This journey begins by taking the route down from Jerusalem descending below sea level through the Biblical wilderness towards the Dead Sea. On the way we will see the Inn of the Good Samaritan and stop en route to look out across the desert as we pass the point marking “sea level.” The ancient city of Jericho can be seen in the distance where Joshua’s troops caused the walls to fall (Joshua 6) and where Jesus healed the blind (Mark 10:46-52).
We reach the shores of the Dead Sea encrusted with white salt and follow the shoreline towards Masada. Although it’s possible to climb the ancient snake path up Masada as the Romans did 2,000 years ago, we take the convenient cable car up to the mountaintop plateau. It was here that King Herod built a fortified palace complete with every convenience. See Herod’s swimming pool, water cisterns, two palaces, store rooms and even a synagogue.
Following Herod’s death the mountain top was the last outpost of Jewish zealots when the Romans tried to rid the land of Jews. The Jewish zealots maintained their position for three years before the Romans finally managed to scale Masada using a ramp built by slaves. The 960 Jews didn’t wait for the Romans to successfully reach the summit, instead they killed themselves, becoming religious martyrs. Shortly afterwards, in 70CE, the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.
It was on Masada that the first parchment from this era was discovered in an Israeli archaeological excavation. On the parchment was the prophecy of Ezekiel “…I will take the children of Israel from among the nations… and bring them into their own land…” (Ezekiel 37).
Heading back to the Dead Sea we pass the desert oasis of Ein Gedi where there is lush foliage and hidden waterfalls and where David hid from angry King Saul. We also pass by Qumran where the 2,000 year old Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in a number of hillside caves.
To end off a perfect day we stop at the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth, and a contender for the title of one of the Seven Wonders of the World. People come from across the globe to enjoy the therapeutic mineral-rich waters. And don’t worry if you don’t know how to swim, the high salt content will keep you afloat.