Continuing with Day 7 of excerpts from my February 2000 Jubilee year Holy Land pilgrimage journal.
Day 7 – Monday, 2/21/2000 – Bethany/Masada/Qumran/Dead Sea
We begin with a visit to Bethany, the hometown of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. We celebrate Mass at St. Lazarus’ church and descend into a cave to visit his tomb. I never realized how close it is to the Mount of Olives and Jerusalem. Jesus would often visit here with friends before going to the Temple via the Mount of Olives and Eastern (Golden) Gate. Later at Masada, I am amazed to find myself standing on one of Herod’s palace terraces with an awesome view of the Dead Sea. After a thorough walking exercise at Masada and Qumran, we end the day with a “spa” experience in the Dead Sea.
How timely that I have reached Lazarus’ tomb in my journey. The Gospel reading for the 5th Sunday of Lentis the story of Lazarus. Our parish mission was this week and it was led by Sr. Clare Fitzgerald, SSND. On Wednesday night, she talked about Lazarus and how he was “dead on arrival.” She said the raising of Lazarus was dress rehearsal for Holy Week — a teaching moment for the disciples. Jesus needed them to learn that a tomb could be empty. During our visit to Lazarus’ tomb, we wound down tiny stone steps — some iron steps — the best I remember — an iron railing for hand support. This was not for the claustrophobic. Nearby, there was shopping market. It was here that I bought a carry on suitcase to handle the overflow of souvenirs. I still have that suitcase. I have no recollection of handling two suitcases in the airport. That is probably a good thing.
Masada and Qumran were interesting visits. We rode a cable car to the top of Masada. We walked through the ruins of Herod’s palace. At the “Exotic Dead Sea Beach” — yes, the sign really said that — I changed into a swim suit and braved the salty water. A speck got in my eye that is very fierce pain. I declined the mud bath.
Below is a photo of the beach area.