Check your sleep.

Check the quality of your sleep. This monitors how long and how well you slept. It can even wake you up with a gentle vibrating alarm that won't awaken your partner.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Typo of the Day

I'm editing Death on the Ocean Floor, a story I hope to have available before summer.



 And here is my typo of the day:


The jacket’s logo also showed clearly. She recognized it, a hugely popular hickey team that had recently won the championship. 

I bet you didn't know they had tournaments for this type of thing. Fortunately, I was able to switch it back to the correct word, hockey.

What are some silly typos that you've made? Or have you seen some?


 Available now is the first in the series:



Available at Amazon.com
Available at Amazon.ca
Barnes and Noble
Kobo

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Your wife will love you more



There is a certain cat food company that describes how much your cat will love you when you pay attention to her food. Tender morsels of delicious meat will show her that you care.

It reminds me of a recent trip to Petra. If you are regular reader, you'll know that I saw Petra when I took a trip to the Holy Land. Hawkers, mostly men and young boys, tried to convince other men to buy their cheap bracelets, claiming that if they bought them, their wives would love them more.


Have our society's affections been whittled down to this? For one thing, if my husband had paid $30.00 each for cheap baubles, I would not be cooing away to him. Yes, his thriftiness drives me crazy some days, but I'm proud of him. 

 
But let me return to the question. Is love purchasable? Of course not, and yet, it is marketed as so. Where did we take that turn that allows companies to gently warn us, through the eyes of a fickle cat, that we could lose that love? What are we telling our children.


I suggest discussing this with your family the next time we see a foolish commercial on TV. We are the consumers. And our love cannot be bought.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Holy Land. Our last few hours.

We have mere hours left in our visit but this one last place could be a favourite of mine. The Garden Tomb. 



We meet a Swedish guide who tells us how a few weeks ago this place received 20 cms of snow. I shudder. He had traveled to Sweden and when he returned, he'd brought back two snow shovels, as the locals just tried to sweep the wet snow away. 
Then our guide begins to tell how a man looked at this cliff once at the turn of the 20th century and saw a skull in it and wondered if this could be the site of Calvary, called Golgotha which means, 'Place of the skull'. He explains that there are clues that point to both places, but the physical descriptions favour this one. He talks about the tomb, which we will see shortly, and how it fits the description from the Bible. 
The man who first suggested this had to wait 10 years to purchase this place, and still didn't know if this was a garden or not, until he found a large wine press, a sure indication there was a garden here and it was big. The tomb had been designed for a wealthy person and a cross was carved into the entrance. Inside, they found a second-century cross painted on the wall above where the body would have laid. 
To preserve it, it was sealed with a special cement and a facsimile was painted over it.
Our guide jealously guards our right to see the Place of the Skull by telling the group behind us to wait as they wanted to pass us, even though ahead there is still yet another group looking at it. Some of us are pure Canadian, and would have politely allowed the group to jump the line. 
I secretly cheered our Swedish guide on. I'm not a native born Canadian, you see. Smothering my smile, I follow the group up, and indeed, the cliff resembles a skull. 



Our guide points out that both places have merits for being the tomb of Jesus, but we don't know for sure and perhaps it's not as important as our relationship with God. He also points to the top of the short cliff, where a Muslim cemetery is now, along with the requisite warning to Christians in Arabic there.
We go down to a quiet spot near the tomb and hold a communion service. We're allowed to keep our small wooden cups and I recall how we had communion years ago at The Holy Land Experience in Orlando and they said their cups come from the Garden Tomb in Israel. It's interesting to have this connection. 
It's peaceful here, as a Garden Tomb should be. Finally, we are allowed to visit the tomb itself, and one of the group, a young pastor, goes in first. Then he pokes his head out and says, "They're right! It is empty! I checked."




Inside, I notice a slab to the right where a body would be laid. It's bigger than I imagined, and our guide says it's cut in a way that is found only in one other tomb in Israel. This style fits with Mark's account:

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.  As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

Perhaps because it's easier to see the tomb here that most in the group think this is the Garden Tomb. Perhaps it's because our Canadian souls prefer to root for the underdog and this place gets less 'action'. Regardless, it's the highlight of the trip, not just for its significance, but for its beauty and serenity. 
We finally left and Allan purchased some bookmarks and baseball caps before we climbed back onto the bus. 



