Kathy and I have a mutual friend who was reading our blog and asked if we wanted to visit an archeological excavation in progress. We both jumped at the chance, so he made the arrangements for us to visit the site today (Sunday). The site was right on our way south as we were leaving Tiberias. So we headed out on Route 90 eventually to end up at Masada on the Dead Sea. We found the location of the dig and were greeted by Dr. Jennie Ebeling, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Evansville who is co-director with
Norma Franklin from the University of Haifa. Work had just begun on clearing a new site so we were able to see all the diggers in action. Dr. Ebeling took about two hours to show us around and give us a crash course in how to find a digging site that shows promise of producing something exceptional. What she and her helpers had already found was quite exceptional as this is their third year in this area. They are working in the Valley of Jezreel, an absolutely beautiful valley that is much talked about in the Old Testament. What they are looking for specifically is something that has to do with the kingship of Ahab (and his wicked wife Jezebel), in the ninth century B.C. While we were there I met one of her diggers who is a professor at Kentucky Christian University and who graduated from my alma mater in Cincinnati, Ohio. In fact, he teaches with my former college roommate. I had to come all the way to Israel to find someone who knows many of my own friends.
After our experience at Jezreel we continued down Route 90 until we came to Qumran on the Dead Sea. We visited here two years ago but wanted our son Eric to see where the famous Dead Sea Scrolls were found. The Qumran community were made up of Essenes, the group who were very active during the ministry of Jesus but who were never mentioned in the Bible. That is because they were a monostic group who kept to themselves and had their own community apart from everyone else. They prayed, observed the law, and copied manuscripts in their Scriptorium. Among those manuscripts were copies of the Old Testament. The community was destroyed when the Romans came to wage war against the Jews in about 66 A.D. Fearing for the safety of their precious manuscripts they hid them in the many caves that surrounded them in the Judean wilderness. There they stayed until about 1952 when a Bedouin boy threw a stone into one of these caves and heard pottery breaking. He looked more closely and found what we know as the Dead Sea Scrolls, which include every book of the Old Testament except Esther. These manuscripts were examined and were dated about the 1st or 2nd Century B. C. Up until that time the oldest manuscripts of the Old Testament we possessed are dated about a thousand years later than that. So you can understand why this find caused such a stir among theologians and Bible scholars. I had the opportunity, in 1966, to climb through some of these caves on my second visit to this place. But today they won’t let anyone near them—for safety as well as aesthetic reasons.
We completed our journey today be arriving at our rented apartment in Arad, Israel, about 15 miles beyond Masada. Tomorrow we plan to spend a lot of time exploring the top of that mountain before going on to Jerusalem where we will stay until we fly home. We’ll tell you more about Masada tomorrow
Bud & Kathy
Bud and Kathy Downs are making another trip to the Lands of the Bible-- first Turkey and Greece (from May 11 to 22) and then to Israel (from May 22 to June 8). We invite you to join us through our travel blog. We intend to post regular updates and pictures of Bible sites.