This is the final post in a series about our trip to Israel and Jordan, where we’ve been focusing particularly on the history and biblical relevance to areas we visited. At the end of our trip, over the course of about two days, we immersed ourselves in Jerusalem’s Old City, visited the Temple Mount, and spent some time exploring the fortress of Masada, ancient oasis of En Gedi, and the Dead Sea.
If you missed the other posts in the series, here are the links. I’d definitely recommend starting with the maps and introduction post, which gives some helpful context to the geography, history, and politics of the region.
- Introduction: Geography, Culture, & Background (start here!)
- Northern Israel: the Galilee area, Tel-Megiddo, & Akko
- Tel Aviv and Old Jaffa, Be’er Sheva, and the Negev Desert
- Petra and Wadi Rum, Jordan
After spending two days in the fascinating modern-day country of Jordan (historically Moab, Ammon, and Edom in the bible), our friends picked us up at the border in Eilat, and we drove toward Jerusalem.
Drive from Eilat to Jerusalem
We took a different route coming back from Eilat than we’d taken from Tel Aviv down there a few days earlier. Instead, we came up along the coast of the Dead Sea.
As we drove toward Jerusalem, we could see the Qumran Caves in the distance, with their distinctive striations, points, and cave holes. The caves are famous for being where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Specifically, thousands of fragments of the Old Testament scrolls dating back to between about the 1st-2nd century BCE through the first century AD.
You can visit some of the Qumran Caves but we didn’t have time for stops on this particular drive.
I won’t even attempt to thoroughly explain the West Bank, because I’m not remotely equipped to do so. It is an important thing to know about if you’re traveling in Israel, however. It encompasses a large swath of modern-day Israel that is hotly contested by Palestinian Arabs, who claim it should be theirs as part of a Palestinian nation state.
Towns such as Bethlehem (where Jesus Christ was born) and Jericho (thought to be the oldest city in the world) are here, as well as Hebron, where tradition says Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah are buried. As such, it’s a popular place to visit despite some of the complexities.
When you are driving through Israel, you will encounter various checkpoints. We didn’t have any issues getting through, but if you’re visiting certain areas it’s recommended to go with a day tour or you can use public transportation and then hire a Palestinian taxi driver to take you around. The Gaza Strip, however, is basically considered off-limits (to the point that the U.S. government explicitly says they will not help you if you’re dumb enough to go on your own).
Most of the time when we were within the West Bank, I didn’t even know it. However, as we approached Jerusalem and then from certain viewpoints in Jerusalem, you could see it a bit more clearly. There is a wall at certain points that delineates.
Jerusalem in the Bible
Because Jerusalem is obviously present throughout most of the bible, we’ll have to approach this section a little differently than in the previous articles, since we could list scriptures for days. Instead, we’ll cover the highlights of specific sites in Jerusalem in the bible or history.
One of the first things we did upon arriving in Jerusalem was visit the Israel Museum, because we arrived on their Independence Day and museum entrance was free. While I’m not a big museum person, this may be one of the best in the world (from a historical standpoint).
One of the things you can see there are fragments of the actual Dead Sea Scrolls (which were discovered in the Qumrum Caves above). These are housed in the Shrine of the Book, a beautiful white dome meant to look like the clay jars the scrolls were discovered in.