The Seventh Day – Qumeran (Dead Sea)

Israel is such a tiny country that you can drive along and see the landscape change from one hill to the next. In no time at all (not more than half an hour), we were driving along the shore of the Dead Sea towards Qumeran.

Map - Qumeran

There was a short movie which I quite enjoyed about live at the Qumran community (called “Yachad” which just means “Community”). But the museum bit was a little bit of a let-down. I think if you’re going to visit Qumeran, you should go to Qumeran first and then the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum after that. There were facsimiles of the jars and pots and some of the scrolls in the museum at Qumeran, made to look new [except for the scroll], but… you know, I’ve already seen the real thing.

What I much enjoyed more, however, was looking around the ruins. The Shrine of the Book sort of implied that the Qumeran community lived in caves, which isn’t true.

04 - Panorama Ruins

03 - Ruins

01 - Aquaduct



05 - Cistern

water cistern


02 - Mikveh

mikveh. There were about four of these

I can’t describe the landscape in this area. I haven’t seen anything like it. The hills are sort of pale reddish-brown, with great chasms and cliffs.

09 - Panorama

06 - Crevice


We saw the cave the scrolls were found in.

07 - Cave

08 - Me

Just as the place was getting busy outside, we went inside to eat lunch in a massive cafeteria.

It cost me 57 shekels for lunch, which was schnitzel pita, soup, and a drink. Oddly, the chips were put inside the pita, along with cucumber, tomato, and lettuce.

10 - Lunch

The cafeteria was quiet when we ate, but quickly got busy – as did the shop.

11 - Akubra Tree

More Australian things.

12 - Made in Australia


The Seventh Day – Good Samaritan Museum (Samaria)

Our first stop of the day was just a little bit along Route 1 towards Jericho.

Map - Samaritan

It’s the site of a church the Crusaders built, on what may or may not have been a guesthouse some centuries prior. Now, the Good Samaritan is a parable, so it’s up to you to decide whether you think it really happened or not (probably not, or at least not exactly). But the Crusaders were zealous but a little bit ignorant. That’s why “David’s Tower” in Jerusalem is nowhere near where David’s palace was, because the Crusaders arrived, saw the biggest tower by the wall, and decided that must be David’s palace. It’s actually a minaret.

Anyway, we went into a cave to watch a silent movie of the parable made about a century ago.

01 - Cave Movie

The museum is primarily of artefacts (mostly mosaics) from synagogues and churches in hard-to-protect places, such as Jericho or the Gaza strip.

[insert mosaics here]

07 - Rollers

rollers for pressing the mosaics flat


There was also a baptismal font from Gerazim.

03 - Baptismal Font from Gerizim

And a display about modern Samaritans.

04 - Modern Samaritans

There are a couple of villages of them, mostly in the hills of Samaria, but less than a thousand all up. They speak Aramaic and either Hebrew or Arabic (depending on where they live), but usually both, and they use their own writing system, the Samaritan alphabet, which is derived from an older form of the Hebrew alphabet. They have only the Pentateuch as scripture, and they consider Mount Gerazim, not Mount Moriah, the mountain that God chose.

Inside the building, I could hear the Pathetique Sonata. I finally worked out where it was coming from – a television showing how mosaics are preserved. They roll some sort of sticky backing out on top so they can transport them like carpets, and then mount them at the final destination.

05 - Television

Outside were the remains of the Crusader church, rebuilt slightly and used sometimes for services.

06 - Church Remains

The internet here is not the greatest, so anything further might have to wait until I get to the airport or even home, since I do need time to eat and pack.

The Seventh Day – Shabbat Morning (Jerusalem)

I am at the lowest place on earth and it is so cool.

But more on that later. I started off today in Jerusalem.

01 - Sunrise

The streets were practically deserted, but there were a lot of men in prayer shawls, and other people out and about walking – many presumably to a synagogue.

02 - Man 1

02 - Man 2

We quickly heading out of Jerusalem, through the checkpoint, and into Bedouin-by-the-road country.

03 - Bedouin Settlement

… including a stretch of road which seems to double as a market.

04 - Bedouin Market

04 - Pots for Sale

Once again, lots of building work in Israel.

03 - Development Coming

I’m going to stop here for now, before we get to the first site of the day. But rest assured, I did more today. But it’s late and I’m tired, and since we’re not leaving until 10:30 tomorrow, I’ll post the rest in the morning – so you’ll find out why I started posting later in the evening… tomorrow.

The Sixth Day – Shabbat (Jerusalem)

Dinner was packed. There’s one main dining room, a secondary one and an overflow. All three were full. Because this hotel is about 500 metres from the Great Synagogue, a lot of people stay here over the weekend if they’ve been invited to a wedding or a bar mitzvah or something there. So I was hearing more Hebrew tonight than other nights; we’re still the only Gentiles here, as far as I can see, but the Jews aren’t all American Jews anymore.

