Israel Tour, Day 8: Arad, Masada, and “Do not lick the Dead Sea”

May 10

We started the day with a walk around tel Tamar.  We stayed at this site for two nights so we have had the opportunity to walk around the tel already.  I started the group out at the front of the tel and explained that this site is unique since there are a number of occupation levels exposed.  There is evidence of a middle bronze Canaanite village, although this has yet to be fully excavated.  there is a ninth century Israelite town with small Solomonic gates, as mentioned in First Kings. The town was controlled by Edomites in the sixth century b.c. and by the Nabateans in the first century b.c.  There is a major Roman presence in the first through third centuries a.d., including a bathhouse and tax collection booths.  The top of the tel has an Ottoman water system and a house from the British mandate, as well as an Israeli bomb shelter.  This is all within a relatively small sized archaeological park.

After our Tamar tour, we drove from Tamar to Tel Arad.

Kaliegh, as “water”

I personally love visiting tel Arad since it is an excellent archaeological site, covering both Canaanite and Israelite levels.  Maybe more important, it is rarely visited by Christian tours.  I have rarely encountered anyone else at the site.  It is nice to have the run of a major dig like tel Arad for and hour and a half.

There were several improvements to the site since my last visit. They have reconstructed a Canaanite house completely with a roof for shade.  This gives a nice feel of the size of a fairly wealthy Canaanite. I noticed that there is some on going work on the south side of the tel, and there is a major excavation under the Holy of Holies in the Israelite temple.  I would love to know if anything has been discovered in this work, it looks to me as if they are trying to dig under the existing temple without disturbing the Israelite level.

After Arad, we made the long drive back to the Dead Sea for a visit to Masada.  This is always a highlight, not only for the spectacular architecture of the site, but also for the fantastic view of the Dead Sea.  We have a fairly clear day so we could see across the Sea to the mountains of Moab.  Last trip there was so much haze you could not even see the Dead Sea.  We thought that the gondola was only available until four pm, since it is a holiday in Israel today, so we had to rush a bit.  As it turned out we did have until five, but I wanted to get us to the Dead Sea for a float.  Several of our group walked down the Snake Path this time.  

Our driver suggested a different location for floating in the Dead Sea, as it turns out it was exactly the same place we went last year. The name was different, and there were many more people there.  It was still less crowded that the beach at En-Boqeq.  Most everybody swam for at least an hour Shelby, Jessica, and Kayleigh went way in the Sea, thoroughly enjoying the float.  Despite my advice, several of the kids “tasted” the water, which is a huge mistake.

After a great dinner of spaghetti and meatballs at Tamar, Kate showed us her art.  She has an excellent selection of prints of watercolors she has done, many of them are scenes from around Tamar although she has done some nice scenes from Jerusalem as well.  She has some jewelry made from shell casings collected from the area, either necklaces or earrings.  I bought a print of tel Tamar and Amy bought a smaller print of the well at the top of the tel.  I will have the framed and display them in my office.

It was a beautiful, cool night in the desert, at least one card game has broken out, Scott Shaw and Josh Tweist are teaching our driver Tae Kwan Do, probably revolutionizing the Middle East peace process.

Tomorrow is our big archaeological day, starting at eight in the morning. We are all looking forward to learning how archaeologists do their job, sifting a bit of dirt and maybe discovering a new Dead Sea scroll or something.

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