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Sunday, April 30, 2017

DAY 10 - Masada & The Dead Sea

Going UP UP UP and DOWN DOWN DOWN!!

Bedouins are a subgroup within the Arab minority in the State of Israel, with cultural, historical, social and political uniqueness. The Bedouin population is comprised of approximately 140,000 in the Negev and 70,000 in northern and central Israel, making up about 4% of the Israeli population. Their total fertility rate is about 6% per year and is one of the highest in the world. Men can have 4 wives, so they have LOTS of children!  Most are Muslims.

As we drove, you could find many Bedouin settlements alongside the road.




Half of the Bedouins live in the Negev desert in unrecognized villages, which lack basic services such as clean water, electricity or sanitation.  

 

 Most of the children in these villages study outside their place of residence and their dropout rates are high, among various reasons due to lack of access and public transportation to their schools. Their are high rates of unemployment, poverty, and crime.
The dry desert of the nomadic group - Jericho is just down the road, but we won't have the chance to stop.  I sang "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho" for fun! .....and the walls came tumbling down!


Driving in the Judean desert - I don't know how the travelers in the Bible did it!


 Catching a glimpse of a camel alongside the road - trying to get a good photo.  They are such amazing creatures!
There is an average of 6" annual rain fall per year, however.

We did see a few palm tree plantations.

We saw a few caves along the way....the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in one of 11 caves in the Qumran Mountains.  More on that later!
Could it be this one?
 Our 1st glimpse of the Dead Sea....so exciting!  Between Israel and Jordan, the salt lake is located on the lowest point of Earth's surface. Its basin lies some 1,300 feet (400 meters) below sea level, making it the lowest body of water in the world.
The Dead Sea is losing 4 feet of water annually!  NOT GOOD!

Tal, our guide, tells us to start looking for IBEX - a kind-of goat.
Ein Gedi is a community that is a river nature reserve.
AAH HA!  Here is the infamous Ibex!
A desert-dwelling goat that is dwindling in population.

MASADA - aerial view


The fortress at Masada was built by King Herod, conquered by a group of Jewish zealots, and was besieged by the Romans soon after. Rather than be captured, the zealots decided to commit suicide, and their story of heroism and courage is recounted to this day.

 We're traveling up the mountain on a tram.  We are at the front of the car, so we have the best view.
Mother-daughter have come together with Globus Tours.
UP UP UP in a flash for an amazing scenic view of the valley below.
Note the squares which were the Roman camps of long ago.
 Masada is one of Israel’s most popular, iconic and impressive sites, and one which has a great story.  The fortress of Masada has been referred to as the place where David rested, after he "fled from his father-in-law, King Saul".
  We took the easy way up, but we could have walked it for 60-90 minutes. The Masada Snake Path is one of the most iconic hikes in Israel. Starting from the base of Masada, the Snake Path winds its way up approximately 400 meters from the lowest place on earth, the Dead Sea, to the peak where archaeological remains tell a story of heroism and endurance, and magnificent views across the Dead Sea and the Moab Mountains of Jordan on the other side.


The siege of Masada was one of the final events in the 1st Jewish-Roman War, occurring from 73 to 74 AD on this large hill top. The siege was chronicled by Flavius Josephus, a Jewish rebel leader captured by the Romans, in whose service he became a historian. According to Josephus, the long siege by the troops of the Roman Empire led to the mass suicide of the Jewish rebels and families of the Masada fortress. Masada has become a controversial event in Jewish history, with some regarding it as a place of reverence, commemorating fallen ancestors and their heroic struggle against oppression, and others regarding it as a warning against extremism and the refusal to compromise.

View of the Dead Sea from the top of Masada.


 Nearly 1,000 Jewish people (men, women, and children) lived here for three years while the Roman army built a ramp to come up the steep hillside.
Note the ramp of dirt coming up to the top
Note the airplane flying right at our level.

Gary - this is for you....you were excited that I was coming here!

One of the Romans encampment sites nearly 1,000 years ago.