We're given one last chance to visit the Old City and Allan and I buy 2 tee shirts before getting lost in the winding narrow streets of the Muslim Quarter. The vendors are polite but we don't need to ask directions when we spy the small sign pointing the way out.



But we made it to the bus in time, returned to the hotel to change for our long flight, and left Israel that night. 
It's been an awesome trip. Rafe was an excellent guide and host, and United Christian Broadcasters and Christian Journeys outstanding in their organization of it. Allan says we will return some day. And when we do, we won't be needing to snap so many photos, but rather just experience the trip, the renewal of faith, the connection to a land and people that God blessed. 
I look forward to it.  
I hope you have enjoyed this trip to the Holy Land with me. Share it with friends and please comment and tell me what you think of it. It takes only a short time to write out a comment, but really being exposure to this page, far more than a comment on FB.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Holy Land Day 10 Part 2

We are led down into one of the many caves in this area. It's warm and dry, and we crowd together to listen to our guide explain how important they are to her culture. 



Caves are safe havens. At night, the sheep are brought in and the shepherd sits at the entrance, perhaps lighting a fire to warn away wild animals. Remember how we learned that there are still wolves in Israel? We also learn that the 23rd psalm describes a shepherd's life. 

 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

All this is straightforward.

 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

We have seen how the sheep follow the shepherd in single file.

 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 

These deep valleys are prone to flash floods in winter and it's the shepherd's duty was know when to go into them.

I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

The shepherd raps his staff rhythmically on a stone, and as long as the sheep hear it, they graze freely. 

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Sheep's head have no wool and sunburn easily. The traditional treatment is olive oil and it is rubbed into the skin.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

We've all seen stained glass with a shepherd carrying a sheep on his shoulders. They still do that with injured sheep, or sheep that are a little wayward and like to graze at the edges of their fields. Aren't we all like that sometimes?
We make our way out of the cave and to yet another souvenir shop. Hawkers besiege us again trying to sell us precious stone beads strung into necklaces. Allan finds a broken one on the ground, and wonders how precious they are if they can be discarded so easily when they break. Our guide tells us that the sheep here are a unique breed called awassi which has a fat tail good for cooking. We see a painting of it at the souvenir shop.
But my mind is on the herb mix we had with our Jerusalem bagel. I head next door. The small grocery store has a few herb mixes but I can't find what I'm looking for. The lady, a pleasant Christian woman, helps me out, asking her husband something in Arabic. (swift Arabic, then "google", then more swift Arabic, then "Ipad"



Her husband googles the words I have said in English and with Allan's help, we find the box of mix I'm looking for. Our guide says it's wonderful mixed with oil, with bread to dip into it. 




I'm pleased to see on back cover that it is made by Palestinian cooperatives and small scale farmers.
It's back toward the checkpoint again. The high security walls are full of graffiti, such as a dove of peace wearing a flak jacket. Again, that tension, although our guide reports that Bethlehem's last three mayors have been Christian, and the latest is a woman. Christians are poor here, but it's been good in recent years. I come away with mixed feelings about our visit.
We have one more special site to see, not far from our hotel. One that is so wonderful, it has to be saved for last.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Holy Land Day 10 Part 1

We have entered the Palestinian Authority again, this time to visit Bethlehem. Going through the checkpoint is easy for a tour bus, but the high towers and concertina wire show it's far more difficult for a Palestinian. 
We pick up our new guide, a middle-aged Christian woman with a heavy accent and a kind look. Our bus parks at the bus depot, and we take the escalator up to the next floor and walk out onto the street. Bethlehem is a vibrant town, closely packed amidst the hills south of Jerusalem. The older part looks similar to the new part. I can't seem to see where one ends and the other begins. 


But the first thing we notice is an unusual coffee shop. See the difference?
We walk up to Manger Square. It's rather ordinary, but our guide explains what this will look like on Christmas Eve. The church ahead is also quiet, and under renovations. We dip our heads down to pass through the tiny door. It has become increasingly smaller as the centuries go by, and various conquerors have their way with the church. But, we're told, it's the oldest church in Israel, thanks to one mosaic which depicts the Wise Men as Persians and when the Persians came to destroy the church in the 7th century, they saw the mosaic and out of respect, spared the church. 