Yuval’s wife had organised something, so he had to go home. I was keen on doing kiddush, because I so enjoyed it last week, but no-one else seemed to be. There was challah and sweet grape juice on each table, so a few of us tried to remember how to do it, partially by watching the other tables. We think we got all the actions (pouring “wine”, sprinkling bread with salt, eating it), but we didn’t recite anything other than the bit I remembered, “Barukh attah Adonai, eloheinu, melekh ha-olam” (blessed are you, Lord, our God, king of the universe).

Because of seeing all the religious Jews around us – of all different types, from “probably is only wearing a kippah because it’s Sabbath and he’s in Jerusalem” to “all black, long black coat, big fluffy black thing on his hat, curled sidelocks and tzitzit hanging from his shirt” – conversation naturally turned to Talmud, Pharisees, the Law, Jesus, and just how Jewish were the disciples after Jesus’ death anyway?

(My answer – they never stopped being Jews and probably kept up most of the observance of the Law after his death, although I wouldn’t think they’d have still made sacrifices – historically, Christianity was seen as a sect of Judaism for quite a while in the early days, and certainly they’d have eaten kosher, because remember how appalled Peter was at the idea of eating non-kosher animals? Yes, I know the New Testament addresses eating whatever you will, but that was addressed to Gentiles and I see no reason to think that the Disciples, being Jews, wouldn’t have still been religious Jews).

But my views on a lot of these topics are, as I’ve mentioned, a little different to what some of the others here might think. The lady sitting opposite me got stuck into me about “putting myself under the law when I don’t have to”. Actually, I don’t think she realised when she started talking smack about that sort of thing that I don’t eat pork and that I view Saturday as the Sabbath / Holy Day.

We were talking a bit about the difference between what Jews today practice and what’s actually in the Torah – because the Torah and the Talmud are pretty different, after all. And I said that a friend of mine doesn’t eat pork or shellfish, but has no problem with eating milk and meat together because the practice of having them separate was developed in the Talmud from a short line in the Torah about boiling kids in their mothers’ milk.

And she said, “You know, I’ve never understood people who put themselves under Law when they don’t have to. Jesus freed us from the Law.”

“I don’t see that He did. After all, we’re Gentiles; we were never under the Law in the first place. Messianic Jews, on the other hand, that’s a whole different kettle of fish for them and they’ve got to work that out themselves; but for me, Jesus never freed me from the Law because I was never under it in the first place.”

“Well, I don’t want to get into that. Jesus did away with the law; Peter was told that he could eat anything he wanted. We don’t have to be under it any more.”

“Jesus came to fulfil the law, not to abolish it.” I’m not even going to mention that the dream was sort of more about allowing Gentiles into the fold of Christianity than it was ever about what people were allowed to eat.

“I just don’t understand why anyone would decide to set rules when they don’t have to. If you don’t eat pork, or do the Shabbat lift, or…”

“I don’t eat pork!”

“But that’s your choice.”

“Well, it is…” Truth is, I don’t it pork because I can’t stand the taste of it. But I have this theory that God has been leading me in various directions subconsciously, ages before I realise it consciously. I had a tendency towards bandannas long before I understood headcovering as a Biblical command. I’ve never liked shellfish or pork.

“You don’t do it for any religious reason.”


“Eating pork or not eating pork is just being legalistic.”

“It could also be polite. We’re told not to eat certain things if it might cause a brother or sister to stumble. I go to a church with lots of ex-Adventists and some Messianic Jews. It wouldn’t do to eat pork or shellfish around them because it would be something really quite awful for them.”

“You can’t worry about offending everyone.” That much is obvious in the way you’re approaching this conversation. “Years ago, people would be offending by wearing jeans to church. That was awful for them. Or kicking a ball on Sunday. That’s just legalism.”

Banging my head against a brick wall. Let’s just wind up the conversation.

“Look, I go to a church where we worship on Saturday. We have debates all the time about what to do, what not to do. But if someone starts saying, ‘You can’t travel on Sabbath, you can’t work or shop on Sabbath, you shouldn’t do this or that on Sabbath’, then the others cry ‘Legalism!’. They say, ‘We worship on Saturday because it’s the day God sanctified. So we set it aside to worship God. We’re not under the Mosaic law, so we don’t worry about whether we work or not, as long as what we’re doing is to the glory of God’. But then here, you know, at church, whether to work or travel or shop is legalism. Here, people have Shabbat lift and Shabbat lights and that really is legalism.”

“Yes, I agree.”

“Well, I think it’s about time for dessert.”

For all that can be said about kashrut, and how it’s from the Talmud and not the Torah, I really do love kosher dinners. There’s something delightfully freeing about being able to walk into a buffet and know that you can eat everything there. I’m hating breakfasts, because there’s usually only one or two things that I can actually eat. Breakfasts are cheleviy – milky. Dinners are basariy – meaty. Chommus is pareveh – harmless.

