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Desert Paths

A particularly impressive journey that one can make upon visiting Israel is to descend from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, a distance of approximately 40 kms (25 miles) and a drop of about 1250 m (4100 ft).

One always descends when leaving Jerusalem as one always ascends when arriving, even if you have journeyed from Mt. Everest! By the way, the Hebrew word for “immigration” is “aliyah” which in this context means “ascent”.

Along this route are many points of interest to be discovered not far off the “beaten-track”.
An example of such came to mind recently after reading Isaiah 27 v. 7:

“The way of the righteous is smooth and level, O Upright One, make a level path for the just and righteous.” (Amplified Bible)

When the traveler passes the mosaic museum of The Inn of the Good Samaritan one has traversed both the course of the Roman road and one of the boundary markers between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, the “Ascent of Adumim” mentioned in the Bible (Joshua 15 v. 7). Immediately after passing under a road bridge one can discern horizontal lines on the undulating hillsides on the right hand of the modern highway. These are well-worn, age-old, tracks trodden down by sheep and goats as they are led to seek pasture. If one was to observe these paths from an aerial view they would appear as curved lines following the contours of the hills. Interestingly, the Hebrew word translated into English as “path” is “ma’agal” which signifies a curved line. The well known “Shepherd” psalm (Psalm 23) has the phrase:

“He leads me in the paths (ma’agal, singular) of righteousness”.

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Sheep and goats do not participate in a summit scramble to reach their pasture but rather choose a level path to conserve energy and water consumption. The contours of these ancient level and safe paths can illustrate for us God’s grace in making “a level path for the righteous”.
These paths are more noticeable in the late winter and spring when the north-facing hill slopes are mantled in green. Please ignore the tyre marks of cross-country motorbikes to the right!

A.BH