Sunday, March 11, 2018

Music by a waterfall, and surprises.

Our trip may sound like a whirlwind tour, but we don’t feel rushed. Our guide, whose steps are measured in deference to those with less mobility, is informative and while he keeps telling us that he wants us to know so much, he adds that it's hard to decide what not to tell us. 
Someone revealed that he teaches comparative religions at a university. As if to confirm that, Yossi often says, "Listen up! This will be on the final exam." 
Apparently, that is guide-speak for "Pay attention! This is important."
I look around the bus in front of me. (remember, I'm in the back seat) Everyone is relaxed and the wifi on the bus allows us to reassure families back home that we are still alive and safe. Am I the only one who paid attention?

En Gedi appears ahead, nestled in an oasis that is itself nestled along the eastern edge of the Judean Hills. It’s in a region called Tamar, which means date palm and the oasis has her share. No sooner are we on the trail that leads through the nature park that once hid David from King Saul, do we spy ibex, a type of goat with curved horns. 

Ibex at En Gedi

They aren't bothered by us walking by. 
Yossi had wanted us here early so we could see them. Too many tourists and they flee and sure enough, on the way back, after the crowds had thickened, we no longer see them.
We stop at a crown of thorns tree, most likely the type of tree used to make Christ’s mock crown before He carried His cross to Calvary. The thorns are well hidden among the innocuous looking leaves.

The Crown of Thorns Tree

After a short walk to the first waterfall, we're treated to another piece of flute-playing. Yossi’s music floats around us as we stand beside a small waterfall, looking up at tan coloured cliffs that shelter us. 

Music where King David walked.

As he tucks away his flute, Yossi then speculates about the cave behind the falls. Was it where Saul retreated to relieve himself, or perhaps did he just wash his feet as some suggest? 
Is it where David cut off the hem of his sovereign’s robe? Surely so, for the caves that dot the cliff walls are too high for a king to climb just to relieve himself.  

The caves of En Gedi

We return and visit the Ahava cosmetics company run by the kibbutz nearby, but I find the products expensive. I jokingly tell my husband I've saved him $800. Then I buy some flavoured salts.
More excitingly, after settling on the bus on our way to Qumran, I answer a pop quiz correctly and win a tube of Ahava hand cream. A nice bonus to a pleasant walk.

It’s not a long bus ride, but at Qumran we stop for lunch. I bought a falafel for $9, only to discover it was filled with cucumber. I must be the only person in the Mediterranean who dislikes both olives and cucumbers. I trade with my husband for his bread and cheese and decide then to forgo the local fast food.
At Qumran, we learn a few things about our guide. He has at least two archeology degrees and with conviction tells us that this is probably not the site where the now-famous Essenes lived. They would have chosen a plateau, and lived humbly. 

Caves at Qumran

This site is far too extravagant, and not where the Dead Sea scrolls were found, but thankfully, no less worthy of study. Interesting and a contradiction from our previous tour guide, but how can I not believe an archeologist? And how else is our new guide going to surprise us?
Perturbed, I return to the bus, but my discomfiture is soon forgotten as my last question is answered. 
Our guide announces that we are about to break the law.

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