Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks on Tour

Dead Sea at sunrise
Well, it is not exactly a normal Thanksgiving when you are a) out of the country, and b) on a fast paced tour.  Our day started early as we had much to do before too much daylight was lost.  We were up, had breakfast, and were out on the bus by 7:30 am to depart from the Dead Sea to head to Masada, the fabled site of Jewish resistance to the Romans.  Half of our group climbed the snake path, while the rest of us watched them briefly as our cable car zoomed by on the way to the summit.  But way to go, climbers!  You accomplished the climb. We smelled better the rest of the day.

The Hanging Palace at Masada
Masada is sobering as one considers its history, breathtaking as one studies Herod's intricate buildings and artistic touches preserved through 2,000 years, and stunning as one puts these two together in this incredible setting.  I never visit this place without reflecting on the conditions faced, the choices made, and the "what ifs" that come to mind.

We went to En Gedi next, the storied oasis of the desert mentioned throughout the OT, beginning in Genesis.  Most famous as the place where David could have killed Saul but spared him while hiding in a cave, the wildlife and waterfalls are a treat to see.  Our family has now taken our third picture at one particular spot at the middle falls.

The ladies especially enjoyed a stop at the Ahava factory, where cosmetic products from Dead Sea minerals are made and sold, but then we all profited from our visit to Qumran.  I love looking at Cave 1 and having Hezi recount the story of how the thousands of Dead Sea scrolls came to light through a Bedouin shepherd boy's throwing a stone and providentially breaking a piece of pottery.  Amazing confirmation of the trustworthiness of Scripture's transmission came through such a simple act!

We stopped in Jericho and saw the tel that holds what remains of the ancient city--so much could be found there, I think, if more excavation were done.  We also made a quick stop at the sycamore tree held to be the tree of Zacchaeus--I suppose it might be, but I wouldn't put too much stock in the identification.

The falls at the oasis of En Gedi
It was a long drive to our hotel afterward, but we got in before 6 pm, ending a long but joyful day.  And I must say, that in addition to many blessings that I have reflected on while riding through Israel today, one of them has been seeing these things with Kathy, Christine, Nathan, my brother's family, and the members of my church family and my Jesus family.  And I also have given thanks for the many of you back home--some of whom will be reading this.  I am a blessed man, especially because I am a son of our Heavenly Father and saved by the work of my Lord Jesus.  Today, I traveled in places He traveled, but someday I will walk with him on a new Earth, a new Promised Land.  What a great hope to have!