We have spent several days in and around Jerusalem, the starting place of the Book of Mormon. Today, finally, it was time to pick up Lehi’s trail and depart south, as they did. We said goodbye to our hotel and the panoramic view of the Old City and drove by Lehi St. to symbolically mark the start of our journey.
Three possible routes have been proposed for Lehi’s exodus from Jerusalem: one may have seen the group travel east to Jericho and cross into present-day Jordan before going south. This is almost certainly not the way they travelled since Jordan was enemy-controlled territory at the time. The other path would have seen them travel nearly directly south from Jerusalem before turning eastward to the Red Sea. This is a possibility. The third option, and the one favored by Warren Aston and Dr. Jeff Chadwick, is that Lehi and his family departed south through Jerusalem and started turning eastward to reach the oasis of Ein Gedi. Here they would have been able to find food and replenish their water supplies. From there, they travelled almost exactly south, parallel to the Dead Sea before coming to the Red Sea and crossing into present day Jordan and Saudi Arabia (where the Valley of Lemuel is today).
We made quick stops in Bethany to see Mary and Martha’s home and the tomb and Lazarus, their brother. We also stopped for one final panorama of Jericho with the ruins of Herod’s palace in the foreground. Our highlights today included a stop at Qumran to appreciate the terrain and caves in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Of course, our afternoon spent floating in the Dead Sea was also incredibly unique. The floor of the Sea was so slippery trying to wade out into the water that most of us ended up laying down in just a few inches of water and slowly crawling our way out. It is a strange sensation to be floating so easily. The water is so salty that just a drop or two in your eyes or nose can be unbearable (some people in the group learned this the hard way), and when you try to stand upright in the water you feet are constantly being pushed up from beneath you.
In the late afternoon we drove by Ein Gedi (almost certainly a place where Nephi and his family passed by) and made our way down to the base of Masada for the evening—ready for a very early start the next morning.
|The Valley of the Shadow of Death|
|Qumran - the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in these caves|
|The Dead Sea|
|We begin to trace Lehi's trail|