We left our fancy resort on the Dead Sea and headed to Masada. At the end of the day we traveled to Jerusalem, with a few stops in between.
First of all, the cable car we were going to take up was “closed for inspection.” We climbed up the “Snake Path” and got to the top, only to find out that the cable car was not closed for inspection, but closed because John Hagee’s group had rented it for the day to keep other groups from coming up. He held the first church service ever on Masada.
Herod built Masada, and Pontius Pilate easily could have stayed here. The 66 Jewish revolt started in Caesarea, but by 70 Jerusalem was taken, and the Zealots climbed up the cliffs of Masada at night and took it from the Romans. They made it their only standing army base in the South of Israel. There were fully furnished storerooms of goods here. There was a large palace that Herod built, as well as a bath house and other fineries. There was plenty of water to go around as well.
The Romans came to take it back, using Jewish slaves taken in combat to build a ramp up to the top to break in. They built a wall around the mountain to keep the Jews from escaping at night. The night before the Romans broke in, the men met in the Synagogue, one of the oldest remaining in the world, and they cast lots to see who would be the last one to die (they all killed their wives, children, each other). It was better to murder than to commit suicide. When the Romans breached the wall in the morning, it was an empty town except for a couple women and children. In the early 1960s the site was found and excavated.
It was found that there was a lot of agriculture going on at the top of Masada. There were scrolls found on the synagogue floor when it was excavated, as if the Romans just came in and trashed them. Most Israeli soldiers today are sworn in here—“I swear, I swear, I swear, Masada will never fall again.”
Tel Be’er Sheba
It was very hot when we visited Tel Beersheba. This is where Abraham and Isaac lived most of their lives in Canaan. There are fertile hills around although the place is a slight desert. This is one of the places an incense altar was built. It was found here destroyed, and has been reconstructed. It was most likely destroyed by Hezekiah or Josiah (II Kings 23:8). The well here is 260 feet deep. It stands at the entrance to the city.
Valley of Elah
We then drove North into a very fertile region where we visited the Valley of Elah where David killed Goliath. The valley is quite narrow, perfect for Goliath to come down and mock the Israelites. David had come from Bethlehem, down a ridge to the valley of Elah. It took us less than half an hour to get to Jerusalem from here.