The first thing we did this morning was head out to the Dead Sea for a swim. It was the COOLEST thing! Because of the high salt content, nothing can live in the water, so there are no fish, water bugs, algae, nothing. It's like a pool only it has a sandy bottom. The water was as warm as a bathtub. But the most fun thing is that everyone floats. We walked out a little way and then sat down into the water. Our legs immediately went up out of the water and you can just lay there as if you were in a pool chair. So fun! You do tend to roll to one side sometimes. At one point, I rolled and then ended up on my stomach. I could NOT right myself and started laughing and flailing around in the water like a dork. Finally I realized I could roll onto my back and then I was able to get up again.
The beach was visited by Europeans--none of whom have any qualms about donning a bikini despite weighing 400 pounds. I.kid.you.not. One bikini-wearing lady was lying on a chaise lounger and needed her husband to pull her to a sitting position because she was so huge. Then there was the old man who had already stripped off his Speedo and was sitting on his lounger completely naked. Yep. He put a new, dry Speedo on in full view of everyone. Thankfully, I was only seeing the side of him because, due to watch-the-train-wreck-syndrome, I could not seem to stop watching the spectacle.
I think I might need therapy after seeing all those obese, sagging, bikini-clad bodies. It was traumatic, I'm telling ya.
Seriously....what is up with people appearing in public like that? Ewww.... I didn't take photos--I wanted to spare you. Instead, here is photo of the gorgeous color of the Dead Sea.
One the left side of the bus we saw the mountains of the 'Wilderness'
After brunch we headed to Masada. There is an old movie about the tragic story that occurred there. It's called....dun, dun, dunnnn....'Masada.' I won't tell the story to you just in case you want to watch it. Masada, is in the middle of the wilderness. This wilderness is a mountain range that is all sand colored rock. There is nothing living there because there is very little water. Herod of Judea built Masada on top of one of those mountains as a fortress (why?). It's in the middle of nowhere! We took a cable car to the top. There were two palaces, an elaborate bathhouse, Commandant's residence, and many other buildings. We girls decided that it would have been a huge bummer to have been the wife that Herod chose to live there. There were still some mosiac patterns on the floors and walls of some of the buildings. Quite amazing. In later years, the Jewish Zealots hid there until they were attacked by the Romans. (That's my movie trailer...sorry...that's all I'm giving ya.) Looking out over the terrain, you can see the Dead Sea and also the most likely spot of Sodom and Gomorrah. They aren't sure exactly where because there is nothing left.
Panda poses in front of one of Herod's palaces
Then Panda decided to take a bath in the model of the bathhouse. Do you think he liked it?
Beautiful mosiac floor
From there, we drove to En Gedi. If you have read through I Samuel, you will recognize it as the place where David ran when he was being pursued by King Saul. When you look up into the mountains that are nothing but desolate wilderness, you cannot imagine why Saul would have even bothered to chase David there. It's really not all that far from Jerusalem--maybe 1.5-2 hours drive, but it such a difficult terrain. We hiked on a trail there where there was a spring and two waterfalls. It was thought to be a likely place for David to have lived with his men, since water is so scarce there. This is the location where King Saul went into a cave 'to relieve himself' and David sneaked up and cut off a corner of Saul's robe. We saw a lot of caves but were told that the actual cave where this story happened collapsed in an earthquake.
You can see the caves on the side of the hill. The trees were planted along the hiking trail to shade visitors.
Close-up of the smaller waterfall
Next we headed to visit Abraham and Sarah. They lived in the same general area--about 1/2 hour from En Gedi. We rode camels there and ate a fabulous meal in their tent. The camel ride was so fun! I was able to ride twice--whooo!
Shot out the bus window of the terrain
Abraham met us with a jug of water to wash our hands
Abraham and Sarah's tent
I forgot to take a photo BEFORE we scarfed all the food
Sweet new friends, Colleen and Maynard from CA
My dad was certainly enjoying his ride
We then headed toward Jerusalem. On the way, we saw this Bedouin camp.
As we neared Jerusalem, we saw the Israeli 'settelements' that we hear so much about on the news. I don't know what the word 'settlement' brings to your mind, but I think of it as some type of temporary housing, perhaps similar to the Bedouin camp pictured above. I certainly did not imagine a neighborhood much like any in the U.S., with new homes, schools, shopping, etc. Imagine the outcry here if a foreign government informed us that we needed to walk away from our homes with no reimbursement and give them to a people group who insisted it should belong to them. There has never been a Palestinian state. It's not a situation where the Jews took the land from them. It is true that the Muslims conquered the land from the Jews in 632AD and built a mosque over the site of the Jewish temple. But after that, Jerusalem was conquered by different countries like Turkey, then England and France.
I will put together the notes I took of the historical talks we heard after I check the facts to be sure they are correct. I had no idea the true history of Israel and thought it had always been only a struggle between the Jews and the Arabs.
Here is one neighborhood in the West Bank. If you double click on the photo, you will be able to see the houses better.
The bus driver started playing the song, "Jerusalem" as we neared the city. As we emerged from the tunnel, we got our first glimpse of the tiny place that has played such a huge part in world history.
As we neared our hotel, there were many Jewish families out on the street. I don't know what the occasion was but it was interesting to see them. Most had rather large families and it was striking to see all of them walking together.
We ended the evening at the hotel dessert bar. YUM!