After our first full day in the city we were back to the wilderness once more. We traveled down from the holy mountain and were headed to the lowest place on Earth, the Dead Sea. While in the area we toured Masada, King Herod the Great’s fortress that the Hebrew Zealots used to escape the Romans. It was incredible to see this great fortress with all the decadence and excess and thinking how this compared to the lifestyle of the Jewish people he ruled.
Next we went to a place called En Gedi. This was the desert oasis and cave network that David and his men used to hide out from Saul. It was a pleasant site for us I can only imagine what finding a place like this in their time would had been like. Pictured below is of the “youngest tour-guide in Israel”. We came back from a side trail and ran into this group of kids. We were talking amongst ourselves asking questions and this little boy begins to give us the rundown with directions and stories, all with an air of expertise from atop his rock. On the way back to the bus, I found my most favorite ice cream snack in the whole wide world. A snack that has become a diamond in the rough because I can list on one hand the times I have found it. En Gedi, Dead Sea, Israel would never have been a place I would have expected to find this frozen treasure.
After our refreshing dip we went to Qumran, the site of caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. There was a little village, or I guess monastery would be a better term, located on this site that housed the Essenes that wrote these epic texts.
Then we lastly had to end out trip with a float in the Dead Sea. This was the coolest and weirdest feeling. It was familiar and foreign, because who hasn’t ever floated in the water? But you have never floated like this! The salt content is 10x that of the ocean!! And it tastes like it too. When you’re in the water you dig up some of the mud and slather it on, a full body mud mask treatment. You can only stay in the water for about 15-20 min at a time, it gets to a point where your skin begins to burn. This is not a healthy tingle that goes away with time; you have to get out of the water and go wash off in the fresh water shower as soon as you can. I will say though afterwards my skin felt the smoothest it had since I could remember.
Probably my favorite part of today was that I feel we finally “gelled”. We use this term all the time at Camp Hardtner during Training Camp to refer when the group of people we have hired for the summer transition into something more than just individuals and become the Permanent Staff. From my ten years of Training Camp experience, I have found that the average time for this process is somewhere around a week. We gelled today. I think it is appropriate to use this term and its connection to Camp Hardtner, our Diocesan Camp, because everyone here has a connection to it in one way or another. Either through retreats, the summer program, children or grandchildren, or just the long history and relationship the camp has had with churches in the diocese. If I had to sum up Camp Hardtner in two words I would use Love and Community. Those same two words is how I would describe my fellow pilgrims. I am blessed be able to call them my friends. I am blessed to share this life changing experience with them. I am blessed to have heard their stories. I am blessed to have poured out my heart, sang, cried, prayed, laughed, broke bread, and shared this incredible week with them. No matter what chapter we each have next, or where our next journey take us, we will always have Jerusalem, and the love, and the community we formed on this most Holy Ground.