Israel: Desert – Mountain – Sea

The Negev, Mount Masada, & the Dead Sea.

***

January 24, 2014

It’s been two days since arriving in Israel and it is very…barren. Of course, that is expected as the first stop of our 10-day trip was the Negev Desert. This morning, we hiked to the top of Masada, a mythical mountain (which looked like a plateau at the top) very significant to Israel’s history. It was pretty dark when we first woke up at 4:30 a.m.; the moon outside was a telling sign that we should still be in bed. There was no way our trip leaders were going to allow any of us to surrender to  jet-lag.

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After the sun rose, we sleepily listened to the tale of Mount Masada while sitting on said mountain. According to legend, the area was ruled and built by Harod the Great, who created extravagant palaces, pools, saunas and social rooms for himself and his followers. As the Roman-Judean leader, he hadn’t decisively declared his allegiance to Israel or to the Roman Empire. After he was killed, the land was inhabited by the Judeans, which the Romans were not so happy about. This naturally lead to a war, the First Jewish-Roman War to be exact. After three years of living and seeking refuge on Masada, the Romans finally devised a plan of attack and were ready to take back the land they claimed to be theirs, which would have enabled them to force the Jews into slavery. However, the Jews would not stand for it. In solidarity to each other and to the land of ancient day Israel, over 900 soldiers committed suicide atop the mountain, showing that the land was and would always be theirs.

It’s crazy to think about whether or not this story was actually true. Our tour guide said that it is a myth and that we can believe what we want. True or not, I thought it was a compelling and romantic tale of unity, even though the ending was wrought with tragedy.

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Following that heavy tale, we descended the mountain via the Snake Path and ate some Israeli breakfast consisting of a selection of freshly baked pita, tomato and cucumber salad, hummus, boiled eggs, creamy plain yogurt, cottage cheese, and instant coffee. I love the fact that Israelis eat so many vegetables, especially so early in the morning.

A fresh start to the day.

A fresh start to the day.

Post brunch, we drove about 10 minutes down to the Dead Sea. It’s crazy how salty the water is! I made sure not to shave as we were advised before entering the water. But I noticed that even the slightest irritation was exacerbated by the saltiness of the water. I bought a new pair of hiking boots prior to leaving this trip and the back of my ankles started to burn the instant I entered the sea. Earlier, I hadn’t even noticed that my skin was irritated. But salt is supposedly good for healing wounds. Or maybe that’s just another ancient myth.

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Floating in the water was really freaky. I’ve never been great at floating on my back, but here, it was as if there was an invisible floatie underneath me the entire time. I was barely in three feet of water and I could stay above the water as if I were in the deep end of a pool. Crazy/ weird/ cool experience.

Dead Sea Yoga

Dead Sea Yoga

After this trip is over, my plans are pretty open and I haven’t quite figured out what I want to do. Maybe I’ll travel, maybe I’ll work, maybe this, maybe that. But it’s Shabbat tonight, which means I’m supposed to relax and not think about anything…

So goodnight, and Shabbat Shalom! 😉

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