13 April, 2013

Negev Days 3 & 4

At 8:14am (Bill loves his precise times haha), we loaded back onto the bus for day 3 of our desert adventure. Continuing in the Negev Highlands from the day before, we made our way to the Timnah Valley and spent a good part of our day there. Our first stop was at what's known as Solomon's Pillars.. which is an impressive rock formation named after Solomon himself.

Copper mines were found here which date back to the Chalcolithic period (4300-3300 BC) and were then used by the Egyptians, later the Romans, and even in the modern age.

I am small.

Ancient remains of a temple

Apparently the desert provides prime racing terrain... :)

We stopped at a life-size replica of the Tabernacle. I never thought I'd be so interested to see a tent.. I now finally have an accurate picture of what the dwelling place of God looked like. So, think about that.. the dwelling place of God. Such an important part of history because the LORD of all creation decided to dwell in a humble little tent. I live in a house that is nicer than this tent.. I spent a good portion of the time here thinking on this.

The altar

Timnah ended up being a cool lil oasis

 Making art with bottled sand

My lil sand creation!

 Sarah made a turtle out of the clay haha

Back on the bus

Some more models of ancient copper mines

Hiking time

Next we visited the Hai Bar Desert Zoo :)

and then I died when I walked up to find this. cuddling desert mice

From here we went to Yotvata, a dairy farm, for lunch. and I seriously got the best chocolate milk I’ve ever had. Since then I've been able to find it in a few places in Israel.. it's the one thing I can't pass up. so good!  

 Some last minute exploration before the sun went down

We drove to Masada and checked into our hostel. After dinner, we went out and to hike the Marl Canyons at night. This was an incredible experience. We ended up in the middle of the canyon.. the only source of light came from the moon and the stars. We sat in a circle, laid on our backs, and watched the night sky as Bill gave a lil devotional then allowed us to have some quiet time. Moments like these are too hard to put into words. The bummer about this blog is even though I try to be descriptive and give an overview of IBEX, so many precious moments can't be translated via internet. 
We sat in a circle and had some people sing songs of worship to the Lord, and Bill gave a lil devotional.  I felt so small and in awe of the great Creator. It is good to be humbled like that and to take a break from the craziness of life to just sit down in the middle of nowhere and appreciate what you see. 
We walked back and watched everyone jump over the chalky hills. And this is the only photo I got of the whole occasion haha

Day 4

We woke up before the sun and began hiking up the great fortress of Masada. It is no small task making it up to the top.. you ascend 1148 feet as you climb up the seemingly endless snake path. But I am pleased to announce that we all kicked Masada's butt :)

See the people climbing up the snake path?

My very first step of Masada.. haha

During our journey to the top, the sun began to rise

Me and my girl made it to the top!!! CONQUERORSSSSS

So, Masada is a pretty incredible ancient fortress. It stands well above everything it surrounds, making its view from the top unlike any other. It is perhaps the stronghold where David found refuge from King Saul, providing the inspiration for Psalms 18, 31, 61, 62, and 63.
It was occupied by Jews in the first century until the Romans laid siege upon it. The inhabitants didn't want to be taken captive by the Romans ("better to die a free man than a Roman prisoner") so they all committed suicide.. so Rome took the fortress and that was that. Later on, Masada was last occupied by the Byzantines.

We headed back down to the bottom to finally have breakfast after already being awake for 4 hours and climbing 3985794857 stairs... ;) it was delish! We packed our things, checked out of the hostel, and headed out for our last day in the Negev.

Fav Schlegel family photo :) it was a joy to be able to have Rachel, Zach, and Isaiah hang with us during the trip

So... our next stop was the Dead Sea!! I missed the field study to En Gedi/Dead Sea because I had the flu. I was soo sad to miss it and definitely shed a few tears as my face spent the day in the toilet instead hahaha. Four others stayed back that day too, so Bill arranged for us to stop here on our way back to the moshav so we could experience it :) it was the coolest!
The land here is the lowest on the surface of the earth. It lays 1300 feet below sea level. So the hype about this crazy body of water is that it is friggin' SALTY! Like, really really salty. So salty (30% salinity) that you float in it. Get it in your mouth and you have the grossest taste ever, but get it in your eyes and you'll want to rip them out. The salty water informs you about every scrape, scratch, and cut that exists on your body. For me it wasn't bad at all though.. I didn't sting YAY! I had toooo much fun swimming around in it hahah

Look I'm a floater!!!! hehehe

Dead Sea swimmers :)

The very last place we visited on our trip was Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Scrolls were found in 11 different caves, with most of the fragments found in cave 4. The folks responsible for the writing of these invaluable scrolls were a Jewish group known as the Essenes. Below is their city remains before it was destroyed by the Romans around 70 AD.

Cave 4

We hiked up to Cave 11 and looked around it.. I thought it was pretty neat to see the place the scrolls were found. The Dead Sea scrolls are so significant because they are the oldest manuscripts we have of Scripture and almost every book of the Old Testament was found written down, besides Nehemiah and Esther. The Bible was around 2000 years ago.. it was relevant then and remains so to this day. It is a historical document--real events that actually happened are recorded in it. Why would the Bible be spot on about history, geography, and biography.. but be lying when it proclaims the existence of a supreme, holy God and when it predicted a coming Savior? Just a thought.

After this, we began our way back to the moshav. I was exhausteddddd. After a shower and a nap, I was able to reflect on the many blessings of this trip. It was an amazing four days. So thankful to be here and to have had this opportunity. IBEX still keeps me in wonder and amazement. I am learning so much.
(& if you're a Masters student reading this and haven't considered IBEX, pllleaassseee stop that silly thinking, pray about it, and get your butt over here!!!)