I didn’t fully proof read all the material below…be patient if there are typos or etc…
We had an early wake up call this morning because we wanted to be the first to arrive at MASADA! The wake up call was early enough for us to be able to see the sunrise over the Dead Sea. In the past the Dead Sea has been called the Sea of Two Moons. Because the Dead Sea is such a salty and oily water it makes for a great reflection when the moon is shining at night or the sun by day. Take a look at one of the Sunrise pictures I was able to take from my balcony.
We ate a great breakfast and loaded the bus and headed for Jerusalem. We stopped just 10 minutes from taking off at one of my favorite non-biblical sites called Masada. Masada, means Fortress, and is a retreat that King Herod the Great built 2000 years ago. Herod the Great is the King who had all babies 2 and under killed after he found out from the Magi that a child was born and this child would be a great King. Herod the Great could most easily be understood as a paranoid architect who was very paranoid about losing his power and position. In his paranoid attacks he would retreat down to Masada. Masada is a giant plateau very close to the Dead Sea. Herod had storehouses built, water cisterns, bathhouses, a synagogue and relaxation living quarters built on top of this massive plateau. This plateau is nearly 1500 feet high with only one way to the top.
) It had enough food and water storage to take care of 1000 people for 3 years. Masada is the number one Israeli tourist sight because of it tragic story. Here’s a brief synopsis. In the year 68 AD Rome was fighting Jewish rebels from the area of Jerusalem. When the rebels got so out of control in the Jerusalem, Rome ordered that the Temple be built and as many Jews killed as they could. Just under 1000 of these Jewish rebels escaped and headed to the fortress called Masada. Its an hours drive south of Jerusalem. Much longer to walk, especially with women and children. When they arrived they at first enjoyed the freedom and privacy that Masada provided. However, Rome soon found out where these rebel runaways were and sent nearly 15,000 troops to pursue and capture these rebels. When this vast army was seen approaching the rebels, well secured in Masada, began to make sure that Rome would not succeed in their demise. The Roman army began to lay siege to this fortress. To lay siege means to build camps around the fortress and nothing in our out. No food or water was allowed in or out. However the Roman soldiers were not aware that Masada had such vast stores of food and water. As time passed and the Romans soldiers, led by Josephus Flavius, realized that they were going to die of thirst and starvation before the Rebels on top of Masada were going to, they began to built a giant rock and dirt ramp on the side of Masada. The ramp would take nearly 3 years to build and it purpose was to get a battering ram up top to break through the walls. As the dirt ramp was nearing completion the Jewish Rebels knew they were not going to be able to stop them. If the Roman Soldiers broke through they Jewish Rebels knew their wives would be raped and their children turned into slaves and the men would die horrible deaths. So the leader of the Jewish Rebels named Eleazer gathered the leaders and they made a decision together. If you want to read the short speech that Eleazer gave you can Google “Masada” and read about it. Basically after Eleazer’s speech it was decided that the 1000 Jews would prefer to take each others lives than to be humiliated, raped and made slaves by the Romans. So Eleazer with his leaders chose 10 men to complete this mass death. The 10 leaders names were written on 10 clay pieces and the names were drawn as to who would kill who. But first…the story goes that each husband and wife amongst the 1000 rebels on Masada gathered their own children and embraced them and drove a dagger into the hearts of their children to execute them with a mercy killing. These mothers and fathers were driven by the knowledge of what would happen if the Romans got their hands on these children and thus chose to take their kids lives. After their children were killed…can you imagine, the pain of a mother and father doing this…the husband embraced his wife and they said their goodbyes and the husband drove his dagger from her back into her heart and held her unto her death. After all the men had done this they gathered together and the 10 men who had their names written on the clay shards, began to do an “honor” killing of all the men until there were just the 10 left. Then, Number 9 killed number 10. Number 8 killed number 9 until there was just number 2 and number 1 left. Person number 1 killed number two and then had to do the unthinkable. Kill himself.
When the Roman Soldiers pushed a battering ram up the Ramp(ruins of the ramp are still visible look at the picture from Masada looking down at the Ramp)
and finally broke through the wall to conquer and show their power and might to the Jewish Rebels…they found nothing but families of death. There is no such thing, to this day, recorded in Roman history about Masada. However…Israel every year has their graduating Military cadets gather on top of Masada to remember the story. Israel’s military mantra today is, “Masada shall never fall again!”
The reason we know this story is because 2 women and 5 children who were on Masada hid themselves and escaped after the Romans left, and they told a man named Josephus and he recorded it. His writing are what tells us the story of Masada. I think it would make a good movie remake. There is a Hollywood movie from the 1960’s or 70 that you could watch. Movies back then were a bit cheesy though. Somebody get Mel Gibson to do a remake!
After Masada we continued our bus ride to Jerusalem but first stopped in Bethlehem, the birth place of Jesus. We visited what is called the Shepherd’s field and saw an old cave just like the one Jesus would have been born in. When we hear that “There was no room in the Inn,” we think that Joseph and Mary tried to check into a hotel but it was full. Remember that Bethlehem at the time of Mary’s birth had a population of nearly 200. There are no hotels in a town that small! The bible word “cataluma” (spelling?) means place for the animals. In Joseph and Mary’s day people built homes over caves. The Cave back in Jesus’s day would be much like what we call basements. They had several stories built over a cave. The animals stayed in the cataluma. When Joseph and Mary arrived for the census to be taken their family home would have been full and family would have offered the “basement…aka…the cave. Jesus was born in a cave and laid in an animal feeding trough that we call a manger. A manger was not made of wood like we think. The manger that Jesus was laid in was made of limestone! Its true.
After visiting the Shepherd’s field we stopped for a good lunch. Here we are just sitting and relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. After this trip we will all know each other pretty well!
After lunch we went to the Church of the Annunciation. This church is built over the cave where Jesus was born. Tradition and History all agree that this is most definitely the cave where He was born. We stood in line for almost two hours to go down into the cave underneath this church.
After the Church of Annunciation we stopped at a Bethlehem shopping Store that is owned by Christians and supported their families through our consumption of their artifacts, olive wood carvings and some great knick knacks. I saw our group purchase items ranging from 2000 year old artifacts to T-shirts.
After the store, we jumped back on the bus and moved into our hotel in Jerusalem. From our hotel we can see the old city walls of Jerusalem. Tomorrow is going to be a good day in the City of God called Jerusalem.
Enough for now. Tune in tomorrow for more!
Only a few days left. The trip is going so fast.
We were asked today to pray for the peace of Israel.
You and I both know that peace will be impossible until Jesus Returns and settles the score.
Until then…Love God, Love people!