Tuesday, February 21, 2012

From North to South

Today we left the beauty and coolness of the Galilee and headed south to the desert.  Beth Shan, the town that witnessed the death of King Saul, Jonathan and two of his brothers on Mt. Gilboa, was our first stop.  While nothing much is excavated up on the tel (hill), the later Roman and Greek city of Scytopolis is magnificent.  It was destroyed by an earthquake in the 700's.  We then climbed Mt. Gilboa where Saul and family died and read the lament David wrote for his father-in-law and close friend.  What a view of the lower end of the Jezreel Valey, the Jordan Valley, the Samaritan mountains and the mountains of Jordan.  We stopped for lunch and toured Qumran. A shepherd boy found the first Dead Sea scrolls here in 1947.  Written by the Essenes, a reclusive group whose main task seems to have been copying the Scriptures, the scrolls contained a complete copy of Isaiah and pieces of every other Old Testament book except Esther and Ezra.  We continued south to our destination for the night, the Dead Sea.  Most of our group took a dip in the less than warm water, walking out to waist deep and sitting.  You can't sink.  It was a blast.  Tomorrow we begin by visiting the top of Masada and then it is up to the Holy City of Jerusalem.

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