But I was quite upset by the whole conversation. I haven’t really conveyed it well here, or written everything down. Both our points of view are founded in Scripture, so I can’t refute her references, but rather provide different ones of my own. The trouble with taking the minority opinion on things is that you’ve got to be content with just representing your opinion to the best of your ability, and then taking all the flack of others saying you’re wrong without having the space to say the same of them.

But what I really found hard to digest about the whole thing was that this woman goes to one of the most legalistic churches in Adelaide. Oh, I know it’s a bit more liberal now, but I know people who went to this church at its height, twenty years ago (and I know for a fact that she was at that church back then, and I’m pretty sure she was raised in it, too), and in those days, there were church rules against drinking and dancing and all sorts – what Biblical basis is there for that?

Oh, sure, I understand the no-drinking thing. Staying sober and having self-control certainly is a command we’re given in the New Testament. But to use Ribena for communion? That’s not Biblical. People in the Bible drink wine. And need I mention Miriam and her dancing?

So it’s all right for this woman to be legalistic about what she wants – legalistic about things which don’t really have a Biblical foundation – but it’s not okay for me to say I don’t want to eat pork, or blood, or shellfish, or that really, given the option, I’d rather go to church and pray on Saturday rather than go out sightseeing and potentially spend money on non-God-glorifying things as well?

I can see her point about how Christians aren’t really beholden to kashrut, or can eat whatever meat we want, or don’t have to worry about pressing a button on a lift on the Sabbath. But it just seems to me that what she’s saying and what she’s doing are two completely different things. And that’s what’s really getting to me. Because she’s judging me for what I do and for me being too legalistic – but last week when we had actual wine for the kiddush, I sipped it and she went off to find the non-alcoholic alternative.


The Sixth Day – Bet Guvrin (Judaea)

At the end of the Elah Valley is the Bet Guvrin National Park.

Map - Bet Guvrin

01 - Mascot

this is the mascot of the national parks in Israel


The area has lots of limestone in the ground, but some harder rock I didn’t catch the name of on top. This means it’s just perfect for manmade caves.

02 - Up

halfway down, looking back

03 - Down

halfway down, looking forward

My foot really isn’t like steps. Or bending, really, which is necessary for steps (the things you don’t realise until it hurts). So I only went far enough to see into the cave.

04 - Pigeon Hall

Can you believe it’s all hand-carved and all original, several thousand years old?

People used to live down here and breed pigeons down here.

05 - Pigeonholes

Pigeonholes. Real pigeonholes, not metaphorical ones for books.

There were two other holes the others went down, but I refrained. I realised about this time that I was overdue for painkillers.

07 - Lime Factory

Yuval said this one was a lime factory. They quarried the limestone, and then either carved it into bricks or smashed it up to make lime to paint with.

08 - Hole in the Ground

I’m not sure what this hole in the ground was. Probably residential or something, given that it came out at the other end somewhere near the bus; Yuval warned that there would be a lot of steps, so I walked back towards the bus overland.

06 - Rock

These rocks were places every hundred metres or so between the caves.

09 - Limestone

A limestone step with modern carvings.

10 - Beware the Holes

A cautionary sign at the entrance to the footpath. Apparently some people who have “gone exploring” in the past have fallen into holes and only been discovered years later as skeletons. I don’t know how true that is, but it’s a chilling thought, that one might fall into a hole and die there, days or weeks later, from dehydration or starvation, with no-one knowing where you are.

The Sixth Day – The Elah Valley (Judaea)

After Herodion, we headed south-west, passing through the Elah valley.

Map - Elah Valley

We went through twice – on the way there and on the way back – so I’ve included here photos from both trips.

01 - Rachel's Tomb.jpg

how eerie. but I begin to suspect there’s been another, slightly more famous Rachel in this area

02 - Valley

I don’t know what this valley’s called

04 - Mountain Farming

Yuval calls this “mountain farming”. Essentially, it’s building an orchard on terraces.

05 - Elah Valley

the Elah Valley

06 - Hitch-Hiker

a random hitch-hiker. he appears also to have a swag

07 - Well

A well of the sort one reads about in the stories of Moses and Rebekah (except without the metal grille in those stories). There’s a lot of limestone in this area, which is very soft – notice the grooves on the edge which have been formed by rope rubbing there.

08 - Servo

We stopped at a service station for lunch. The food was sub-par by comparison to previous days.

09 - Lunch

This is the first… ah, disgusting?… food I’ve had in Israel. Although the “fruit water” was all right.

10 - Unwrapped

I concede it doesn’t look too bad. You can’t see the inside, though. Ah, well, it cost me 27 shekels 70 (almost exactly $10).

I did see this interesting packaging from someone else, though.

11 - Doritos

The service station was right at the head of Elah Valley.

12 - Me at Elah Junction

On the hill to my left (on the right) are the ruins of Azekah; the battle between David and Goliath happened somewhere between Azekah and Socho.