Monday, March 14, 2016

WOW! Masada!

TODAY'S PHOTO ALBUM: Israel - Dead Sea - Day 2

What a fabulous day. And to think it started out not so great. The alarm went off at 4:15. One look out the window and we could tell immediately that there was no way we were going to see the sunrise. Lots of clouds and there was even a forecast of showers. Turned off the alarm and went back to bed.

It was about 9:30 when we finally got our stuff together and left the hotel. It was still cloudy and the wind was howling.  We decided to go regardless of the weather - this was our one shot at seeing this incredible place. Arrived at Masada and wussed out of hiking up and bought a round trip cable car ticket. Didn't want to take any more chances with falling off a ledge or something. We only have one week to go! Besides the wind was blowing so hard, I was afraid of getting hit by a rock. As it turned out we met a woman who did get hit in the head - pretty nasty. You know that would have been me!

Got our tickets, but before you get on the cable car to go up the mountain, we watched a 7 minute film telling the story of Masada:
Masada (מצדה metzadá "fortress") is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel situated on top of an isolated rock plateau, akin to a mesa, on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea.
Herod the Great built palaces for himself on the mountain and fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. According to Josephus, the Siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire towards the end of the First Jewish–Roman War ended in the mass suicide of 960 people – the Sicarii rebels and their families hiding there.
Boarded the cable car and up we went. It was still cloudy and hazy but the views from the top were amazing. It was incredible actually being here and standing where so much history took place. We saw where they discovered the "lots" -- small stones with names written on them:
Because Judaism prohibits suicide, Josephus reported that the defenders had drawn lots and killed each other in turn, down to the last man, who would be the only one to actually take his own life. Josephus says that Eleazar ordered his men
to destroy everything except the foodstuffs to show that the defenders retained the ability to live, and so had chosen death over slavery. However, archaeological excavations have shown that storerooms which contained their provisions were also burnt, though whether this was by Romans, by Jews, or natural fire spreading is unclear.
And I was most interested in seeing the Dovecots having read  "The Dovekeepers" by Alice Hoffman years ago. The columbarium or Dovecot - there are several versions of what this columbarium was used for.
The consensus though is that they were used to raise doves or pigeons. The name columbarium comes from the Latin columba meaning dove. Doves/pigeons were used as a source of food and for sacrifice. My mother tells how in Israel in the 1950s when food was scarce and rationed, our neighbor kept pigeons and I was fed pigeon as a baby. The excrement makes excellent fertilizer for growing vegetables. The birds could be used for communication as they would fly back to their home.
Had yet another look at the bath house and steam room and the ever important, cistern and water pipe systems. The North Palace or Harod's Palace was something to see - not to mention the stairway down to it!

We walked around for about two hours. There were a few groups, but it wasn't crowded at all. Ran into a guy from Wood's Hole, MA. We had spotted him walking up the Snake Path when we rode up - he was the only guy on the trail. Told him it was good to see he made it and we started a conversation. Small world.

The skies got brighter and the wind eventually blew most of the clouds away. It turned into a picture perfect day. In fact, some of the pictures of the Dead Sea and desert look like paintings -- truly remarkable. So glad we decided to make the trip. Felt slightly guilty about not hiking up, but that didn't too last long.

Cabled back down and back to the hotel. We missed the bus to the beach - which happens to be about a 5 minute walk! Packed up our beach stuff and walked down. The sand is an orange color and packed very hard. The sea was calm. This morning there were whitecaps - I never though we'd be able to go in. The wind was still blowing but not as bad. The temperature  was perfect. We walked into the sea and I was surprised that it was cool. I had always thought it would be hot - maybe in the summer. Floated around for a while before pulling up a chaise and having lunch. Took one more dip before leaving. Even with the fresh water shower, we literally looked like salt pillars.

Walked back to the hotel and dove in the pool. Lounged around till the sun went in.We took one more sauna, where we were unexpectedly entertained. There was a guy in there with an artificial leg just relaxing. He's have a good time, when these two ladies come in and start harassing him about being in the sauna too long. Not sure of the relationships - one was Israeli, the other from NY. The guy was from Brooklyn. These ladies were in and out - knocking on the window. Yelling at him that his leg was going to melt! He took it off and put it in the corner. This show went on for some time. I told him it's because they care. OK, he said, I'l go make them happy. He strapped on his leg and out he went. The women were still giving him hell as they walked away. We were in stitches!

Not sure where dinner will be tonight. They want far too much money for the buffet. Last night we had a nice meal in the hotel lounge - but you're still in the hotel. There is really not much out here. A small strip mall with lots and lots of Dead Sea Products with maybe one or two options for food.

We've had a great time here and really glad we stayed for two nights. Back on the road tomorrow.

Next time.... Jerusalem, Here We Come!

TODAY'S PHOTO ALBUM: Israel - Dead Sea - Day 2

1 comment:

  1. The siege of Masada wasa nasty one. It took the Romans 3 years and had to invent a war machine to overtake the mount. Well, you can cross off "floating in the Dead Sea" from the bucket list. Your body joints will be revitalized for Jerusalem!