Day 3 - Jesus' World Part II

Today we dug further into the world into which Jesus came by exploring two key sites along the Dead Sea occupied by the Essenes and the Zealots, Qumran and Masada. The Essenes were the Jewish separatists of the first century who tried to prepare the way for the coming of two Messiahs (!) by pursuing a strict communal lifestyle of ritual purity in the desert. The Zealots were the Jewish nationalists of the first century, seeking to overthrow the Roman oppressors through violence and insurgency. As we explored these amazing sites we were struck by the fact that Jesus was the true revolutionary who changed the world, not by withdrawing from it or imposing himself on it, but by laying down his life. 

We started the day at Qumran, the ancient community that wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. A group called the Essenes secluded themselves here, and dedicated their time to copying Scripture, giving us a huge cache of ancient writings when they were discovered in nearby caves.

Here, you can see Qumran in its regional setting near the Dead Sea.

Then we ventured up to Masada, one of King Herod's desert fortresses. Its location high on the top of a mountain with sheer cliffs on all sides makes it a truly formidable defensive stronghold. We learned about and saw in person the stages of construction, habitation, and attack at this famous site.

To keep Masada supplied in such an arid climate, these enormous cisterns were used to store water.

After that, we headed down to the Dead Sea. The lowest place on earth, it is made famous by its extremely high salt and mineral content. When you wade in, you begin to float because the water is so dense. 

It was a refreshing end to a hot sunny day in the desert. We have enjoyed a tasty dinner back in Jerusalem, and are looking forward to tomorrow!