Day 2: A Walk through the Wilderness. With G-d.
by Alexandra Rutkowski
If you’re going to read any part of this post… just read the last paragraph. It explains the title of this post.
I can’t think of anything more beautiful to wake up to then a window view of the Judean Desert. (So far at least.) We must have spent a good half hour out there just admiring it. I’m telling you, being completely surrounded by this land really just makes you appreciate G-d’s artistic talent. We started off the day with offering up worship to G-d and spending time with Him. Dan shared what was on his heart about this being the time of G-d’s mercy towards Israel. He took us through the biblical prophecies that have been fulfilled, and those that are yet to come to pass. What stuck out most of all to me was how he showed how Paul was the perfect example of a New Testament voice of how we should treat the Jewish people. In Romans, he refers to the unbelieving Jews as “beloved enemies.” We are to affirm what G-d has done physically and confess what He will do spiritually.
First stop, En Geidi. This is where David fled from Saul with his 600 loyal companions. He hid in a cave in this mountain where he eventually spared Saul’s life, taking a corner of his robe instead. This is where David penned Psalm 57, a call to God for help and a praise offering. Once I learned this, it has a special significance to me. This psalm is among my most loved and its words are close to my heart. The words ‘My heart is steadfast, O G-d, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music, awake my soul!’ have been imprinted on my heart.
At En Gedi, we hiked up the mountain and took a brief pit stop at one of its natural springs, where most of the students jumped in and relaxed under a waterfall. The water there is so pure that its bottled right there. Cleopatra took control of the area for a while because she was completely in love with the perfume made from its tree sap. Afterwards, Herod, I believe, reclaimed it for the Roman Empire. Anyway, it was just an incredible experience altogether to just to be able to see the area in which David stayed. We also were shown the exact spot where the encounter is traditionally believed to have taken place.
I’ve been picking up rocks and pebbles from each location we go to… I just had no idea it would weigh down the backpack so much! Someone asked, “What’s this filled with?? Rocks!?” Just thought I’d throw that in. I’m going to have a checked baggage with about 50 pounds of rocks when I’m done.
Qumran. Sound familiar? Think Dead Sea Scrolls. This is where the Essenes dwelled and wrote them before being chased out by the Romans in AD 70 (I only knew that because I remember that Adventures in Odyssey episode growing up as a kid). I’ve always dreamed of Qumran, so walking around it was absolutely breathtaking, as was seeing one of the parchments, separated only by glass.
Dead Sea. Oh yes. We covered ourselves completely in the mud from the bottom of the sea and boy did it sting that poison ivy. But wow, was it relaxing. After our full-body mud masks, we floated in the water. Floated. It was insane. Just being able to spread out your arms and legs and just lay on the surface. After the sea, we bathed in a HOT sulfur pool and cooled off in any icy and much-appreciated freshwater pool. Checking back now, it looks like that water really helped in healing the poison ivy. It’s incredible! There’s an expression here in Israel that “the Dead Sea is dying.” Each year, the water recedes three feet because the factories are draining the water to a place where the 30% mineral composition can be separated from the water through evaporation (it’s too easy normally). Did you know that the Dead Sea is owned by two brothers? They can do absolutely anything they want with it, and right now own the factories that make all the skincare products. Crazy, huh? (By the way, we also stopped in the factory.)
(Right now, it’s around 3 in the morning. Our Masada hike starts at 4 am… yes, in one hour. God worked wonders tonight. I think that’s a perfectly good reason to stay up.)
Alright, here’s where things get even more amazing. It’s 8:30 PM, pitch black outside and we leave as a group from the hostile down into the Judean Desert. We all are stumbling over rocks on a narrow path between large formations on each side, four hundred feet below sea level. This is where so many prophets wandered, calling out to the Lord. This is where they fasted and prayed. This is where we walked. I looked up and wished that I could walk this path on my own, without distractions, and spend time with G-d. After a long hike through this canyon path, we reached a spot high up where we sat down and praised G-d. We sang praises to Him and prayed. I lay back on the dry ground and just stayed there in silence. The only thing that could be heard was the wind and the only thing seen was the faint silhouette of the formations around us. Finally, this was my time alone, in silence with G-d. Looking up at His marvelous creation, a tear traveling down my face. But it didn’t end there. We each were each given an opportunity to walk back the path alone. So, it was just me and G-d, walking through the wilderness. At first, I didn’t have any words to say at all. So I praised Him, and the words that kept coming were the very words penned by David in En Gedi. That time was so precious, I didn’t want it to end. I couldn’t see where I was going, by myself, one wrong turn and I’d end up somewhere I would not want to be. But I was with my Daddy. And listening to His still small voice is what I had to do. It was simple. Just walking with Him, and praising Him. Talking with Him. Nothing going on around me made perfect sense, but it didn’t have to be. This is where the prophets cried out to Him. I felt unworthy. So incredibly unworthy. A painful hunger for a deeper closeness with G-d took over. A desperation. I asked G-d, I asked Him, that tonight would be the beginning to something even more beautiful with Him.
And when I got back to my room, that’s exactly what He did.