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Israel Day 5

June 17, 2009

The long days are starting to catch up with me today.  This morning we had to get everything packed up to change hotels so we had to get up a little bit earlier.  Ahhh!  Not sure I can get up much earlier and still go to bed.  Anyway, enough of my whining.  Let’s go see more of Israel!

We started the day off with Qumran, which is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.  The area was used by a sect of Jews that were very strict and split off from everything else to live off by themselves and be closer to God.  They had tons of rules and the punishments were pretty severe.  They didn’t even allow women in their group until much later when they realized that they were gonna die out if they didn’t…um…do something.  Anyway, it was really cool to see the mountains riddled with caves all over them that all these scrolls were found in.

Up next was En Gedi.  Apparently you pronounce this in a way that sounds just like the lady that does all those pictures of the neked babies in plants or dressed up like veggies (rather weird if you ask me).  Biblically this is the place that David hid from Saul in the caves.  In one of these caves, David was hiding and Saul went in and “relieved” himself and David cut off a piece of Saul’s clothing to prove that he could have killed him if he wanted.  It was a pretty decent hike in the hot sun and a desert climate all along a stream.  So you like a good while back into this canyon (?) and pass all these people and kids to make it back to a spring that appears to be coming straight out of the rocks.  It was pretty cool.  We took some pictures and headed back out.

After a rather hot hike it was time for lunch and a swim.  Que the Dead Sea.  For those of you that have never been to the Dead Sea before (which judging from the way people talk about traveling Israel might not be very many of you…but that is a different blog post altogether), this was really cool!  The water is so salty that nothing lives in it.  There are no fish.  There is no bacteria.  Nothing.  Sweet!  They made sure to tell us not to drink it or go under water because we could easily die from doing such stuff.  So naturally that’s what I wanted to try.  I tasted some and I can attest to the fact that there is a good bit of salt in it.  I tried to go under water by bobbing up and down and I couldn’t get my head into the water.  It is crazy.  You wade into the water and then just sit back as if in a chair.  The water is so weird here and you just float.  You don’t have to do anything at all.  You just float.  That was a ton of fun!  The water was a little nasty though.  It feels really good (minus the places that have been shaved recently) on your skin, but once you get out it is rather oily all over your body and clothes.  Good times.

Now on to one of the main things I wanted to see in Israel.  Masada.  Sweet.  It is basically Israel’s Alamo.  I am gonna go out on a limb here and say that this is where the Israel special forces get there name from (Masad).  Masada is a plateau that Herod the Great built a fortress and vacation home on top of.  It has insane natural defenses.  There is only one trail up and it is very narrow and very long.  A group of Jews sought refuge here during a revolt against the Romans after Herod the Great had abandoned it.  They were basically self sufficient on top with the help of a ton of food that the former owners had stored up.  The Romans finally came to fight the Jews here in 70 A.D.  They built 8 camps around the fortress and it still took them 3 years to finally take it.  Before the Romans could finally take the fortress the Jews got together and killed themselves so that they and their families couldn’t be tortured and enslaved.  Only 2 women and 5 children hid from the massacre.  For many years the Israeli Defense Force would take their new soldiers to Masada to swear their oath.  The ruins were awesome and the trail down was fun too!

Finally the day was coming to a close with the drive into Jerusalem.  After an awesome song about Jerusalem that I had a version of (pretty sure it was not really that close to the actual song) stuck in my head for the rest of the trip.  We went up to the top of Mount Scopus where there is an incredible view overlooking old Jerusalem, Mount Olives and the old city walls.  Here our Jewish guide led us in a blessing said by his family over the city of Jerusalem.  Stay tuned.  There is much more of Jerusalem to come in the next several days!

Enjoy more pictures!

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