We got a 5:30 a.m. wake-up call today so we could get an early start to travel from Jerusalem to Masada. We stopped in En Gedi early enough to see Nubian Ibex
(an animal listed in the Bible). They graze and visit before they tour buses come through,
and then scatter to the hills of the wilderness. We had stayed near the Jaffa Gate (oldest gate) in Jerusalem. The drive from Jerusalem through the Judean wilderness to Masada took about two hours, and went we from +250 meters to -300 meters below sea level. We traveled early to escape the heat of the day, and it was still 105 degrees F. Masada is in the Judean desert overlooking the Dead Sea.
We’re still getting used to seeing the amount of automatic weapons in the hands of young adults, since the Israelis are compelled to be in the military after graduating from high school (boys for 3 years, girls for 2 years). Even when they’re not training, they still have their weapon with them.
So if they’re on a break,
you may see people in shorts and flip flops carrying their weapon. We all took a cable car up, because the Snake Path walking trail was closed due to high temperatures. Masada (Hebrew metsudhah) means stronghold. King Herod the Great built the city and palaces for protection
between 37 – 31 BC. 75 years after Herod’s death, during the Great Revolt against the Roman Empire, the Zealots (Jewish rebels) ran away to the desert. It was a good place to hide because of the challenge for the Romans to follow. (There were no stairs then!) 960 Jewish people hid in Masada and used Herod’s stores of food. Herod had employed Roman architecture for the bathing rooms – cold room (frigidarium), warm room (tepidarium), hot room (caldarium) like our sauna. Everything below the black line is original archaeology. King David may have used this stronghold when fleeing enemies
– but didn’t have stairs for access. The columns and colors are original, over 2000 years old!
Psalm 59:9, 16 (HCSB) -“I will keep watch for You, my strength, because God is my stronghold. But I will sing of Your strength and will joyfully proclaim Your faithful love in the morning. For You have been a stronghold for me, a refuge in my day of trouble.”
(Even the birds find shelter in the stronghold.) Psalm 62:1-2 – “I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will never be shaken.” Mosaic floors were popular in Jewish art of the Herodian period. Byzantine West Gate Artifacts and archaeology
tell much of the sad ending of Masada, when the Jewish people chose mass suicide
rather than being captured by the Romans. It’s sobering to consider in whom or what we take refuge.Where do you and I seek our strength?” (Overlooking the remains of the synagogue.)
Psalm 62:5-8 (HCSB) – “Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken. My salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock. My refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is our refuge. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that].”
(Guest author: Lisa Walkendorf. All photos and materials are hers and used by her permission. Thank you, Lisa! If you want to learn more about Israel, you can access all her trip notes here: WalkendorfsinIsrael.weebly.com