Israel Day 5 – Continued – The Judean Desert
We traveled east out of Jerusalem out into the Judean Desert, or Wilderness.
At one point Ariel pointed out an Arab settlement (city) on our drive east. He said the name in Arabic a few times, and I started to hear the name Lazarus. Turns out this Arab city has named itself for Lazarus, the man Jesus rose from the dead, because it was near the city of Bethany, the town Lazarus and his sisters had lived. I thought that was kinda cool.
Further down the highway, we came out of a tunnel to completely different terrain. No more trees. No more flowers. Just dirt, lots of rocks, and a few tufts of dusty weeds. Oh – and hills. Big, rolling hills.
On and on and on. Dirt, rocks, hills.
To think that Jesus spent 40 days in this arid region during His temptation made me appreciate how hungry, hot, and thirsty He must have been.
To realize that John the Baptist had lived in this wilderness until he began baptizing in the Jordan River was astounding.
It didn’t take that long till we’d arrived at our destination. Today there were only 38 of us, and we managed to squeeze into 6 jeeps, including our drivers!
We bumped our way through this desert, thinking along the way… “If we’d been in that pack of Israelites traveling through a desert like this with Moses, we’d have grumbled and complained too.”
There’s absolutely nothing out there. Dirt. Rocks. Hills.
Oh, and camels. We got some good pictures!
I was satisfied seeing this great desert through the window of our Jeep… when we stopped!
Our guide led us up a small hill and into a CAVE. Though it was much cooler in there, it seemed like such a strange place for a cave.
Turns out there’s bedrock under all that dirt, and the ancients who LIVED in this desert chiseled away at a small cave to make a cistern to capture rainfall. Brilliant people!
From there we bumped along till we seemed to reach the highest point of the trip and stopped again. From that vantage we could see for miles. Ten miles to the west we could see the towers of Jerusalem. Ten miles to the east we could see the Dead Sea and the city of Jericho. By the way, Jericho is the oldest city in the world!
As high as we were in Jerusalem and even on this desert “mountain,” the Dead Sea was really low. The lowest point on earth, in fact.
We stood there, and our pastor started recounting all the things that happened in that very space…the town of Jericho, the Jericho plains, the Dead Sea.
Another holy moment. I was completely overwhelmed.
I was looking at the VERY place where the Israelites crossed the Jordan River and came into the Promised Land. Oh my. History coming to life before my eyes!
Beyond the Dead Sea are the Moab Mountains, and beyond them is the country Jordan…beyond that, Iraq. All the maps of today I’d been studying were coming to life.
We took some more great pictures overlooking this amazing view, then we turned to the west. The view was the same as it had been…dirt, rocks, hills, but our guide pointed out some deep trenches in the area we were standing.
Turns out the “roads” we’d been bumping along had been created by the US Army in 1991 during Desert Storm. The trenches by us were actually artillery bunkers where they’d put the Patriot missiles (and launchers) to defend Israel against SCUD missile attacks from Iraq.
Ariel told us that Saddam Hussein never did launch an air attack on Jerusalem because he was not confident enough in the accuracy of his missiles. He didn’t want to risk damaging the Temple Mount…the Dome of the Rock and the Mosque that are there are Muslim.
Of course, he had no issue with aiming OVER Jerusalem and bombing Tel Aviv.
Nevertheless, it was fascinating history to see with my own eyes. Things that happened in my lifetime, halfway across the world. I was there to see where it was happening.
We zoomed up hills, dodged large rocks in the road, and bumped our way back to where we’d started. En route we did see some existing Bedouin settlements. That means there are people STILL living out in this desert.
Shortly after we passed their settlement, we came across the Bedouin shepherds, herding their goats and sheep. Did I mention there’s nothing out there? I guess the animals eat those dusty tufts of weeds…
What do the people eat?
And why do they live there?
Suddenly I have new appreciation for our bumpy Jeep and our awaiting air conditioned bus.
Talk to you tomorrow…our final day in Jerusalem.