Saturday, November 14, 2015

Saturday - Sabbath - Shabbat

Hang on.  If I had the energy this could be a long write and then a long read.  Busy, full of many sights and great information, and I think, a bit intense.

Shabbat is the day of rest for Jews.  It's starts at dusk on Friday and goes through Saturday dusk.  During that time there are some specific guidelines that Jews must follow.  One is to not start a fire.  The reason for lighting a fire would be for heat, light or cooking., so when electricity became a part of those processes, the church authorities interpreted that rule as not being able to turn on anything electrical like lights or stove or heat or television.  Or a latte maker.  This really upset one coffee lover this morning.

The first drive of the day took us on a around-about route to Arad so we could experience the Negev Desert.  Truly a desert as one might imagine one in Israel; there was nothing except barren rolling hills with deep eroded ravines and distance mountains, or higher hills.  Tel Arad - remember a tel is a mound with one city built upon the ruins of another - is an outpost built by King David to secure the southern border of his kingdom.  The outpost was quite exclusively military with minimal accomodations.  However, there was a temple which is not a place of worship of God, but the house of God.  Worship was done outside where the animals were slaughtered and sacrificed.  Some of us stepped into the holiest of holy place with no repercussions.  Around the tel was an ancient Canaanite village.

The next stop a bit farther north was Masada.  What was the Alamo to the Mexican-Texas war was Masada to Israelites.  Jewish resistors moved to Masada on top of a high plateau with very steep sides when the Romans were conquering Israel.  After Jerusalem was conquered in 70CE, the Romans moved on Masada.  The resistance had a great defense but over the course of three years the Romans built a earthen ramp to the top and penetrated the walls.  Knowing that they would win the next day, they retreated for the night.  The Jews knowing they would be captured, raped and enslaved the next day took their own lives.  Men killed their wives and children, men killed other men by a group of ten.  The ten drew lots to see who would kill whom and finally who would kill himself at the end.  The Romans only found dead bodies the next morning.  The intensity of the Romans to persist for three years and the Jews who were able to resist for three years is amazing.

At Qumran, just a few minutes farther north, we had lunch - what chaos that was as it was like a fast food cafteria and we didn't know what we were ordering or what we would be paying; it turned out OK,  For the most part it was pocket bread filled with chicken or falafel and French fries.  We saw the caves on the hillsides where the Dead Sea scrolls were first found and also saw the room where the scrolls were written.  These were written by priests who were sort of run out of Jerusalem - they didn't agree with all the priests in authority.  The writings were rewrites of some the Torah and some original thoughts about their beliefs,  From where we stood we could see several of the caves: Caves numbers four and five.

Alas, we arrived at the Jordan River.  The river is the borders between Jordan and Israel and even though they have a friendly relationship the border is quite militarized.  The military allows tourists through to this one point where people come to look, to touch the water, to fully immerge themselves or to be baptisted.  While one can say with great confidence that John the Baptist did do baptisms here, it's not likely that Jesus was baptisted here despite claims by certain groups.

The climb up to our view point at Jericho was challenging.  On top one could see a mountain or high hill where Jesus might have been tempted, according to some.  We saw an excavation of an old tower, claimed to be 10,000 years old - it may have been for defense or religious purposes.  Jericho is the oldest city on earth and the tower is the oldest man-made structure.  Jericho was chosen as a location to live because it is a beautiful oasis in the middle of the desert.  One of our group plays trumpet in a band or two and he played "Joshua set the battle on Jericho and the walls came tumbling down."  That may appear later in a video.

Five minutes later we foun ourselves in a major gift shop looking at jewelry, sharves, dried fruits, hand blown glass and more.  We bought some goblets because they were beautiful and were made from Hebron glass.  Our hotel is on the outskirts of Bethlehem, run by Palistinian Christian.  We actually had milk and meat in the evening meal - Jews don't eat milk and meat in the same meal - and we might have bacon for breakfast.

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