If you are following me on Facebook, then you know I was on the top of a very tall mountain, sleeping in a tent last night. Maria and I didn’t know what to expect. We turned off the main road and started up a narrow two-lane highway. Did I mention it was a very TALL mountain?
There were a lot of winding curves and sharp turns. About half-way up I had the nerve to look up (definitely NOT down!) and said, “I hope we are not going up there. But that’s exactly where we ended up. On the final leg of the climb, the car did not want to go anymore. We prayed and it didn’t stall, but moved on up to the top.
The accomodations did not look like the photos on Booking.com, and no one there spoke English. Every time we had to have information, the manager called the owner, who did speak English. Did I mention the mountain was tall? Did I also mention that I have challenges with heights?
Both Maria and I were more than a little disappointed in the place, but the view was breathtaking! And when I calmed down a bit, going no where near the edge of the plateau, I was able to enjoy the view. Once I’m back home, I will add photos to these blogs and perhaps get another page going for photos, with links back to the posts. But right now, I am enjoying the adventure and love that I can share it with you. So many of you have sent me notes of encouragement to keep posting, so post I shall!
Okay, so there were two challenges we had a hard time overcoming – face-attacking flies during the day, and ear-whizzing, feet-biting mosquitoes at night. Couple these with some other challenges, and the struggle with the car (and the driver, did I mention it was a huge mountain?), we checked out in the morning, taking our time coming down the enormous mountain.
From this humongus mountain, we headed to Masada – yet another very, very tall mountain. In case you don’t know, there are three ways to go up the mountain – cable car, the snake path, and the ramp path. Not being too comfortable with heights, I opted for the cable car. The struggle with heights is over in a few minutes, so the best option. I am praying that the Lord will heal me of this phobia.
One thing I did realize, the night spent on the mountaintop cured me of feeling dizzy when seeing how high up I am, so the only thing to deal with was the fear. Clinging to a mountain helps when you’re afraid. It made me think of God’s name, Shaddai – God of the Mountains. With him with me, what should I fear? I kept telling that to my body, but it wasn’t cooperating. I can, however, tell you this. Thanks to Maria’s encouragement and patience, I made it down the steps on the side of the mountain to see the lower levels of the Northern Palace. I even made it back up!
Most tour companies take you to the Northern Palace (which is awesome), the synagogue (yes, there is a synagogue on top of Masada), the breach in the wall, and the Byzantine Church. But there is so much more to see! We rented an audio guide, and took our time exploring everything. We went to the southern end of Masada. Did you know Herod built a huge swimming pool there?
Maria explored the edge of the southern walls, while I descended 64 steps into a canaverous cistern. There are lots of cisterns and mizvahs on Masada. There are also two large palaces (one with a throne room, bathroom, and kitchen), two small palaces, one small unfinished palace, and three columbariums (or should that be columbarii?).
On Masada, they raised doves to breed and eat, and used their droppings for furtilizer. If you saw ‘Dove Keepers’ you will know exactly what I am talking about.
As I wondered through Masada, I thought about the people who lived and died here. They came for refuge and lived for three years of the threat of Rome attacking them. Though there was plenty of food, they rationed it to ensure it would last. And in the end nearly 1,000 people died on the mountaintop rather than becoming slaves of Rome.
And may I say that the face-diving flies that inhabit the mountain of Metzoke Dragot have relatives on Masada? The heat is sweltering, though inside the walls it is cool. But for the most part, you are at the top of a very dry, hot desert. Why do I mention this? I’ll get to that in a minute.
After the heat of Masada, we were going to head to Ein Gedi, but they close at 5. If you’ve been following this journey in the land thus far, you know that Maria and I take our time at each site. And because we decided not to go to Jericho, we moved Ein Gedi and Qumran to tomorrow, opting to take a dip in the Dead Sea today.
It was really cool, being able to sit on the water. Well, almost ‘on’ the water. It’s easy to float, hard to stand upright, but the coolest thing. You’re not supposed to stay in the water long, and must rinse off after you get out, so we spent about two hours in and around the Dead Sea. It was a nice break, but made us realize just how tired we were.
The Lord blessed us with a wonderful new room for tonight. We are staying at the Masada Guest Hostel. It has air conditioning, wifi, a comfy bed, a swimming pool – all very comfortable. After the night at Metzoke Dragot, we are very greatful. At dinner, Maria shared what the Lord revealed to her, what I had been thinking as well after asking God to show me why we experienced what we did.
Maria said that we only experienced one night of discomfort. But the Isrealites experienced the heat, the bugs, the blazing sun, the climbing up and down mountains (on foot), and the terrible thirst that accompanies all that. We, in our modern comforts, look at the complaining Israelites with disdain and wonder why they complained so much. But Maria and I experienced just a small taste of what life was like for them. 16 hours compared to 40 years. Quite frankly, there is no comparison.
So as I lay my head down tonight, I am certainly counting my blessings. But more importantly, I am asking God to forgive me for standing in judgement of the Israelites, and everyone I’ve judged. The old saying is so true, “Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes.”
In the heat of the desert, with flies dive bombing your face, and the going ups seem to be more frequent than the coming downs, while the heat of the sun burns your skin and dehydrates your body, that one mile can seem like ten.