Masada and the Dead Sea

Masada and the Dead Sea

January 13th, 2012

Our day began early.  Waking up in a Bedouin tent at 4:15 AM is always a strange thing.  I was well bundled up, but still pretty cold.  I reached over, put on my glasses, and laid back to think about the day ahead.

Fifteen minutes passed and suddenly a Bedouin came, turned on the lights, and opened up the tent.  Apparently he had the wrong tent as it was only 4:30 AM and our wake up time was 5 AM.  Sas was pissed and yelled at the guy to turn off the lights.  The Bedouin left, the lights were out and I jumped up, closed back the tent and did the most awkward version of a barrel roll under and back into the tent.  I may be one of the most awkward human beings to walk the earth.

5 AM came and the tent slowly started to wake up.  I made a quick run to the bathroom and grabbed some of the hot tea and a biscuit (like a cookie, not like the southern ones) that had been prepared for us.  I took a look into the mirror at my unshaven face.  I was starting to get a little scraggly, but shaving with the razor I had wouldn’t have felt so nice and I had already made a commitment with myself to not shave until my return.

I returned to the tent and packed the remainder of my things that had been on the mat I slept on into my backpack and started to walk back to the bus to my nice comfortable spot in the back.  Before long Megan joined me and to no surprise to me asked how long the ride would be because she wanted to take a nap.

The ride to where we would be climbing Masada from was pretty close by and only took about five or ten minutes of winding roads to get to.  We were all exhausted as we got out of the bus with cameras in hand and looked around for where we would be climbing.

It was finally time to start climbing as we headed towards the steep hill that is Masada.  Now, for those of you who have never climbed Masada, it isn’t like hey, I’m going to go rock climbing up Masada, it’s like incredibly steep hiking with beautiful views.

On the way up, I stayed towards the back, as I always prefer.  Jayme ended up becoming my walking buddy, because her knees were bothering her.  Every so often, Sean would appear near us jogging in place.  His jogging in place made me think he was doing aerobics or something when in reality he was just trying to stay warm.

The climb up took a while, but once we finally reached the top, it was well worth it.  Sas and a beautiful sunrise greeted us at the top.  The view of the sunrise over the Dead Sea made me glad that digital cameras are around, because I would have wasted several rolls of film trying to get the right shot.  If you look at my photos from the trip on Facebook, you’ll see the awesome picture I got of Sas and Michael Tal.

After taking all of the pictures that people seem to take when they climb Masada, we climbed down into an old part of the water system that had been on Masada so that Nadav could talk to us about the significance of Masada and we’d quit complaining about the cold.

Nadav reminded us that Masada was the last stand of the Jews against the Romans.  Rather than submit to certain slavery to the Romans and have to give up their customs, the Jews on Masada committed suicide.  I can’t imagine the situation they were in and I can’t imagine being one of the people on Masada or even one of the Romans who found them.

While we were there, we also looked at some of the areas that Herod the Great had fortified.  I feel like this entry in some ways serves as a really short history lesson, but so be it.  Herod was appointed by the Romans to rule over the area since he was a Jew.  Herod has to be one of the craziest people I’ve ever heard of ruling anywhere.  One of his last wishes was to have several people killed on the same day as him to make sure that he would be remember.


A Model of what Herod's Fortress likely looked like

The climb down Masada was actually far more intense than the climb up.  On the way down it is less steep, but takes far longer.  Most of the walk down has handrails that you can hold on to, but in places where they didn’t have them, it was a little bit scary.  The Argentineans from the day before were all cool and walking really quickly past me as if certain death was waiting for them if they tumbled down the hill.

After climbing down, we were all hungry.  We had breakfast not to far away and despite the food looking kind of iffy, we all ate a pretty good bit of it.  On the way out, I realized that we were eating on a reserve.  The main give away that it was a reserve was probably the goat that was trying to sit on a Jeep.  I guess I can’t use “Never have I ever seen a goat climbing onto a Jeep” when I play never have I ever…

Before heading into the Dead Sea to go for a swim we made a stop at the Ahava Factory Store. Ahava is the company you probably see at mall kiosks selling Dead Sea skin products.  Given that I don’t use a lot of products, I walked through for a second and then sat outside waiting for the rest of the group to be done.

It was finally time to go in the Dead Sea….or was it?  Nadav got onto the microphone on the bus and let us know that the other group was told that they weren’t allowed in the water because it was too rough.  We were all pretty upset about that, but didn’t let it ruin out time there.

When we got off the bus, I grabbed my backpack and it started to drizzle.  It was raining a little bit on my parade, but I figured things could get worse.  Mark convinced me that I should change into a swimsuit so that I could put some mud on.  I agreed and walked down towards the water.

After standing there for a minute or two, the ended up “letting” some of us in the water and I got to float in the Dead Sea.  It is one of the strangest feelings in the world.  I thought I was going to fall, but instead, I just sort of floated on my back.  I must have had a cut somewhere, because it burnt pretty badly.  After a little bit of that and Megan randomly smearing mud on me that disappeared into the hair on my arms, I went up to change.

Up at the bathroom I wanted to shower and did a little bit, but was a little bit thrown off by the fact that the shower stalls lacked curtains, needless to say it was a very short shower.  I changed into my jeans I had been wearing before, which now felt like they had a giant layer of salt on them.  While I put my socks on, some of the other guys joined me.

After getting dress, the group went to go have lunch up by the store that was by the bathrooms.  They had sandwiches wrapped in plastic with Hebrew writing on them.  I had to ask what was what, because I don’t speak nor read Hebrew.  I ended up with a Cheese sandwich, which was pretty good.  I pulled the tomatoes off and fed them to a nearby cat.  I didn’t think cats ate tomatoes, but apparently this one did.

Midway through lunch, the rain picked up, but it slowed down by the time we got on the bus.  We had a long bus ride back to the original hotel.

On the way back, we stopped to pick up the person who would be leading the service that night since it was shabbot.  When she got on the bus, she introduced herself and said she was from Athens, GA and had been in NFTY-SAR, which I got excited about and embarrassed myself and everyone sitting near me by cheering for.

A real shower, dinner and services ended the day.  Not a bad Friday, not bad at all.

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