Finding healing in the hot springs of Israel


The First Reading for the Twenty first Sunday after Pentecost (2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c) reminds me of the hot springs of Israel whose combination of chemical properties  and heat heal various skin diseases. Most people have heard of the Dead Sea – in the Jordan Valley – as a tourist attraction where each year, thousands travel in search of healing.

Hamat Gader on the Southern Golan Heights is probably the most famous hot spring in Israel and it is only a short distance from Damascus. The Gospels mention the Decapolis (Matthew 4:25; Mark 5:20) or the ten Greek cities, one of which was Gadara. The Tenth Legion of the Roman Empire built the bathhouse there and ruins from the second century are still there today.

On the western shores of the Sea of Galilee are Tiberias Hot Springs which have been known from Talmudic times to have healing properties. Then there is Ein Gedi, just a short distance west of the Dead Sea.

In 2 Kings 2:19-22, Elisha purified the salt water of Jericho which also lies in the Jordan Valley, and we are told, “the water has been wholesome to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke”.Drinking from that spring was one of the memorable experiences in Jericho.

Biblical stories like these take on a live and vivid meaning when one experiences life in the land of the hot springs – the Land of the Bible.