YardenitOur first stop was at Yardenit on the River Jordan. It is popular with Christian pilgrims as a place of baptism on the River Jordan. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist on the river but the original site is placed farther south in Qasr el Yahud, which is just north of the Dead Sea and east of Jericho. It became a frontier area, so a new replacement site was established in Yardenit. Four of us in the group went through the baptism. We rented the white frock and towels. Our baptism was conducted by one of our co-pilgrims who is a pastor and also by a woman pastor from Belleville, Illinois. It was a great experience.
|KRuds Baptism on the River Jordan|
|Amphitheater in Beth Shean|
Qumran is best known as the place nearest to the caves in the desert cliffs where the Dead Sea Scrolls were hidden. Since the first discovery, extensive excavations were conducted in the area, unearthing nearly 900 scrolls written in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and Nabatean on parchment and some on papyrus. It is billed as one of the top archaeological discoveries, maybe second only to finding King Tut's tomb since the texts have great linguistic, historical and religious significance. Walking along the excavation site, we saw cisterns, mikvahs (Jewish ritual bath), a gathering room and a place for writing. It is said to have been the home of a Jewish sect, Essenes.
Our hotel for the night was in the resort town of Ein Bobek and from our room's balcony, we are treated to a panoramic view of the Dead Sea and the Judean desert. We immediately changed into swim suits for a dip in the Dead Sea itself. You had to be careful going in for fear of turning over and swallowing the super salty water.
The Dead Sea or Salt Sea is a salt lake bordering Jordan, Palestine and Israel, at an elevation of more than 1400 feet below sea level, it is the lowest point on earth. It is 9.6 times saltier than the ocean so animals cannot flourish. Since biblical times, it has been a refuge and resort because the temperature around the Dead Sea is pleasant year round plus the water is claimed to have healing capabilities and is an abundant source of minerals for health and beauty as well as commercial use. Sadly, the Dead Sea is actually dying as the supply of water from the River Jordan has been curtailed significantly due to recent dam projects. Because of the high density of the water, you actually float on the Dead Sea.
Note: All sketches were painted on an Arches Carnet de Voyage Travel Book with artists grade Schmincke and Daler Rowney watercolors.