In Masada Da Vida, Baby

Posted: December 7, 2006 in Israel, jerusalem

In the morning we walked up into the newer part of Jerusalem to catch a bus to the dead sea region. It takes about 90 minutes to get there from Jerusalem. Once out of the city you find yourself in the Judean desert surrounded by rolling hills and sand dunes. Along the road we also passed a number of shanty towns made out of wood and sheet metal. Reminded me of some of the places I’ve seen in Mexico, except for the Arab dress. A couple of times we passed hills with sheep and their shepherds. Who knew they still existed?

The Dead Sea region is reminiscent of the deserts in Arizona and northern Mexico. Very dry with large, sheer rock cliffs. The only difference is that there is a huge body of water in the middle of this desert. This is the lowest point on the earth as well. Across the sea you can see the mountains of Moab in Jordan. The water is beautiful, blue and turquoise. We drove along the side of the sea all the way to Masada.

Masada was the last Jewish holdout against the Romans in the first century AD. It’s basically a city Herod built atop a free standing plateau that would make a natural fortification. They built water cisterns and an aqueduct system along the side of the mountain, as well as storerooms for months worth of food. It finally fell when the Romans built a giant siege ramp that they ran up against teh western side of the mountain. By that time however the Jews had opted to kill themselves rather than let the Romans do it.

We acended by cable car the view going up was great, but hte view from Masada is incredible. You can see miles and miles of the Dead Sea and the Arabah Desert as well. It’s breathtaking.

We spent most of the day exploring the ruins. I particularly liked Herod’s palace looking out over the Dead Sea. It must have been amazing in it’s time. You can still see the remains of the frescoes on the walls in some of the rooms. It’s eerie, like being in a ghost town.

At teh end of the day we decided to descend via the Snake Path which zig zags down the mountain. It toook about 40 minutes to finish and you really need strong ankles for it. The path down was lined with caves and a passing American asked if we saw Bin Laden in any of them.

We caught the bus back to Jerusalem but got off at Ein Gedi to see if what we could find. All that was in the area of the highway bus stop was a hostel and Nahal David, the spring David hid from Saul in from the Old Testament. The Spring was closed to we just ended up waiting for the 4:30 bus to come. We decided to go down to see the shore of the Dead Sea. This body of water is quite interesting.

Looking closely it looks like it has some kind of oil solution mixed with it. Not only does it ripple, but underneath the surface there appears to be other ripples that distort the light, like oil in water. The water is very high in minerals being 33 percent solids and no animals can live in it. The shoreline is covered in crystallized salt, looking like a 1/4 inch thick donut glaze on everything be it rock stick or trash. After some photos we go back up to the bus stop only to find we missed our bus. That’s ok though, another comes at 5.

Around 5 the next bus barrels down the road and flys past us. We waited some more and asked a local when the next bus would be. The next was 6 and then at 8, then that’s it for the day. By now it’s dark and cold. and 6 comes and goes so we are starting to worry. We stand close to the white line on the highway making sure the next bus sees us. It’s cold and we are hungry. The only good thing was the clear night sky. Finally close to 7 another bus comes and sees us and stops. I fall asleep on the way back and wake up in Jerusalem. We grab a shwarma in the bus station and head back to the convent for some sleep. Tired but content. Tomorrow Bethlehem, in the West Bank. Should be interesting.

View today’s photos

Video Going up to Masada

Overlooking the Dead Sea at Masada

Atop Masada


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