The Roman legion surrounded Masada and built a wall, before beginning construction of a siege ramp against the western face of the plateau, moving thousands of tons of stones and beaten earth to do so.  Jewish slaves and relatives of the people at Masada helped for three years. 

When the Romans entered the fortress, however, they found it to be "a citadel of death."

Jewish Mosaic Art from the Herodian period



Our tour group looking at the Bath House










Sure - that would have been fun taking a bath.



Food was found in edible condition as they dehydrated.  Date seeds were germinated and new trees were grown.  INCREDIBLE!  Also, a large storage of water was found.

Note the little "irrigation" indentation where the water would be piped into the bath house.
Beautiful flower designs by the Bath House

Here are  the 10 "Lots" that were discovered.  They were used the last night for the men to draw to see which ones would have the "luck" of the draw to be the slayers.

Cousin John and I have a reflective moment up here on Masada.



These birds had the most beautiful musical song!








An amazing ancient ruin of the Synagogue....one of the oldest on Earth.















Time to take another excursion and check out the Qumran Caves!

Remains dating back to the Iron Age have been uncovered at Qumran as well as walls, pottery and a cistern from later settlements. Even all those years ago fresh water was an issue in this dry environment, and aqueduct systems were added to bring fresh water to the city from the greener regions of the north.

We find some more Ibex animals

Can't wait to get to the Dead Sea to swim!
 Here we are at Qumran Caves and some more ruins

Ritual Bath



Remains dating back to the Iron Age have been uncovered at Qumran as well as walls, pottery and a cistern from later settlements. Even all those years ago fresh water was an issue in this dry environment, and aqueduct systems were added to bring fresh water to the city from the greener regions of the north.

From information found in the Dead Sea Scrolls scholars have managed to get a clear picture of the community’s way of life and beliefs. It is thought that about 200 people once lived here.

In 1947 local Bedouins discovered a clay jar containing 7 scrolls in a cave about 1.5km from Qumran. The ancient scrolls were sold to antique dealers and after changing hands several times they reached scholars who could accurately evaluate the age and value of the parchments. Further exploration uncovered a total of 972 texts including the oldest known existing copy of the Old Testament.

I've always wanted to know more about the Dead Sea Scrolls!




 Time to finally meet the Dead Sea in person!
Others have the same idea

These rocks are slippery, John!  Hold on - better yet, let's get you a chair to sit in!

OK - time to help cousin John before I dive in!

Kristina and I are searching for some black mud!
"Come over here!  We'll help you get some!"
 Over to these cute little girls who know where to collect it.  They put some in my hand and I'm ready to grease up myself and John.  The mud has many minerals in it and is great for the skin.

They are a great help, along with their mother!



He wants it everywhere, but his face...well maybe not EVERYWHERE!!






This is pretty fun alright!

Into the Sea Kristina and I go, along with some others from our tour.  Another guy got some cool photos of us doing synchronized swimming.  We could actually float - 
WAY FUN!


FIRST - the legs!

NEXT - the arms and face!

...and VOILA - I'm ready to soak!



After we got back to the hotel, we all went out for the evening to a Farewell Dinner - half of our group is going home and the other half will be going into Jordan tomorrow.

A great restaurant in a Monastery.






Beautiful decor inside

Hummus spreads and Baba Ganosh and more for spreading on Pita-type bread

SO GOOD!!!

Main Entree - grilled chicken & steak kabobs with french fries AND rice
 Good-bye Friends!  I hope we meet again one day.  I'll see some of you tomorrow...meanwhile, safe journeys!









 



They wanted me to have a photo in the middle of them....aren't they cute!

I will REALLY miss my new Australian friends - I hope to see you in Australia some day!

The hotel was crowded with Jewish Easter celebrations.  Love this cute family!

Candles galore!  I walked around to discover some of their celebration tables.

In this room, they had a velvet table with some sort of ceremonial happenings


Could this be a Jewish Bible - a Torah?