We make our way down to the cave below. The manger was not a shed, but a cave, why we will learn later in the day. It's a small room, about 12 by 8 feet, with a 14 point star revealing the original floor. 




Worn smooth by countless fingers touching it, the spot of stone is to some the exact birthplace of Christ. But our guide warns us that it could have been anywhere in this cave. A small Catholic service is going on in a tiny alcove, but with a our whispers, we don't seem to disturb them. We learn that the manger Jesus slept in was made of stone, too. Wood is too precious in this dry country. 
One of our group asks about the Tomb of the Holy Innocent, and it turns out that our guide is a friend of the current caretaker and she arranges for a rare and privileged visit. Even she has not had a visit to this heart-rending area of the church.


We're told that when the church was built in the 4th century, the Empress Helen, the mother of Constantine, heard that the locals said there should be a tomb for the first martyrs for Christ -- the young boys killed by Herod. So she ordered that the bones be gathered up along with their mothers' bones (for most were killed to defending their babies and I am sure there were some fathers in there, too) and a special tomb was created for them. It was found recently, and the some of the bones remain on display. I won't post a photo, but the exact number of boys runs between 20-60, not in the thousands as tradition has stated. It's sad to stand down there and look upon those tiny bones, and the ossuaries that hold the rest of them. 
Oddly, it's not until I am on the plane home that I realize that this very tomb, with all these tiny bones and markers and archeological evidence is proof of Jesus's earthly existence. It is still sad as I think on that place. I hadn't considered these boys to be the first martyrs, but they are.



Outside, we return to our bus and go to the Shepherd's Field. It's a small valley nearly completely surrounded by Bethlehem. The Bedouin still raise sheep there and there, in a cave, we learn some extraordinary things about the 23th Psalm.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Holy Land Day 9 Part 3

This is one of our busiest days to date, but there is so much to see.




After lunch we wind our way out of the Jewish quarter, passing a huge menorah, built for the next temple and set on display in full view of the Temple Mount. We pass beggars, most Orthodox Jews, who offer prayers for a price. We've only learned a smattering of this sect's life. There are many groups of them, each defining themselves by their hat style, and devoting their lives to the study of the Scripture. Most don't work, or else their wives do, and live on the charity of other Jews. They were long coats, beards and curly sideburns and huge black hats. Our first night in this city, two Orthodox young men helped us find our way to the City Wall, and I know from previous experience they are pleasant to speak with, although I noticed one turn his head away from looking at a woman. Their women cover their hair, either with a wig, as the older women do, or by scarves as the younger women do.
We pass the menorah, and walk down to the Wailing Wall. It's segregated, and I weave through the throng of Jewish women toward the wall. I look up.




Among the few plants growing from the cracks, I see doves. Tradition says that when there are doves on the wall, God is there. I tear off a piece of paper and write a prayer on it, then roll it and squeeze it into on of the cracks.
Jews do not turn their backs on the wall, instead backing away from it. I didn't know what they were doing at first.
I discover that the men must cover their heads. White yarmulkes are free and Allan took one, although a baseball cap is acceptable. 
The washroom behind us are brand new. They are right beside the entrance to the tunnels. Recently discovered, they are tunnels and cisterns and incomplete work that date back to Herod the Great. Jews come here for a quiet place to pray, although the fans run constantly, moving the hot moist air around. 
Rafe answers some questions from the group. What do the Muslims think of this? They are afraid that the Jews will tunnel in under the Dome of the Rock. No, most Jews don't want Dome of the Rock destroyed. In Jewish culture, killing is wrong. The Zealots at Masada felt they had no choice. Trying to win back the Temple Mount would cost too many lives. 








We continue down the tunnels to the very end, where we see how instead of dragging big rocks in, they dressed the bedrock to look like stonework. The area is incomplete here, perhaps because the workers had just learned of Herod's death and didn't expect his son to continue with the work. In the dark, it's hard to get a decent photo.
We head afterward to the Antonio Fortress, where Jesus was flogged. It's from there we begin along the Via Dolorosa that is through the Muslim quarter. 




It's disappointing. Shop owners call out to you in this narrow street, barely wide enough to keep two abreast. A few of the (now) 14 stations of the cross. You press through the crowd, clinging to a loved one, stop at each station and move on. One of us comments that it's almost like when Jesus cleared the temple, and how disappointing this Way of Sorrows is now. 




