Here’s the next installment of our amazing trip to Israel last summer!
The reason I am taking so much time to put all these stories up is to hopefully convey what a seriously special experience it was to actually VISIT the places God chose to use to influence all of human history. My hope is as you read the stories and look at the pictures a fire will be sparked in you to actually GO and visit yourself.
Hope you enjoy!
For those who don’t know I’ve decided to make a digital diary of this amazing trip to Israel God has opened the door for Peter and I to go on with our dear friend Annie, whose become like our British mom ;). I’m trying to be as thorough as I can on these. I always wanted to know more of where people went when I heard from others who had visited Israel. I hope this will inspire you to come and visit yourself! Just ask me if you need more information of anywhere we go or things we do! Maybe I’ll lead a group myself someday if there’s enough interest!
Yesterday began a half hour before sunrise. It began in a Bedouin tent in the Judean Wilderness, we saw the sunrise on top of Masada, went for a camel ride, bathed in the falls of Ein Gedi, swam in the Dead Sea, and finished our day driving back to Jerusalem! There’s so much to show you that I’ve broken this into two parts…
We had stayed at a place called Kfar HaNokdim, a Bedouin camp by Masada in the Judean desert by the Dead Sea. The evening before we arrived for a Bedouin feast cooked over open fire, dancing, and star gazing in the pitch black desert. We slept in this AMAZING glamping style tent.
The next morning we awoke at 4:50am to drive to the base of Masada. Masada is a striking ancient ruin of one of King Harod’s palaces from the time of Jesus. It was his desert palace overlooking the Dead Sea. It’s built on top of this giant platou surrounded by lesser hills and the Dead Sea. It was the site of a horrible event in Jewish history. During the destruction of the second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Romans, there was an outpost on top of Masada. It became the last bastion of Jewish resistance. Finally the Romans had them totally surrounded but because of the incredibly defensible location they were having a tough time getting up to the Jews on top. Finally the Romans built what is now the greatest remaining example of siege technology from the period. They actually built an artificial ramp hundreds of feet into the air out of dirt and then drove siege machines up it to take the outpost. Finally the Jews decided to commit suicide on the last day instead of be taken by the Romans. A very controversial decision still to this day since suicide is one of the greatest sins in Judaism.
The below picture is the remains of the dirt hill the Romans made to reach the top!
As we drove in the pre-dawn darkness we were almost to the base of Masada when we were stopped by a roadblock of Israeli soldiers. They were doing a training exercise near the road. We told them what we were doing and they guided us through their ranks. The last car we saw before entering Masada had a license plate ending in 333, which some of you will know is one of those special numbers that God has spoken to me through – referring to Jeremiah 33:3 –
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3
One thing I have learned on this journey is how important it is to be on the lookout for how God wants to speak. Anything that gives your heart a pause, take note. Ask God if He’d like to tell you something through this.
I’ve come to experience that God doesn’t confine himself to any one medium of communication. As we see in the story of Elijah running to the cave in 1 Kings 19:12.
Elijah had just gone from a very high to a very low place emotionally and spiritually, he was beat down, depressed, exhausted and in need of restoration. There was a powerful wind, then an earthquake , then a fire… all of which God had spoken through before –
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove back the sea with a strong east wind that turned it into dry land. Ex. 14:21
Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. Ex. 19:18
There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” Ex. 3:3
Yet this time God wanted to help Elijah recover from the destabilizing experience he’d just gone through and so demonstrated his power again with the previous three methods, but then spoke in the most intimate of ways – a “still small voice” to reestablish Himself as completely trustworthy and close to Elijah. (There are many possible interpretations of this story, but this one I certainly relate to! It’s a powerful story worth a read in 1 Kings 19:12!)
Overall I have learned through much experience and input from veterans in the faith that whenever changes of circumstances occur, take note. So we did here today.
When we finally arrived at Masada we found numerous tour buses had already arrived, including a number of Birthright groups. Birthright is a rather amazing opportunity for anyone with ( I believe ) at least 25% Jewish heritage (and under a certain age) to get a free trip to Israel and be taken on a cultural and religious introduction of Israel. We hiked up to the top of Masada just in time to see the sunrise.
You can see the remains of a Roman outpost on the cliff top in the photo below.
Here’s another view of it.
Here’s a model of what Masada would have looked like.
Here’s what it looks like now.
As we were touring the site we happened to find ourselves down in this giant ancient cistern for storing water. While there we found out that the Birthright group was holding Bar Mitzvahs (the Jewish coming of age ceremony) for any of the students on their trip who had never had one but wanted to. They began them right as we arrived. What followed was holy. I used to have some mixed feelings about this topic. But seeing how the leader of this group did it was amazing. He explained that the Bar Mitzvah is the sign that you have reached the age where you are now accountable for your own actions, in the eyes of God and man. This group allowed both men and women to be bar mitzvahed together down there, which I think is very cool! We got to watch each person stand up and share what the Bar Mitzvah meant to them and why they wanted to do it today.
Here we are entering the ancient cistern.
Here is the group doing the Bar Mitzvahs.
As we exited the cistern we watched as the same platoon of soldiers we ran into before dawn reached the top of Masada carrying training stretchers with their fellow soldiers on them.
To me, seeing Bar Mitzvahs of non-Israeli Jews followed by Israeli soldiers all together up on top of Masada felt like the ultimate confirmation that the attempted destruction of the Jewish people 2000 years ago DID NOT succeed. And now 2000 years later you don’t see anyone christening people into the culture of Ancient Rome, but you do see people coming of age in the Jewish faith, and on the very hill that was their last stand. As I walked down I felt I heard God say that this was the miracle He was pointing to when I saw the vehicle with 333 on it driving in.