I know this is long overdue. Sorry it’s taken me long! Things have been crazy busy with working on a week’s worth of homework on top of my normal week’s work as a reality of our trip to Jordan… but enough about that. =)
A few Tuesday’s ago, (wow, I am far behind), we all boarded the bus early and proceeded south to the Negev. Unfortunately, because this was so long ago, I don’t feel like this is going to be very good, but please hang in there with me. =)
We headed south and stopped at Qumran, where the Dead Scrolls were found in 1947 in one of the many caves there. We first took a tour through a museum there, then went and climbed up into some of the caves and took lots of pictures. =)
From there, we went to the Ahava factory. Ahava is a company that takes the salt and mud from the Dead Sea and create wonderful products for the skin. The salt, water, adn mud from the sea make wonderful, healing cosmetics that unfortunately, cost and arm and a leg. It’s at a place like this that you realize how limited your budge is. =) We did have fun though, making our way through the store trying out samples. The guys were the funniest, of course, as they put on lotion and facial crème with anti-aging qualities. Lol
From here, we went to lunch at the Dead Sea itself. We only had about 50 minutes to eat lunch and swim, so most of us didn’t actually swim; but those who did – mostly the guys – were ridiculous as they dunked their whole bodies and ran yelling off to the showers to wash off their skin from the stinging water in their eyes and on their faces. Lunch was great, though, as we had tuna sandwiches/peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (a delicacy here for us..lol), Pringles, apples/oranges, and a candy bar (eaten thankfully by my 2nd stomach =). )
Boarding the bus again, we headed off to Masada! Masada was really cool! Perhaps you’ve watched the BBC movie Masada that retells the Roman besiege of the mountain held by a small group of rebelling Jews. (We watched that movie the night before we left for the Negev, and it was neat to go to where that historical event happened.) In case you don’t know the event that happened there, let me explain: in 73 AD, three years after the destruction of the temple by Titus, the Jews were besieged there by the Romans for three years. The Romans, in an attempt to conquer them, built a huge ramp up the side of the mountain using both labor by the Roman soldiers themselves and Jewish slaves. When they finally reached the top, they rolled their siege ramp up the ramp and ramped the walls of the fortress. To protect against the ramming, the Jews built an extra-fortified wall by creating another wall of wood within the wall the stone to absorb the shock of the ram. That worked to protect against the ram, so that there was still a wall after the rock had been obliterated; but did not protect them against the fire that the Romans set to it. The Lord was good and for a large part of the time, He shifted the wind to turn against and ignite the ram itself. However, that did not last long, and at one point, the Jews knew they had one evening left before the Romans entered into their fortress. As only a few hundred people, they had no choice but to either fight and die or sneak off during the night. Either way, they felt they would be humiliated and defeated before the Romans. So, that night, under the direction of their leader Eliazar ben Zakkai, all the Jewish men killed their families then drew lots to see who would kill the men. Ten men killed all the men, then one man, Eliazar, killed the rest of them and finally, himself. The next day, when the Romans came in, they found them all dead, and although it was a victory in one sense, the Jewish were victorious in that they would not subject themselves to the rulership of the Romans. I disagree with the Jewish thought, of course, that suicide was the solution, but it was an interesting and very sad event.
Masada is 300 ft above sea level, which doesn’t seem so tall when you write it down as a number, but walking up the side is quite the hike. The record time it has taken an IBEX student was 15 min for Matt Wright’s brother David and 20 minutes for one of my wingmates back at school Michelle Harbour. It took me about 40 minutes because I was just walking along and talking with John, and Lindy and Clara would have beaten the record if they’d raced officially, but we all just had fun and took pictures and yes, sweat and paused for breath. LOL… wow, writing it all down like this makes us all sound like a group of wimps, but it was quite the hike. John and I decided not to stop much – if at all – because it only makes it harder to start up again. We were quite happy to reach the top. =) Some of us, including Randy and Phyllis and Molly who had a sprained ankle, took a cable car up instead of climbing.
