We are on our way to the lowest point on Earth. 1300 feet below sea level lies the Dead Sea. One of the reasons it is called the Dead Sea is because it is a dead end. The only way water escapes is through evaporation. The other reason it is called the Dead Sea is because nothing can live in its salty waters. It is made of 33% minerals. The four main minerals in the Dead Sea are: potassium, magnesium, bromide, and ______.1
Ami told us that a swim in the Dead Sea will help for many illnesses. If you are healthy, a swim in the Dead Sea puts five years on your life. Another puts 10 years. One more and you may lose your pension.
We can see the mountains of Moab across the Dead Sea. (These mountains are in Jordan).
Before we swim in the Dead Sea we are going to visit the mountain fortress of Masada. King Herod built Masada as a summer palace and a place of refuge in the unlikely event of a revolt. He died in the year 6AD and never had to use Masada as a fortress.
In the year 70AD, 968 Jews escaped the Romans in Jerusalem and found refuge in Masada. They remained there for several years while an army of 10 000 Romans and 10 000 of their Jewish slaves attacked them. The siege was not an easy one (to say the least). Masada only had entrance before the Romans arrived; the snake path. When Roman soldiers would try to climb up the path, the defenders would roll huge boulders down on them. Finally the Romans realized that they would never make it up the snake path, so they had their Jewish slaves build a giant dirt ramp up to it. The 968 Jews defending Masada realized that when the ramp was finished they would have a life of slavery. All 968 killed themselves (except for three people, who lived to tell the story).
I ran down the snake path, and you could tell that it wouldn’t be an easy siege.
Our next stop was swimming at the Dead Sea. Ami told us that the water would probably be very cold, but as it turned out, the water wasn’t that bad. It was so awesome to be able to float with your hands and legs out of the water. The next place we visited was the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were hidden when the Roman Army of 10 000 were seen approaching a small city. This was the same army that was headed toward Mt. Mesada.
The scrolls were found almost 2000 years later in 1947.
A sheep was separated from its flock, hiding in a cave. The shepherd through rocks into the cave to try and scare the sheep out. When he heard the sound of broken pottery he investigated and found probably the most important find of the 20th century—the Dead Sea Scrolls.
After supper Dave called a wood-carver “friend” of his named Omar. Omar is an Arab and an “entrepreneur”. Entrepreneur is Dave’s friendly way of warning us that he is a scan-artist. Well maybe scam-artist is a bit strong but he just wanted us to maybe take whatever Omar said with some reservations.
Omar and his two brother’s drove up to the hotel and this being Friday evening (the Jewish Sabbath) the hotel security was not happy.
Dave came and straightened everything out, but the security personnel were still mad.
When we arrived at Omar’s shop there were a lot of different wooden carvings filling the shelves.
Omar seemed very friendly assuring everyone that the carvings in the store were all carved out of high quality dry olive wood. He said that all the wood was dried for at least seven years before he carved it. He also said that he did most of the carvings himself and that he did all the important features, like the faces, himself. I asked him if he had any blocks of olive wood to sell but he said no, which raised my suspicions. Why wouldn’t he have olive wood in the back of his shop if he actually did all the carvings himself. I asked him what kinds of tools he used for carving and he didn’t seem like he wanted to talk about it at all. He answers quickly, “I use diamond tipped cutting tool.” And that was all I could get out of him. Later I talked to Dave about the guy and Dave explained that Omar couldn’t carve anything if his life depended on it. However, some of the carvings truly were beautiful. He had statues of Jesus, Moroni, Lehi, Mormon, the Liahona, Joseph Smith, Joseph and Hyrum, and a lion with a lamb, the BYU cougar, and many more.2
1. This was left blank because I couldn’t keep up with the tour guide. Looking this up in 2019 I found that the forth element is sodium chloride. Israeli companies generate around US$3 billion annually from the sale of Dead Sea minerals (primarily potash and bromine), and from other products that are derived from Dead Sea Minerals.
2. Before we went to Omar’s, Dave told us that it was probably a good idea not to buy anything tonight, but that we would come back next week. Well, I don’t know what happened but in the excitement I think I was one of the few people who didn’t buy that night. Oh well.