Israel Day 5 (I think) – Masada, En Gedi, and the Garden at Gethsemane

Wow. Today was by far the heaviest emotional day. I couldn’t get internet for a few days so I’ll recap the other days later, but I want to get my thoughts down now.

While Jackie (my roommate) and I were getting ready for bed I remarked I thought I was reaching my emotional limit. Each day we have seen and done a lot, thought it doesn’t feel like it in the moment, and I haven’t had much time to stop and reflect. I am the kind of person who needs alone time to be able to process my thoughts and emotions fully so this was already starting to wear on me; not to mention the intellectual and some physical fatigue.

This morning we went to Masada, one of my favorite places, though it is not connected with the Bible. Masada is an ancient fort built Herod the Great on the top of a great hill overlooking the Dead Sea. Several of us decided to climb to the top instead of taking the cable car. It was quite a hike – 300m climb in elevation over about 1.5 miles. The record was 21 minutes and we did it in 25. I think we could have made it in 21 minutes or less had we known the record beforehand, but our guide refused to tell us beforehand because he was worried we would hurt ourselves trying 🙂 Masada is also a UNESCO World Heritage site so if you’re interested you can google the story. I don’t want to ruin it for you if you want to read it, but if you

google it be sure to read Josephus’ account – especially the speach by Eliazar and you will know why I was crying by the end.

From Masada we went to En Gedi, the place where David fled when he was being chased by Saul. As we heard the story of 1 Samuel 24 (I think) it was easy to imagine Saul and David in this place. David’s respect for Saul’s authority as King – despite Saul’s legitimate insanity – was striking. In a place where there are literally thousands of caves it was even more obvious that their lives did not intersect by accident. God’s sovereignty and intimate plan became very real.

This was the first time on the trip I was able to get off by myself and think. I found a rock down by the lower waterfall and was able to seclude myself for about 20 minutes. The time was even more remarkable knowing thousands of people have taken refuge at En Gedi for physical, spiritual, and emotional nourishment. Once again, I cried. (Are you sensing the theme???)

Our final stop was in the Garden of Gethsemane. The business of the day kept me fairly distracted and I didn’t realize where we were going until we were descending the Mount of Olives. The garden was one of the few, if not only, places that looked similar to my imagination. We took communion as a group, a truly special and remarkable experience. It was a bit chilling and overwhelming to take communion in the place where Jesus willingly submitted to the Father’s plan for salvation and redemption. Jackie made an excellent observation connecting today’s events: we started the day at Masada, the place where hundreds of people watched their death slowly build towards them, but we ended the day in the Garden of Gethsemane, the place where Jesus knowingly moved toward his death.

By the end of the day my head was pounding from the emotions of the day and I am still pretty tired. I wish I had more energy to go into the emotions and amazing details and connections of the day, not only for others, but for myself, but I am too tired. Hopefully this will give you an overview of what we’ve been doing and maybe it will inspire others to come – you totally should by the way. I’m off to bed now!

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