Finally we enter the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. A massive building with various denominations squabbling. There is little evidence left, as the tomb was removed in the 4th century and the altar covers much of a rock said to be the place on which Jesus was crucified. The line to kneel and pray is long, with may pilgrims going in alone and staying there for several long minutes. But the people are patient. Our group bypasses it and moves on to the shrine where the tomb was. Again, another long line, It's a noisy place, with chanting, and incense and the glintings from a thousand oil lamps. I cannot find any resemblance to a tomb here and escape outside.
We have a short time to shop amidst the tiny shops and stands. Rafe has given us some code words to tell us which shops are safe and which aren't. I won't reveal them here. It's the only way he can do his job and tour guide and still protect both the vendors and the guests. Again, that delicate balance.




I bought a pomegranate juice, freshly squeezed, along with a few small gifts.
At supper, we're given Pilgrim Certificates, a nice touch. Tomorrow, our last day here, we're off to Palestine again. But this time, to Bethlehem!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Holy Land Day 9 Part 2

One woman in our group has lost her iphone, and has gone with Rafe to the police. Although she didn't get it back, we have to credit the police for taking the matter seriously. They had security footage checked (to no avail) and then returned to the Garden of Gethsemane. We can see them checking young men's pockets and patting them down, but we knew it was gone. The hawkers swarm you and press into you, making it easy to pick your pocket. A group of us prayed for her. How very stressful. I know I would have been a basket case.
We walked to Dominus Flavit, stopping at a Jewish cemetery along the way. We can see Jerusalem clearly, and we have a professional group shot done, like what we had in Petra. At Dominus Flavit, the Church of the Lord's Tears, we learn that it was at this point Jesus cried for the city. 



Indeed, the altar doesn't face east, but rather west, toward the famous view of Jerusalem. Soon, he would enter the Golden Gate ahead of us, and we learn that Jews believe the Messiah will go through that gate when He comes. It was because of that reason that the Muslims walled up the gate to stop Him. 



And then they built a cemetery in front of it, believing that a Jewish Messiah would not defile himself by going through a cemetery. One person in our group pointed out that if the Muslims don't believe in the Messiah, why try to stop Him? Someone else pointed out that Jesus has already conquered the grave, so a cemetery won't stop him, either. The constant push and pull here becomes evident.
We then walked the way Jesus walked as he came down from the Mount of Olives, until we met our bus. It's off to Caiaphas's house. It's outside the old city nowadays, as the walls have changed. It's close to the City of David. 
It's a surprisingly peaceful place, considering how Caiaphas had wanted to kill Jesus. Archeological evidence has found proof that this is where Jesus spent his last night in the pit beneath the house. We listen to a Scripture reading as we stand shoulder to shoulder in the pit. Afterward, we see the door to the church here, The Church of St Peter in Gallicantu. 



Rafe explains that Gallicantu means 'Cock-crow' in Latin and the impressive bas-relief doors show Jesus warning Peter of his betrayal. 
Beside the church, excavations have unearthed the original steps that lead to the inner city. 


Steps Jesus would have taken after being hauled out of the pit.
Suddenly, there is a lunchtime call to prayer from the minarets. Rafe says they have been getting louder lately and I can see how clearly everyone around here walks on eggshells. Peace is a delicate balance here, like standing on a seesaw. 
We stop at the Zion Gate after this, finding it riddled with bullet holes in the war  in 1948, when the city was destroyed. Rafe buys us Jerusalem bagels to try. They are long, like a race track, and you rip them apart and sprinkle an herb mix called Zatar. It's salty, but delicious.

Rafe says only two kinds of people like destruction here -- builders, and archeologists. The builders are in demand, and the archeologists are allowed to excavate only when a building has been demolished. And they found the original wall from the 8th century BC. It's an important find.
We have lunch in the Jewish Quarter, a new, clean, lively place, filled with Orthodox Jews and women pushing carriages. It's like a small town. I marvel at how exciting it would be to live in this old city.
I look down at my camera. There's only space for 100 photos, and my battery has died. 
And still so much to see.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Holy Land Day 9 Part 1

Today, we headed into the city through the Dung Gate. Charming name, but it's the gate closest to our entrance to the Temple Mount. 



