It's crazy how two weeks have flown by since the last time I posted. I have one maybe two more posts about the last week of Christ's life so stay tuned for my finishing touches. This post is about one of my favorite days in Jerusalem visiting Masada, the Dead Sea, En Gedi, and Qumran. We left bright and early on Monday, April 13th with our first stop at Masada. This fortress city was seized by robber-assassins called Sicarii and played a huge role in the First Jewish Revolt against Rome. I was still waking up at this point and it was super hot so that's all the exciting news I have about that place. (Side note: the weather during the last two weeks in Jerusalem reached the 90's so we were blessed with some major heat to give us all a midsummer tan.) After that, it was off to the Dead Sea which was absolutely INCREDIBLE!!! The previous day, I was kind of sketchy about getting in the nasty, super salty water but after I saw a couple people floating effortlessly on top of the water, I ran in there as quick as possible. You might be asking yourself how the heck we could be floating on top of the water; well let me inform you. There is more solids in the water than in the human body which makes you float on your back or belly and it is SO sweet! The Great Salt Lake is like that too, hence the name. There were tons of people in the water with ailments while others of us were just chillin on the surface getting the best ab workout of a lifetime. Here is an interesting concept I learned in my New Testament class: In the Millennium, the water underneath the Dome of the Rock is supposed to heal the Dead Sea. I never even knew water was even under the temple mount so pretty interesting stuff. Down the Sea a little ways, there is some sulfur black mud that exfoliates your skin and rejuvenates your pores so we all floated over there and put it all over our bodies. We smelled like poop the rest of the day. Our poor bus driver. We rushed to En Gedi Nature Reserve after that and hiked up to a waterfall grumbling the whole way up. It was fun, nonetheless, although I'm pretty sure we were all quite dehydrated. Qumran was our last site which is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. It was a super quick 20-minute stop since they were shutting down for the day. Even though we weren't able to hike down to any of the caves, it was still way cool to see the exact cave that these scrolls were discovered. What a long day filled with fun and excitement.
I'm back again, if anyone is even still reading this blog, for some posts of my final experiences in Jerusalem so stick with me for a little bit and then I'll be done for good. Promise. Easter Sunday in the Holy Land visiting the exact place where the Savior Jesus Christ was risen was absolutely incredible and an unforgettable memory. I woke up bright and early at 4:45am to leave by 5:15 for a sunrise service at a Lutheran Church about a five-minute walk from the Center. It was cool to watch the sun rise over the horizon as I reflected on the importance of that day where the Son of the Eternal Father rose from his borrowed tomb on that glorious day. It was so peaceful. The preacher gave a sermon about how the "ball is in our court." During the middle of his speaking, he whipped a tennis racket out of who knows where and started hitting tennis balls into the congregation while almost knocking over a wooden cross sitting on the stone table that had the holy communion on it. Yikes that would have been bad. We sang a couple LDS hymns which was interesting to sing with different words. One of the pastors invited us over for breakfast with the incentive that there would be bacon. We politely declined because we didn't want to cause a commotion so we walked back to the Center for the same old semi-cold cereal we have every morning. About the bacon thing, neither Muslims nor Jews eat pork so I was deprived of it for four months. After breakfast, it was off to the Garden Tomb for an entertaining service singing tons of Christian Rock songs. Although it wasn't very sacred or reverent, surprisingly, I still felt the spirit while singing songs of praises with those faithful Christians. I enjoyed watching all the people's faces light up and their big huge smiles as they sang with joyful hearts because of the reality of the resurrection. While I was singing and dancing along, the scripture "the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me..." popped into my head. Although the style of praising was unlike I am used to, I know that the Lord blessed those people who wholeheartedly believe that he is risen and that he lives. It was a super fun service and I'm extremely glad I had the opportunity to participate. It was an awesome day and one Easter Sunday that will never be forgotten.