The Holy Land: The Dead Sea and Qumran
The "Health SPA" Dead Sea
We started our pilgrimage with a relaxing stay at the Dead Sea Spa Hotel. The hotel was located along a beach resort area in Jordan, alongside Kempinski, Marriott and other luxury/SPA hotels. After settling into my hotel room, I immediately went for a swim. There was no talk about the Dead Sea as it relate to the Bible at that point, nor information about the Dead Sea, except a warning from a co-pilgrim, Mrs. L, a walking Wikipedia or Britannica Encyclopedia. She told me not to stay in the water for more than three minutes at a time. She had a wealth of information and told me that sunbathing was safe, "The Dead Sea is the only place when one can sunbathe for extended period of time with little or no sunburn because harmful ultraviolet rays are filtered through an extra atmospheric layer and evaporated layer that exist above the sea rather than the thick ozone layer".
I was surprised how easy it was to swim in the Dead Sea. I found myself floating and backstroking all over the place. I was a swimmer in college but the backstroke was my least favorite style. I realized later that it was not how good a swimmer I was that allowed me to swim backstroke all over the place, but it was the water. The high concentration of salt and minerals enabled everyone to float in the water.
I heard from the beauty store sales talk later that the water of the Dead Sea contains twenty-one minerals including calcium, bromine, potassium and magnesium and other minerals that are good for nourishing the skin, activating the circulatory system, easing rheumatic discomfort and metabolic disorder. I also learned that the air is unpolluted and pollen free with no humidity due to the constant evaporation of several minerals, mainly bromide. Because of the barometric pressure, it has more oxygen than anywhere else has on earth, consequently makes breathing easier and has a genuinely relaxing impact.
Our SPA hotel also provided a tub of Black Mud. The black mud came from a mixture of Dead Sea minerals and organic elements from the shoreline and the earth supposed to have cosmetic and therapeutic benefits. It’s known to cleanse and stimulate the skin, relieve muscle and emotional tension, improve blood circulation and relieve rheumatic pain. However, a few seconds after applying the black mud all over my body, my face started to have a stinging feeling sort of an allergic reaction. So, I immediately rinsed it off.
The "Bible" Dead Sea
After crossing Kings Bridge, we entered Israel and proceeded to our ‘Land of the Bible’ tour. We passed what seemed to be strange desert mountain/hill formations. Then, a plateau with cultivated palm trees on the right side. “On your left is the Dead Sea,” announced our guide, a Botany professor. “At 400 meters below sea level, it is the lowest point on the surface of the earth, 27% solid...forty-seven miles long, eleven miles wide, 394 square miles and 420 meters deep. It’s also called the Sea of Plain, East Sea, Sea of Arabah and Sea of Lot or the Salt Sea, ‘Joshua 12:3 – and the Arabah to the Sea of Chinneroth eastward, and in the direction of Beth-jeshimoth, to the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, southward to the foot of the slopes of Pisgah,” he rambled on.
Across the sea, we saw the Moab Mountains in Jordan. In front of us, I saw a salt formation and a mineral industry center. Apparently, every inch of the place we were seeing was mentioned in the Bible. Our guide announced that it was in the area of Sodom mentioned in “Genesis 19:23 – Sodom and Gomorrah” where the Lord rained fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah and overthrew the cities. God had commanded Lot and his family not to look behind them; the wife of Lot disobeyed this command; she looked back from behind and became a pillar of salt.
Qumran and the Dead Sea Scroll
Not far from the Dead Sea was the city of Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls (copies of 800 manuscripts, from tiny fragments to almost complete scrolls) were found in the caves. The Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest copies of the Old Testament ever found and show that the Bible we know today is almost identical to the one studied around the time of Jesus Christ. In 1947 a Bedouin boy went into the cave to look for forgotten treasure, he came out with rolls of rotting leather.
The library of scrolls was hidden in eleven caves in cliffs around Qumran. Twenty-five others show clear sign of habitation. Our guide quoted something from the Bible, “Luke 1:80...And the child grew and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the dessert till the day of his shewing unto Israel.”
NOTE: All photos by the author