From Jerusalem to Masada to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth (geologically speaking).
Driving down from Jerusalem toward the Judean desert we pass again through the checkpoints at the West Bank. We go through without stopping. Kind of interesting, the state of security in Israel these days. Since the beginning of the “Arab Spring” Israel’s been able to catch it’s breath and relax, just a bit. All the “neighbors” are too occupied with each other to turn their eyes toward Israel. All are hoping the results of “spring” will result to a blooming, not a scything of all that’s growing.
Past an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Our guide believes the settlement issue will be the smallest cog in the negotiating issues. Compromise can be made by annexing land to the Palestinians in exchange for most of the settlements. (His opinion). Other issues will be much more difficult, as we know. Interesting note: All newly-built Israeli housing must contain at least one room that is completely reinforced with concrete and rebar as a “safe room”. Could we live like that?
Yet date palm groves thrive and several oases bloom from the occasional runoff from the bordering mountain ridges. We also stop at the Ahava (Hebrew word for Love) factory. The only company licensed to mine the Dead Sea for minerals and plants to produce cosmetics. Some of you have used them for sure. We bought a few, probably for more than you can get on sale at Marshall’s.
We pass Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered (hidden in caves in the side of the mountain in clay jars) so the Romans would not find them (almost too successfully). We’ll see them in the Israel Museum tomorrow. And, we get our first sight of Masada looming off to our right.
We take the cable car to the plateau (yes, I’m sure you hiked up Jessica…we just didn’t have the time). The feeling is erie, putting yourself in the sandals of the Zealots and the decision they had to make. Lots of King Herod’s fortress still remains.
Looking down to the remains of the Roman camp below the ramp they built to breach the top. You can see the two walls, the inner camp where they laid in wait, and the useless fence they built to say to the Zealots they were no longer able to escape.
Back down and a short trip to fully experience the thick waters of the Dead Sea – nearly 1,400 feet below sea level. The mineral saturated water is thick and almost greasy. Sinking is impossible. Such a strange sensation, especially for someone who ordinarily can’t float without churning his hands and legs. Even floating vertically is possible with a little maneuvering. Some people required help getting their feet down to stand back up. Any cuts or scrapes burn like hell.