Once on top, we looked around at the remains of the fortress, looked down at the areas where the Romans were camped, and eventually made our way down the Roman ramp looking at remains of the wood from the Jewish fortified wall. Quite the experience. =)
We went to Arad next. There are actually three Arad, – Biblical Tel Arad, a modern Arad, and another Arad (just to make things more confusing – not really, I just don’t remember much about the 3rd one). Tel Arad is important to our study of the Land and the Bible because of an archaeological finds there – a 4-room, Israelite house; an Israelite fortress dating to 2000 BC (the time of David); a fake temple – and the fact that here was the earliest record of an actual town. Here the Israelites were opposed by the king of Arad on their way to the Promised Land (Numbers 21:1-3, 33:40).
We stayed at a youth hostel that night. We were a little worried when we saw a large group of Arab higschoolers arrive that we wouldn’t get any sleep that night, but in all honesty, it turned out to be a great night of crazy fun and lots of great memories. Why do I say that? Lol…well…. I’ll get to that in a little bit.
After a dinner of chicken (what else?) and corn schnitzel (like a chicken nugget …. with not chicken), we walked around downtown Arad which was more dead than any area we’d been to so far. There wasn’t much to do – or so we thought at first – as we had the hardest time finding a coffee shop. At one point, we thought we’d found one and it turned out to be a bar (Thanks, Sara!). Rats. We did end up finding some really cool multi-colored pillars on which we took tons of pictures, so that was nice. Other people did end up finding an ice cream/coffee shop, so that part of the night did end up being a success.
Returning back to the youth hostel, we were surprised to hear a ton of loud music coming from a lounge area on the hostel “campus.” It was the group of Arab teenagers having a “dance.” I say dance with quotations because as we began to see, Arabs don’t know how to dance. They’re dancing is more like freestyling – okay, side note, I DON’T know how to dance, so maybe I shouldn’t talk =) – with no real dance moves, just a lot of clapping, arm movement, and even a barking sort of noise. After a while of watching from a distance, they came out and asked us to come in. It was the most hilarious thing! We sat and watched, then clapped with them, then showed them some moves – Daniel did the worm across the floor as well as did a one-armed cartwheel, the guys did the “icebox” move (not even really a dance move), Praus lifted Matt onto his shoulder copying what the Arab boys did with a younger boy in their group, Whit jumped off Daniel and dove into the arms of a group of our guys, and we showed them how to do a swing dance move. The kids were ecstatic, and we all had a lot of laughs. I got to talk to a young Muslim girl – arg…I can’t remember her name – and I exchanged emails with her. It seems like it could be a really neat opportunity to keep in contact with her.
On Wednesday, we went and saw a huge well. LOL..what a way to start the day. I just was looking at my pictures, though, and I loved this well for this reason: 400 ft. deep, this well was surrounded by a fence to make sure no one fell in. Randy threw a few rocks into it, and we listened and waited a good few seconds before it hit the bottom. I loved it. I have to say – sorry, Mom =) – it was one of those places I would have loved to “go” to the bottom of, so I could see if I could climb out and what it would be like to sit at the bottom and try to get out of.
We sat at a temple to a false god there in Arad and discussed the events there. We also saw and talked about the temple we saw there to the true God. As much as the intentions of the people who made it may have been good, the Bible commands that no temple was to be built outside of Jerusalem. Therefore, the men of Arad were in sin when they built it.
After another short ride on the bus and a surprise stop at McDonald’s where Randy treated us to a coffee or ice cream (I had my first whole McFlurry ever), we arrived at Beersheva where we donned dorky construction hats according to the rules (and we never figured out why we had to wear them) and looked at another altar there that was built to God against the rules of the covenant and acted out a sacrifice.
After this we got to go Ben Gurion’s kibutz hut, where he lived the latter end of his life after retiring from being the first prime minister of Israel. Everything there was left just as it was the day he died, and there we saw his 5000-book library, just one fifth of the books he owned (the other 20,000 are in Tel-Aviv).
