This was by far the most thrilling day or combination of days. We slept overnight with a Bedouin Tribe last night so the experience combines day 9 and 10. However for the sake of length I will still divide the two.
Yesterday we rose very early, ate breakfast at 6:30am, and headed out at 7:15am towards our first destination, Qumran. Qumran is an archeological site located in the West bank about a mile inland from the Dead Sea. The significance of this place is due to the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was here that these scrolls were found. The scrolls themselves dating back more than 2000 years are an invaluable resource. (To learn more about the Dead Sea Scrolls check “Day 3”)
This picture here is a great example of Qumran. You can see some caves, one near the bottom, and one near the top. During the time the Dead Sea Scrolls were being written, the Essenes were the occupiers of these caves. This is where they called home and this is where they copied the Dead Sea Scrolls.
If you look in the middle of this picture and and at the top right of this picture you will see a couple more caves. Supposedly one of these caves is where the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. The way these scrolls were found is quite a humorous story. A man by the name of, “Muhammad Ahmed al-Hamed” was tending his flock when he noticed a hole or cave. To see how deep the cave went he tossed a rock into it. He heard something shatter and as a result went to explore. He found some of the Scrolls in this cave and with this discovery other surrounding caves were explored and the rest were found. All Old Testament texts were found except Ester.Who knows, when I go back maybe I’ll find the one book that is missing?
This was definitely an experience. I’ve already expressed how I feel about these scrolls in day 3, but to see the location of where these things were found was awesome! Seeing the Scrolls themselves and where they were discovered provided a mental shift in the way I view the Bible.
We didn’t get to spend much time here in Qumran, but some of us still managed to go off trail and explore. Oh and we saw some sort of wild mountain beast which was exciting. The picture below is a picture of Nathan and Edward. Edward threw up after this climb by the way. Do not attempt this at home.
After this we moved on and headed to Masada. Masada, long story short, is the Jewish version of the, “Battle of the Alamo.” The Battle of Masada occurred in 73-74 AD during the rebellion of the Jewish people towards the Roman rule. Masada is very difficult to climb. There is only one path to get to the top of Masada and the path is so narrow that it is hard for even just two people to walk next to each other. The Romans made this path and its name is, “the Snake.” I hiked this path and I must say it is pretty exhausting. It was not as hard as hiking the Grand Canyon but I would definitely put it in the top three hardest hikes I have ever done. I love hiking and climbing. Every chance I get I climb stuff. Riding in the bus and seeing all of the climbable rocks and mountains kills me because I want to get out and explore. Anyways, can you imagine all the Roman soldiers trucking up this mountain to kill and enslave last standing Jewish Rebels? Imagine bringing troops up that mountain with armor and weapons and all that weight pushing you down. It had to be extremely difficult. All I had on was made a 2 pound book bag. I cannot imagine carrying real weight up there. To add to that these Romans were being attacked by Jewish Rebels.
This is an example of the Snake path on Masada. It keeps going and going and going. So much fun.
After we all hiked Masada we moved on towards bedouin camp that we were going to stay the night at. It took a little while to get there but once we got there the first thing we did was ride camels in the desert. Nothing super significant about this except that it was a cool experience. It was after the camel ride that we got to live and breath like a Bedouin tribe. First, we all sat cross-legged in a tent and listened to a Bedouin explain the Bedouin traditions. Issues on entering a tent, the hospitality of bedouins and how their families work, were all explained. After this we all got situated in our tent. We had mats to sleep on and used jackets as pillows. They did have showers, restrooms and other necessary facilities. The camp was definitely modernized for visiter’s but the experience was still awesome. To eat dinner we sat on the floor. We all dug in since we were starving from the Masada hike. We had rice, pita bread, humice, lamb, and chicken. The food was absolutely fantastic. Not only was their food good but their tea was superb. However their coffee was about as bitter as one can imagine. The benefit of the insanely bitter coffee is found in the punch of energy it gives. After all this transpired I watched the two quirkiest people (quirky is a complement) wrestle. Chuck and Pablo went at it and all of us were very into it. People chanting Chuck and people chanting Pablo could most likely be heard by every person in the desert for miles. Both these guys are great. Chuck won by the way.
If you know me you can probably guess the last thing I did. I went exploring the desert in the dark with my flashlight. I did however manage to bring along nearly 10 others. We explored and went far out until we heard dogs. It sorta freaked us out so we came back closer to the camp. After this we laid under the stars. I have been able to see the stars pretty well before in other areas, but I have never seen them this clear. To add to this awesome experience I was with some great people. This was by far a highlight of this trip, year, and college. Maybe even a highlight of my life. I will see in the future how often my mind refers back to that moment before I make that claim.
Those are our camels. I was on the middle camel. This was a very cool experience. Forget horses, I ride camels!