person’s life there, including the assumption that John the Baptist had spent some time there. Since we were lacking a tour guide, I did the honors, and so I can now add Qumran tour guide to the list of things I have done, if only once in an unofficial capacity.

Our second stop was Masada, taking the cable car up and then walking back down.

It is an amazing place, with so many indications of Herod’s intention that it serve as a place of luxury, even though it is perhaps more famous for having been the final holdout of the first Jewish war against Rome.

Some struggled with the walk down the difficult Snake Path, a rocky winding descent. But then spending some time floating in the Dead Sea refreshed us (I think I can safely speak for the others who were on the me tour with me).

After that we went to Jericho, where I had a delicious lunch at the Temptation Restaurant (an all-you-can-eat buffet of Middle Eastern food), visited a sycamore tree allegedly climbed by Zaccheus, and finally Tel es-Sultan, the occupation mound of historic Jericho, whose walls came tumbling down, even if it had nothing to do with Joshua or invading Israelites.

It was strange to be thrown in suddenly to the situation of tour guide, but since I am here with a view to bringing students, it was a useful dry run!

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  • Lucian

    The Sea is Dead! Long live the Sea!

  • jared_calaway

    If you take students and need an extra Professorial chaperone, I volunteer my services.

  • Michal Moreno

    nice post! shared on the ofiicial dead sea facebook page:

  • Geoff Hudson

    “with so many indications of Herod’s intention that it serve as a place of luxury, even though it is perhaps more famous for having been the final holdout of the first Jewish war against Rome.”

    You would have thought that Herod would have wanted to defend his place of luxury, especially given the prospect of war with Cleopatra. I suggest that the ‘circumvallation wall’, which included accommodation for troops, was not built by Romans, but by Herod. The  Romans built eight camps outside of the wall.  This was after Masada had been taken and was for those troops that could not be accommodated in the citadel itself. These camps were thus not for conducting a seige.  Masada was the main camp for the Roman invasion army, led by Nero in 66.      

  • Geoff Hudson

    During his ‘tour of Greece’ that supposedly began in 66, Nero, according to Seutonius, ‘sang publicly’ (Nero 22.3-24). And Nero insisted that the ‘contests’ be rearranged to suit his timetable (Nero 23.1). If lyres, plectra, masks and buskins were the mockings of Flavian historians (a history inherited by Seutonius) about the weapons of Nero’s army, then Nero’s ‘performances’ were battles in which Nero was involved.  Nero ‘rearranging the timetable of contests’ was Nero dictating battle order.  Nero ‘singing publicly’ was Nero taking part in the battles himself. And woe betide anyone who was inattentive or who left during one of Nero’s ‘performances’ (Nero 23.2). This was all the childish mockery of Flavian historians. 

  • Myolga13

    It sounds like a lovely trip, but where are the photos from the Dead Sea?
    Did you know that the Dead sea is one of the finalists of the New7Wonders of Nature campaign? You can support it here:

  • James F. McGrath

    I decided that floating in it with my iPad would be risky, so the only photos I took were from the distance. :-)