Following this, we went hiking in Nahal Zin, the southern border to the Promised Land. This was a neat hike through a gorgeous valley and up the side of the mountain. We met a large crowd on the way up, so we had a very long wait to actually get up to the top. So, what happens when you’re stuck somewhere with nothing to do but wait? Sing! As we waited over 40 minutes to get up, we enjoyed a wonderful serenade by Matt, Whit, Daniel, Jared, John, and Praus. It was hilarious, and our fellow travelers, Arabs and Israelis, enjoyed it as well. =)
For the rest of the day we learned about the Nabatean Spice Route, took pictures on a fake camel caravan, goofed off at an old Crusader church, and spent the night at a small hotel where an American CBS reporter (I forget which one) was staying that night as well.
Thursday was a lot of fun as well. We made a good number of stops, my favorites being Hai Bar, an Israeli zoo (we saw hyenas, caracal, bats, jackels, porcupines, ostriches, etc) and the model of the tabernacle, a full-scale model (we listened to a Messianic Jewish lady tell us about it). We stayed at a really nice, 6-floor hotel that night – it was quite fancy compared to anything else I’ve seen in Israel.
I forgot to mention a key point here that definitely added to the excitement of the trip – I had the stomach flu. Actually, a few of us had it. We couldn’t eat much at all, and every time we tried to do something really active – hm…Isn’t that what we were doing all day? – we felt like we were going to barf or pass out. As time went on, it just got worse and worse until I could only eat a few forkfuls at meals.
After dinner (or lack thereof), Randy, Phyllis, Rachel, and I took a walk down to the Boardwalk. It felt like I was in a resort or something, the area busy with tourists and shops and even a small carnival area where you could be slingshot into the air (Daniel and Tiffany did that). Our first stop was the Eilat Mall, where I bought some granola bars for an IBEX-alumnus friend back at school. Then, we went to Aroma, the Israelite version of Starbucks (there are no Starbucks in Israel), and Randy treated us to a drink (I got an iced coffee…mmm!)
Friday was our final day in the Negev, and we started the day by going snorkeling in the Red Sea. =) Swimming in the sea was cool (in more ways than one) but I have to say I wasn’t too impressed with snorkeling. Perhaps it was because I was still wrestling with my cough and couldn’t breathe right; perhaps it was due to the few mouthfuls of water I accidentally breathed in; or perhaps it was because of the waves that were constantly moving us about. Either way, snorkeling was fun in that we got to see coral, all sorts of fish, and jellyfish; but I would have rather left the snorkel itself onshore and just used the goggles. Students in regional studies class got to snorkel first, and after about a half hour, we got out, got dried off, and proceeded to the Jordanian border.
I’m going to finish this blog here. I’ll write the next one soon, but I don’t want to bore you with any more this time as I fear I’ll lose some people. I don’t feel like I’ve done a great job capturing just how cool this trip was. It can’t be captured in a blog, no matter how long, and definitely, it’s one of those moments when I’m at a loss for words to describe it all. However, it could also be that I’m having a hard time remembering it because it’s been so long since the trip and I was sick so I know I missed a lot of it mentally. All of that plays into this post, so forgive me if I just bored you to death. =)
Until next time, …. L’Chaim! (to life!)
P.S. I’ve been able to Skype with my family on Sunday afternoons (for them – Sunday around midnight for me), and it’s been quite a big blessing. Even if my webcam is funky and doesn’t always work, it’s such a welcome treat to see and talk to my family. =D Love you, guys!!!!!
P.P.S. As I eluded to in my note, I’m thankfully over my cough! Finally!
P.P.P.S. Random comment: I’ve discovered I’m not a very patient person. SURPRISE!!! lol. Anyway, I’ve been noticing, I’d much rather jog somewhere than walk. I was thinking about that this afternoon as I jogged somewhere that that’s how I am about life, always rushing to the next stage, not taking enough time to smell the flowers in each time. One day this time in my life will be passed and will I look back and regret that I ran through it instead of took the time to enjoy the place God had planted me at that time? May I not ruin my time on earth rushing ahead of God’s perfect timing. May I be completely content and wholly satisfied to “bloom where [I’ve] been planted.”