On Sunday morning we drove thru the Shepherds Fields of Boaz and Ruth enroute to Qumran, where 2 Bedouin boys found the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. We viewed the remains of the ancient monastery and saw the caves where the scrolls were found. We continued on, descending to the Dead Sea, at 1300 feet below sea level, where some of our group floated including Tia Lou, Susan, Mark & Beth and Steve. The water was strong and briny. After the swim we headed to the modern town of Jericho, crossing once again into Palestinian territory. We saw 3 men fleeing the border patrol, and one handcuffed and blindfolded on the side of the road. Here we saw more signs of war and destruction than we have seen previously.
The Judean wilderness was much as you might picture it- a stark contrast to the fertile regions around Jerusalem and further north. There were many Bedouins and their "tent communities" on the sandy, desert hillsides. We saw our first camels (dromedairies) and Charlotte and June both jumped on the first one, so of course, photos of this will surface very soon!
Our next stop was the Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem, built over the manger where Jesus was born. The usual depiction of the manger scene (barn and wooden manger) are in direct contrast to the actual stone cave in which we saw the place where He was born and the stone feed trough in which He was laid. We sang "Away in the Manger" and it will never sound quite the same again.
After lunch in another kibbutz, we continued on to the site of The Upper Room, where the Last Supper would have been held. As with all places of historic Christian importance, a church, chapel, or shrine have been built over the site to commorate the event, and are replicated as closely as possible to what the original would have been like.
All is well with our group, but out internet access is very limited, so this will be continued and edited later!
Love from everyone to all our friends and family at home. We have never felt safer and are having a great time together!