From Sunday, Monday & Tuesday March 4th, 5th & 6th, 2012:
Hey Church!

You really DO float in the Dead Sea! The salt content is determined by the level of the sea. Currently, the salt level is 33%. How salty is that? If I heard our guide right, the Pacific is 1.4% !!!  The water was bitter cold, but I had to do it!  All you do is walk out into the water and sit down, BOOM, you’re floating!

Other Dead Sea facts that are only important if you are playing Trivial Pursuit:

-Nothing but one tiny algae grows in the Dead Sea.

-It’s the lowest point below sea level in the world.

-Presently, the Dead Sea is declining by 3 feet every year.

-Some of the most important exports for Israel are the minerals extracted from the Dead Sea.

-The Egyptians used them for mummification.

-Cleopatra was given the city of Jericho by Mark Anthony, but she had her eye on the Dead Sea.

-The region of the Dead Sea is where the geological plates of Africa and Asia meet. Movement on the water surface is often due to seismic shifts on the sea bottom.

 Enough about the Dead Sea!

The land around the Sea of Galilee is full of agriculture. Everywhere you look there are orchards, vineyards & groves. As you would expect there are grapes. They also grow figs, pomegranates, oranges, wheat and so much more. But the big surprise to me where the banana groves. Yes, bananas! Often they are under white canopies.

What’s interesting about all this agriculture is that those who occupied the land before the Israelis could never make the land productive. Many areas of the region were unusable due to the vast marshes & wetlands. But since 1948, when the Jewish people returned, they began to reclaim the land, finding constructive means to make it productive. This is just another instance where I’m convinced that God is still blessing His Chosen People!

We passed through the region of Jericho with Mt. Nebo on our left. Jericho is the oldest walled city in the world.  Ruins have been found that show the ancient walls fell outward away from the city instead of inwards, the way walls fell when invaded. Wonder how that happened? (GOD!) The city lies in a very large plain not far from the Jordan River. It is so easy to imagine Joshua and the people marching across that plain.

We were able to visit Jericho since our guide and bus were Israeli. But our Arab taxi driver tonight sure tried to convince us to take the trip with him!


The ruins of Bet Shean

We visited the city of Bet Shean. It was one of the ten Roman cities of the Decapolis, east of the Sea of Galilee. It was destroyed by earthquake in 749 AD. It was only discovered in 1986 just like it was left after the quake. There is astonishing detail — frescos, paved streets, columns, well- defined rooms & buildings, and a really cool public, unisex bathroom that could accommodate over 45 men & women at one time! I posted a fun pic on my Face Book page!

Exhibit of Herod’s palace at Masada

I was thrilled to have the privilege to visit Masada. This site is not mentioned in the Bible but has huge significance in Israeli history. It was built by Herod the Great as his palace of last resort. It soars off the Judean plain to a large, flat-topped plateau with only one natural way up. We talked about it in our Christmas series briefly. In the Jewish rebellion of 70AD, Masada was the last hold-out against the Romans. It took the Romans 7 months to build a siege ramp high enough to reach the top of the plateau. The 900+ Jewish rebels chose to take their own lives instead of going into slavery. (That’s the cliff notes version of Masada.) We rode a cable car up and walked the 700 steps down!

All for now! More soon!