Masada, the great fortress built by Herod the Great. This elaborate mountain top fortress boasted huge water cisterns and a three-tiered palace. When Jerusalem fell in 70 A.D., many Jews fled here where they were besieged by the Romans for three years. They eventually built a ramp up the side of the mountain, but when they finally stormed the fortress they discovered that all but five of the 960 Jews had committed suicide rather than be enslaved by the Romans.
Some people in our group hiked up, but most of us decided it was too hot to hike, so we rode the cable car.
We waved to our fellow students as they labored up the path.
The entrance to one of the cisterns.
The Jews were able to survive here for three years because they had so much water and food stored in cisterns like this one.
Remains of one of Herod's mosaic floors.
A model of Herod's fortress.
Outline of one of the Roman camps around the mountain.
About 10 miles north of Masada is a place called En Gedi where there are three levels of waterfalls. The cliffs here are full of caves, and at one time David came here while fleeing from the wrath of King Saul.
View of the Dead Sea from En Gedi.
Today was rough at times. It was hotter than yesterday, which makes everyone tired and cranky. Between the heat, exhaustion, and constantly needing to go to the bathroom, it was easy to lose sight of how amazing this experience is. Tomorrow, I definitely need to be taking my focus off myself and focusing instead on God and those around me.
There's something so restful about being near water. When I am able to relax by the water, I feel at peace. It reminds me that since Jesus in the Living Water, I can have that peace all the time if I allow myself to open up to my Savior and trust in Him.
The sun has gone down. The lights reflect off the surface of the Dead Sea. Over the sound of cars and people talking, I can still hear wildlife. Various types of birds are chirping all around the hotel. Just outside this small cluster of hotels and shops, the mountainous desert stretches as far as the eye can see, while on the other side the Dead Sea blends in with the sky and only one city that is brightly lit can be distinguished from the blue horizon.
I have enjoyed getting to know everyone better and seeing how much we all care about one another. When someone needs water, someone else shares with them. When one of the older ladies on the trip was walking on slippery rocks, one of the students took her arm and helped her. When I was moving slowly and stumbling on the En Gedi hike today, several of the guys stuck with me to make sure I was okay. When people were missing luggage, everyone else pitched in and gave them what they needed.
This trip is helping us students to grow closer together through experiences which are totally different than what we do back at school. I have had so many good talks with various people that probably would not have happened at school. I am seeing people in a new light as we open up to each other. I love this part of the experience as much as I love just being in Israel.