September 25, 2016 (Day 9)
We awoke at dawn to the siren call of the Salt Sea or as it is known today, the Dead Sea. It was too hot yesterday to attempt the desert beach. It was 30 Celcius or 86 degrees at 6:30 AM so we trundled across the street to the beach. Pastor Matt was emerging as we sought to submerge in the water with a 33% salt content. We discovered the strange feeling that it was almost impossible to stand up after floating on your back. The feet wouldn’t go down. My posterior acted as a super buoyant floating balloon. You had to swim almost to shore to get shallow enough to stand. In the mean time the bottom is covered in sharp salt nuggets that have precipitated out of solution. You are part of a grand science experiment. Remember floating eggs in salt water while in elementary school? Of course Peggy and Audrey started collecting large salt crystals. Luckily we lacked a gunny sack or we would have 100 lbs of overweight luggage. It was great fun until the brine started to find its way into body cracks and crevices. You knew when it was time to leave. Peggy and I detoured to the hotel spa to purge some of the salt. After showering and shaving ( you dare not shave right before the salt bath) we joined the others for a leisurely breakfast.
Our one serious adventure today was a visit to the Essene site at Qumran. These hard core Jewish conservatives sought to find peace in the remote desert and remove themselves from the Judaism is the day that they determined to be corrupt. They chose a place with almost nothing in the way of resources except dates and used their ingenuity to survive. They used many of the same techniques as the Nabateeans to collect and store water. They needed plenty to perform their twice daily purification in the ritual baths. They ate simply on pottery that they broke after a single use because it had become defiled by using it. It kept the pottery shop busy. They spent most of their time when not making pots or scrounging for water in prayer and purification. They would also find time to copy scripture for which they are most famously known. As the Romans were eliminating Jews after the Jewish revolt in 66 AD, the Essenes hid many of their works in hard to reach caves near Qumran. They never retrieved them because the Romans slaughtered them all. The writing known as the Dead Sea Scrools would have to wait until 1947 to be rediscovered by Bedouin goat herders.
Our visit was hot but we kept drinking water and had enough energy to find some goodies in the gift shop. We managed to find a herd of wild Ibex and did a photo shoot before continuity on to the Genesis village for our camel ride and meal in Abraham’s tent.
We new we were in for a bit of cheesy tourism but who could resist. We donned our Bedouin smocks and mounted up. One young female camel really liked me but our relationship was not to be. Peggy and I boarded a wizened desert warrior of whom my dromedary friend envied. Poor Dan and Audrey clambered on my cute camel and she complained bitterly. The ride went smoothly as camel rides go until we almost reached our destination. Suddenly Audrey was given an opportunity to prove her camel riding skills as her camel decided to play bucking bronco, if that is the correct term. Unfortunately, none of us had our cameras focused on her. It would have gone viral on U-Tube.
After the excitement, we enjoyed a nice lunch in the authentic looking tent of Abraham sitting at a table instead of on the floor. That was good after our camel riding. The dramatization of Abraham was corny but light hearted and we all looked forward to our mini-bus ride instead of remounting our big nosed steeds.
Our trip into Jerusalem was uneventful and the hotel is nice despite still having no luggage for two of us. Tomorrow will be a more serious affair with no camels.