Security is tighter than ever. We stood in a line facing two entrances, seemingly defunct now, and await our turn through the metal detector. 



To our right, we can see the remnants of the old wall, the cornerstone, and the excavations going on. Ahead, a group of young Jewish men are trying to gain access to the Temple Mount, but the police are refusing them. One calls out that one of them is getting married today and wants to see the Temple Mount first. 
We're finally allowed through, and it's up another ramp. To our left, we see the Wailing Wall. 



It's smaller than I thought, though I did know it was divided by sexes. As we pass into the Temple Mount, several ladies in our group are stopped. Their skinny pants are too tight: they must cover their hips with their scarves. We were told previously no hard copies of Scriptures are allowed here so we are glad we aren't stopped for that, also.





To our right are the remains of the Second Temple columns and capitals and cornices.
Photos are taken, but one couple are caught touching each other, and the photo is deleted. He didn't catch the others who had just done the same. But we aren't here to mock their rules, and no one touches another for the rest of the time there. It's bright and clean here, with a good view. And it's so very big! There aren't a lot of people here, but we see those young Jewish men have been allowed to visit.
All of a sudden we hear a woman calling out in Arabic, "God is great!' She yells it over and over and we learn that such people are hired to call out these words, and this woman is directing it to the young Jewish men, who, by now, have made it to the northern end. Harassment of Jews here is commonplace.
I took a photo of Allan at the exact centre of the Temple Mount. 



Inside the Dome of the Rock is the stone on which Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Jewish tradition reports that the world started on this spot. We are not allowed into the shrine, of course. 



Rafe tells us that the writings on its outer walls are a warning to Christians about believing in Jesus. I can't help but wonder why the inscription is in Arabic only, when Christians of the period when this shrine was built more likely spoke Greek or Latin. 
We keep moving, noting the Antonia Fortress, Pilate's home, off to our left.
We exit through the Lion's Gate and head up to the Garden of Gethsemane. 



It's split into two gardens now, and we are given access to the quiet part, thanks to a Franciscan monk who unlocks the gate. We appreciate it, as the hawkers are thicker than ever before, calling out to you, stepping into your personal space, and in one instance, covering the head of a woman in our group with a keffiyeh, a common tactic used in pickpocketing. 




In the solitude of the Garden, James reads from the Scriptures, and we're given a moment of quiet contemplation for which we all feel grateful. Allan and I find a quiet corner to read more:
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”  He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.  Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!

We recall from the Nazareth Village, the three presses that olives get, each harder than the last, and see the correlation to Jesus.  
We leave and walk across the narrow street to the other garden. There is a tree there that is 2,000 years old, and also a church there, The Church of All Nations. 





Inside, one woman in our group speaks quietly with me, but speaking is forbidden. At the altar is a large stone, said to have been the one on which Jesus prayed. Several Chinese tourists beside me begin to talk, and they are shushed again by that monk who shushed us. 
After we left, we were besieged by hawkers again, and Allan barters with them for the purchase of two coin sets. I bartered with one man to buy two embroidered purses. 
We soon learn the cost of coming to this Holy Site, but I will explain that tomorrow.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Holy Land Day 8 Part 2

As our bus draws near, Masada appears more like a rough edge at the stop of a plateau, than a massive fortress built by a paranoid king.





We decide to eat lunch first, and Allan and I head to the McDonalds down below. There are other restaurants, but many in our group have had plenty of felafels and pita bread. I choose McRoyal burgers with a cold drink. You may think we're crazy, but it was fun, a Kosher burger. The chain of restaurants is world wide and subject to local customs. As per the dietary laws, no cheese (no milk products at all) are served with meat.
We view the scale model, and some men opt to climb the hairpin trails up to the top. The rest of us, the not quite insane ones, take the cable car.




The views are stunning, and we can see the Dead Sea, Jordan, the salt flats, the canal that feeds them, and even Jericho. Down the north end of the mountain is Herod's northern palace, a place that caught the cooler north winds, perfect for a hot day. Herod had this fortress built because he believed people were trying to kill him. (probably a distinct possibility.)



Rafe walks us around, explaining it and how the Zealots took over it until the Romans finally captured it in 73 AD, only to find that the Zealots had committed suicide rather than be taken as slaves. We can see the ramp they built, and their encampments around the besieged fortress.



