Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Living Jordan River Meets Stagnant Dead Sea

This morning at breakfast, we heard a woman scream. As we looked to our left, we saw her rise with a look of shock on her face as she bent over her husband, who had collapsed in his seat. Everything stopped as two doctors went over to check on the gentleman (Dan was one). He soon revived, but no one knows what caused the spell. Blood pressure issues might have been the culprit.
The northernmost portion of the Jordan River was our first stop of the day. Those that wished were given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be baptized in the same river where Jesus was baptized by John, although His took place near "Bethany over the Jordan", which is now in the country of Jordan. It was a very solemn occasion to watch the white robed individuals take that step in such a meaningful place.
Bet She'an was a Canaanite military base, dedicated to the god She'an, (similar to Dagon or Chemosh). When the Philistines conquered the Israelites and slew Saul, they cut off his head, and placed it on this city's gate. Much later, the Romans added to the city, making it larger and grander than Jerusalem. It became a mercenary base, offering every possible pleasure. The baths (people took one every 10-14 days), were quite a ritual, offering first physical exercise, then a sauna, tepid water, and finally a cool bath. Intellectually stimulating lectures were given, or perhaps a massage or manicure might be in order. It was a place where the latest gossip would have been heard. The Jews say that by morning, even a goat in the Himalayas will know secrets concerning Israel...they can't be kept! Seemed like people spent the entire day worshipping their bodies...we have come full circle now in our present culture! The photo below is a room in the bath, but is missing the floor, which was held up by pedestals.
We were told the history of the kibbutz, which was communistic in nature. Everything was accounts, food, work, etc. And the children only saw their parents 2-3 hours a day! The remainder of the time they were with their classmates (who were more important to them), and the entire community was responsible to raise them (it takes a village...). They worked together for a common cause.
When the students went off to college, they saw the capitalist side of things. This caused discontentment and emotional problems, which brought much strife to the community. Today, they have privatized much of their daily life, but still maintain that social structure and cohesiveness. This shows how important the family structure is! This transition took over 25 years to materialize.
Now we are headed down towards the Dead Sea...the lowest spot on earth. Its salt content is 34%, and three times saltier than any other body of water. It has healing properties, especially for those who have health issues relating to their skeletal system, and is soothing for the skin. Insurance policies in England, Poland, and Germany will pay for 3 weeks of intensive treatments, including lodging and airfare. Hummm...socialized medicine doesn't sound so limiting when you hear that!
The Dead Sea is divided into two parts, north and south, the central point being at Masada, where we will go tomorrow. Very soon, we will be enjoying our own spa treatments, using Dead Sea mud and salt. Floating in this salt solution will be quite an experience, and even more so if we get some in our eyes or mouth...which Olivia did, but we washed it out quickly. How strange it was to bob around like a cork. I tried to turn on my stomach, but was quickly flipped over!
Tomorrow we tour Masada, that great mountain fortress. The story is a sad one. Qumran is the place where the shepherd boy found the scrolls of Scripture, which verified that the Bible is a true historic document. Of course, we don't need that verification, but the world does. We will see them as well when we set our sights on The ancient city of David. "Tomorrow, in Jerusalem!"

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Journey into the Promised Land

Journey into the Promised Land
From Egypt to Israel