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Sunday, June 21, 2009

2nd Weekend Trip Part One

This morning we left out at eight o'clock to head to the Negev ( the southern part of Israel). It was so nice to sleep 8 full hours and get up when the sun is already up. As we began to drive we saw the wall that divides Israel from the West Bank....some parts of the wall are just barb wire fence. Our tour guide gave us the cases made by both the Palestinians and Israelis for wanting the wall up and why it should come down. The closer we got to Jerusalem the less vegetation we saw and we also two shepherds tending big flocks of sheep. Past Jerusalem it gets much more arid and you won't see plants for miles and miles. We also drive past several Bedouin encampments...picture shacks built with scraps of wood and tin. These people are nomadic and move around a lot. However, with the current fight over nation lines they are starting to stay more permanent in fear of getting in trouble. Some Bedouin encampments are recognized by Israel as cities, and others are not. Therefore some Bedouin pay taxes, some dont....some serve in the army, some dont.
The West Bank is very dry and receives very little rain..its supposed to be 110 degrees today so we are all chugging water like crazy. We start to see signs that tell us how far below sea level we are. Our final destination is the Dead Sea...which is the lowest point on the earth. We pass 150 meters, 300 meters and then I lose track.
Our first stop is Qumran...where they found the Dead Sea Scrolls. My family and I have seen them when they were on tour in the states. We get there and enter to watch a film on the Essenes...a group of Jews who had formally worked in the temple in Jerusalem. They moved out in to the cliffs by the Dead Sea to restore themselves to true purity after being dissatisfied with how things were going in the temple. They did everything as a community and shared what they had with everyone. They had a working kiln and some of thier pottery was found in Jerusalem...which means they traded. A shepherd boy threw a rock into one of the caves nearby and heard pottery break so he went in after and found the first of the scrolls. Since then they have found 12 more caves with scrolls. We saw the bathhouse, the "dining room" and some of the burials.
Next stop was Ein Gedi. It is mentioned several times in the bible in the Song of Songs; "My beloved is unto me as a cluster of henna flowers in the vineyards of Ein Gedi" (1:14). According to Jewish tradition, David hid from Saul in the caves here; "And David went up from thence, and dwelt in the strongholds of Ein Gedi" (1 Samuel 24:1).
You can see the cave in our pictures where David is thought to have cut off a peice of Saul's garment knowing that the Lord had delivered him over. There were also ibex running around everywhere-wild goats.
After that we headed to the Dead Sea.....MY FAVORITE PART!!! I was totally expecting to jump in and it feel like swimming in cooking oil. However, it isnt' that much thicker than the Gulf and its beautiful. You can see really far down and its soooooo NEAT to float. I was having a hard time swimming b/c it pushes your whole body up. Finally, Adam figured out a position where we could just chill and let the current take us. Some people there were smothering mud from the shores on themselves and then letting it dry. Apparently the best body products are made from the minerals of the Dead Sea......so right after we took showers we went to the AVADA factory where they make the line of products. This stuff goes for like 100 bucks a bottle in the states. Adam and I picked up some presents and only paid about 24 American dollars....our tour guide gave us discount cards and everything at the factory is a good price. There were soooo many tourist there....we saw a CHinese family there and there final bill was 728 American dollars.!!!!! People on our team who have been to Israel before were buying tons of this stuff b/c A) its soooo expensive in the states and b) the women in thier lifes would not be happy if they come home without it!!!!They gave us samples to try and I have to admit that my skin likes Avada!!
Anyways, after that we headed up to Masada....that was Adam's favorite place and we took tons of pictures there so I will give that its own blog. By the way..i have videos ( like 45 seconds) of each place we have been. However, our internet here is painfully slow and I am probably pushing my limits with all the photos I upload. So, when we get home check back on here for the videos!!!
P.S.- I felt much better Saturday and probably drank about 2 liters of water before dinner!!! My Papa reminded me that I am not a camel and that water is free so I better take DRINK IT!! Good advice :)

Qumran, Ein Gedi and Dead Sea pictures

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