Thursday, June 12, 2014

Virtual Israel Tour 2014 - The Dead Sea

          Vince and I are so happy to be in Israel again, we can hardly stand it. We love being here and we love bringing others here. There is so much to do and see, we can’t possibly see everything in ten days. Today, we visited one of my favorite sites. The biblical mention of it is small, but the ruins and the visual it provides are magnificent. We traveled south from the Sea of Galilee to the ancient ruins of a gigantic city called Bet She’ an. The Biblical reference is in 1 Samuel 31. The Philistines conquered the Israelites in a battle and killed King Saul and his sons. They hung their bodies on the walls of Bet She’an. Years later, the Romans conquered Bet She’an and rebuilt it into one of the ten cities of the Decapolis, called Scythopolis.
Straight ahead is the Tel of the city of Bet She'an. In the foreground it the rebuilt Decapolis city of Scythopolis,  destroyed by an earthquake in 700AD.

A Roman theater in the ancient city of Bet 'She'an.

            Archeologists uncovered almost the entire city! It was a wealthy, thriving city and became the leading city of the Decapolis. Walking down the white stone cardo, with its giant columns, we imagined a bustling marketplace with shops and vendors. There were fountains, a huge theater, Roman baths with hot, warm and cold water, and steam rooms. There were houses and even a large indoor communal bathroom, with running water. It is an impressive city to walk through, even in its ruined state. As always, we ended our time at this site with some ice cream before getting back on the bus.
Our boys loved exploring the ancient ruins at Bet She'an.

With our friends, Karen and Leroy on the cardo of Bet She'an, later called Scythopolis.

            We traveled farther south, on our way to the Dead Sea. We stopped at Qumran, where a Bedouin shepherd boy, discovered the Dead Sea scrolls in a cave here in 1947. The Dead Sea scrolls were rolled parchments onto which a group of religious Jews, called the Essenes, meticulously copied all of the Old Testament, except the book of Esther. These are the oldest Old Testament manuscripts ever found, dating back 1000 years earlier than any previous manuscript, around 200 B.C. People say all the time, that the Bible has been rewritten and handed down and retranslated so many times that it is not the same as it was originally written. The Dead Sea Scrolls proved all that to be wrong. Those scrolls match up with our current translations of the Bible 99.9 percent. Only a few of the tenses are different. 
A cave in the Judean desert, one of eleven, that held the Dead Sea scrolls.

             The farther south we traveled the more excited we became. The next stop was at a beach on the shore of the Dead Sea. The group loved getting in the thick, salty water and floating. We took pictures and tried to explain the unusual feeling of being lifted up in the water, as if we were floating without gravity. Of course, we had to do what is traditional here, apply the dense, black Dead Sea mud all over our bodies as a skin treatment, or just for fun! After rinsing off again in the Dead Sea, our skin was noticeably softer. We loved it!  Then, we went and sat in a hot sulfur pool. This was equivalent to a hot tub at home. The water must have been 95 degrees. After that, some of us took a quick plunge, in what seemed like ice water, to help seal whatever nutrients our skin took in. No trip to Israel is complete without floating in the Dead Sea.
Family float in the Dead Sea.

Natural beauty treatments with Dead Sea mud. We all looked ten years younger afterwards!
            After this, we traveled south for a few more miles to a hotel that we had never stayed in before. It was a resort, in an oasis, in the middle of the desert. We didn’t stay here long, just overnight, but it was a beautiful, plush vacation spot. We all wished we were spending more time there.
            Israel is an amazing country. Not only is it the apple of God’s eye, and His chosen country, it is hugely diverse in culture, religion and in topography. In the north, it was lush, green and mountainous. In the south, it is dry, desert and hot. But, even in the desert we marveled at the immenseness of our Lord, who created this place.
          If I can get it to load, here is a short video clip of the view from our room by the Dead Sea.
                Can you see the tiny American icon in the center? Yes, my boys had to eat there!

If you missed yesterday's tour,  click here.


  1. Simply amazing! THank you for continuing to share your journey. I cannot imagine more perfect hosts to go with. We have learned so much form you and Vince! Maybe we can join you on the next tour!

  2. Thanks Michele! That would be great if you all could come with us next time. We are planning the next trip for the end of May, first week of June in 2016.