We stop and watch a group of young orthodox men sing and dance in prayer. It's so different than anything done in our church. How refreshing to express your faith in this way.


So high up on a barren plateau, and there is still life, as Tristram's Starlings cheekily wait for handouts.
On our way down, some of us have asked to visit a typical grocery store to purchase some things outside of the tourist traps. Our driver takes us to one in Jerusalem, and two couples opt to find a laundromat.



I bought some wine and dates, and snapped a photo of a Chinese Crested dog, shivering in its coat as it waited for its owner outside the grocery store.
Rafe tells us to dress modestly tomorrow. Yes, we are finally going to the Temple Mount!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Holy Land Day 8 Part 1

Last night, I left you expecting that we would see the Old City. I was hoping too. We do have a schedule, but it's loose and flexible and this morning, we are on our way to Masada, via Ein Gedi and Qumran. Still, the trip is not without a glimpse at the Old City as we spied the Dome of the Rock, brilliant and glinting in the early morning sun off to the right of the bus.
We stop for a photo op at Sea Level, and some opt for a camel ride there at that rest stop. 



Then it's on again. We're headed back down to the Dead Sea, and we learn that when the British were here in 1917, they marked the water's height with two black lines, still seen high above the road. 
Since then, its level has dropped a metre a year, and there is still 250 metres to go below the surface of the Sea. We are now 400 metres below sea level and the sea is well below us as we drive along its western shore.
Israel harvest millions of metric tonnes of minerals from the Dead Sea, and yet, it is always replenishing itself, they say. But I am not sure if they can continue with everyone drawing upon the water from the Jordan. Already, we're told, the lower end of the Sea is now a salt flat, and water is channeled into it. 




Qumran was home to the Essenes, a strict sect who, like Jesus, were critical of the Pharisees and Sadducees and who escaped to the hills to study the Scriptures and live communal lives. It's interesting to note that the Essenes hid the Scriptures (what we now know as the Dead Sea Scrolls) the year that the Romans destroyed the Second Temple, thus eliminating Israeli as a country. The scrolls were not found until Israel became a country again, in 1947. They contain fragments of all books in the Old Testament with the exception of Esther.





The community had plenty of ritual baths and cisterns and most would be filled with captured rain water tearing down the mountain gullies during the winter. Rafe asks us how the Essenes kept their cistern water fresh, a question that has us stumped. No plants were used, no stirring, nothing but this one thing kept hundreds of litres fresh.
We also learn that on 9th of the 11th month 70 AD, 9-11, Israel fell to the Romans. Rafe tells us that there are other examples of this set of numbers used in Israel's history, but we have arrived at Qumran, and it's off to explore the site. I'm still amazed at the number of caves in this country. I'm sure there could be one for each person living here.
Our next stop before Masada, is Ein Gedi. It's a park that includes hiking trails leading up the mountain, and we learn that here, in one of the many caves that dot the hillside, 




 Then Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and went to seek David and his men in front of the Rocks of the Wild Goats. He came to the sheepfolds on the way, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the inner recesses of the cave. The men of David said to him, "Behold, this is the day of which the LORD said to you, 'Behold; I am about to give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you.'" Then David arose and cut off the edge of Saul's robe secretly.… 1 Sam 24:3
David spared the life of his king. After Saul left the cave, David emerged from it and called to him, dangling the hem of his cloak. This allowed Saul to realize that David was not his enemy. 
I look around at the caves as we climb to David's Falls. Everything is so beautiful, and when I turn around, I can see the expanse of the Dead Sea behind me. 



Up high on the cliffs, sure-footed goats bound in and out of the caves, oblivious to the smaller hyrex shuffling around them, and I can see why it's called the Rocks of the Wild Goats.




At David's Falls, we stop and I gratefully peel off my shoes to cool my feet. It's very hot. Many of us are still firing answers at Rafe to this question on keeping the water fresh. Finally, one of our group gets the answer right. Charcoal. A piece of charcoal was dropped into each of the cisterns. 
Of course! Oh, well, now we know. Slipping back into my shoes, I prepare for the long hike back down. Everyone is doing so well, even those with previous injuries, and healing bones. It's a good feeling.
Now it's on to Masada, Herod's mountain fortress, where at the bottom, an interesting restaurant awaits.