I am currently in the Judean Wilderness, it’s not sand dunes, it’s ankle twisting, barren brown desert rock. It’s an intimidating place, made bearable because I am in an air-conditioned bus. I know it is challenging because about every hour we get out and try to survive 105 degrees.
One of the first stops this morning was the En Gedi spring and waterfall. There is nothing but blasted earth for miles in every direct. The only visible water is the Dead Sea miles away.
From the parking lot we have been told that after a short hike towards the ridge, we will find a spring and a waterfall. Yeah right!
Two hundred yards up the trail there is nothing. There is a creek bed but it is dry as a bone. I’m becoming dry as a bone. I would have turned around but wet kids in bathing suits kept coming at me,
Six hundred yards, and I could hear water running. The sound of water running means “living water”, water that can purify, water that can be used for religious purposes.
I see nothing, but I hear it underground, I walk further and there is a hint of water in the creek bed. The sound is greater.
Suddenly there is a rush of water falling twenty feet. The pool is quite small and maybe six inches deep. I want to take off my sandals, but I fear the pebbles will make me unsteady. I wade in and I’m immediately refreshed.
Its like the desert didn’t exist. The cells of my body are bloated with the living water. I am no longer desiccated.
Water is life!
The next morning we head to Masada. It was built by King Herod as one of four hidey-holes. Not a palace to live in, but a fortified refuge to hide from the coming trouble. I suddenly have some additional PTSD. It reminds me very much of Site R in Pennsylvania, except this hidey-hole was attacked.
When Herod died the place was occupied by a detachment of Romans. They were attacked at night by Jewish Zealots. The Zealots won and dug in.
The Romans had bigger plans afoot so at first they did nothing. Then in 70 AD the war began, the Temple was destroyed and all Jews were dispersed. Some of the refugees came and joined the Zealots on Masada.
Three years after the war was over, the Romans became aware of 900+ Jews living in Masada and declaring themselves Independent Judea.
The Romans couldn’t stand that, so they sent fifteen thousand troops and five thousand slaves, to take the place back.
The Jews did not surrender. The Romans built an eight foot wall completely around the fortress on the mountain. They built huge catapults to lob great stones to the top of the mountain.
The Jews splashed in the water cisterns, telling the Romans that they had something that they didn’t. Water!
The Romans began catapulting live slaves against the walls of the fortress.
The Jews had two or three years of food and water, stored there by King Herod. They first thought they could outwait the Romans. Then the Romans started to built a great ramp up the mountain to the walls. It took several months.
The Jews knew what was in store for them, it was death or horrible slavery. They were surrounded, they could not surrender and they could not escape.
Since the pay of the soldiers was the plunder and selling of slaves, the night before the Romans broke through they destroyed all their valuables in fire, then the head of each family slit the throats all his members. Then ten men by lottery, slits all the throats of the men.
Then one man slit the throats of the nine men. By Jewish law they could not commit suicide, so only one man had to fall on his sword. The Romans broke through the next morning but there was no one there.
We walked around the ruins and pondered living and dying at Masada.
The next stop was a Bedouin village. Bedouins have been in the land long before they were converted to Islam. Some older traditions still hang on. The tribe is the family, the village is a mix of multiple families, the city is a mix with everyone. The speaker wanted to emphasize that Bedouins are a modern people with technology, medicine, and business concerns. But she also spoke of the “good life”, the simple life of living in the tribe, living in tents, and moving to better pastures. No electricity, no refrigeration, and no technology. The Good Life!