Today is the half way mark of our Holy Land Pilgrimage. We have been hitting the sights so frequently and fast over the last couple of days. Today was more laid back. It was a day of traveling out of Galilee and heading more towards the southern part of Israel. We packed up from our Sea of Galilee hotel, got on the bus by 8am and headed towards the Dead Sea. Just outside of Galilee is a place called Beth-shan. This ancient city is referenced in 1 Samuel 31:10. It is where the Philistines after killing King Saul and his 3 sons hung his body on the city gates. Beth-shan is also the largest excavation sight in all of Israel. It has an incredible theatre, amphitheatre, bathhouses, ancient toilet rooms (see pic), temple, and is very well preserved. It is the capital city of the Decapolis Cities. A set of 10 cities that Rome built in Israel. Beth-shan means House of Rest. It was a place for the Romans to rest, play and be entertained. We saw the amphitheater where, no doubt, Christians would have been fed to the lions and where Gladiators would have fought and died. Some of the group climbed the nearly 200 steps to the top of the site where the temple for this City was built. It was a pagan temple. The theatre where performances of singing and dramas would have taken place could seat up to 5000 people. I stepped on the stage and sang a couple of lines of opera and after embarrassing myself enough I had to stop. See pic. Next trip I’ll plan on performing a whole song.
After Beth-shan we headed further south and stopped to see a large sycamore tree. One just like Zacchaeus would have climbed when he wanted to see Jesus.
We then drove to a place called Hebron, which is just outside of Jericho where we stopped for a break and snack and some people purchased the famous Hebron Glass. It’s the only place in the world to buy this glass. They hand blow it into goblets, plates, mugs, vases, etc. The glass is so hard that the owner of the shop smacked two wine glasses together and they didn’t break. Many people bought some of the products and had them shipped home so they didn’t have to carry them on the way home.
We then drove by the ancient ruins of Jericho. “The walls came a tumbling down!” Jericho is known as the oldest city on earth. Excavations have dated it back to nearly 10,000 years ago. The excavations have proven that the walls did really tumble down.
After Jericho we traveled further south and checked into our hotel. Along the way the hotel called and told us they were overbooked and we thought we were in for some bad news. What happened though, made everybody’s day. The travel company we booked this whole trip with upgraded us to the Crown Plaza!!! What an amazing place. So we checked into our upgraded hotel and everybody quickly changed so they could exit out the back of the hotel and experience floating in the Dead Sea. I can’t even describe the sensation. The Dead Sea water is so full of salt that you are buoyant when you get in it. You cannot drown in the Dead Sea. The salt content of the Ocean is about 3%….In the Dead Sea…30%. The water has the consistency of Baby Oil. You literally let your feet come up and out in front of you and without moving a muscle you float. You could lay back and read the newspaper in 100 feet deep Dead Sea Water and without moving a muscle just float! See Pic. The Picture is of Colleen (sorry if I didn’t spell your name right, Colleen) The Dead Sea is literally the Lowest place on earth….it is nearly 1500 feet below sea level. Some of the people in the group purchased the famous Dead Sea Mud and rubbed it all over themselves out on the beach, let it dry and if you ask them they say it took off 10 years of age!! There is no doubt that after swimming in the Dead Sea it leaves your skin incredibly soft. Just don’t tell the guys I said that!
That’s it for today. It was mostly a travel and recovery day. Tomorrow we hit it hard again as we will visit Masada, Bethlehem and more locations I’ll blog about later and then check into our hotel rooms in JERUSALEM!
Again…I wish you were here with us. It has been an amazing trip. And it gets better tomorrow.