On our one free day we decided to do the optional tour to visit Masada and the Dead Sea. We had a free day because it was Saturday, which means it was Shabbat, and mostly everything in Israel is closed. I went to visit Masada and the Dead Sea last year, and my sister went when she was in Israel a few years ago, but my mom and Joe had never been. You really can't visit Jerusalem without taking a side trip to see Masada and the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth, about 1200 meters below sea level. On the way we stopped to look around at "sea level".
You can really tell we are in the dessert here.
Here I am with my mom at sea level. I love this picture of us.
Here I am alone. You can never have to many pictures of you at sea level? (or something like that!)
As usual, where there are tourists there is a guy with his camel waiting to make a shekel or two (or 40, which is ~$10).
Don't forget that this is in meters, so we are nearing the dead sea.
Good thing our bus driver (who by the way was awesome!) made the right turn-literally-and we headed towards Masada.
This is the Dead Sea, but this picture does not do it justice. The sun shimmers off the sea and it is just a gorgeous sight.
Then we arrived at Masada, which was a fortress built by Herod, but in the end he never even visited. The hike up is amazing, and is best done for sunrise, which I did when I was 16. We didn't get there quite that early, but some of our group decided to hike it anyway. The rest of us took the cable car, which is what I did last year.
This is looking back on the cable car cables. It's a long way down. The whole ride takes about 3 minutes.
At the top is the Israeli flag flying high. Last year I was here on Memorial Day (Israeli, not American) and I was at the top when the sirens sounded for the observation of a minute of silence. Everyone stopped and faced the flag to honor the soldiers that lost their lives fighting for Israel, the Jewish state.
Here is my family at the top of Masada.
Other than a fortress built by Herod, this is the site of the Zealots, who held out as they were under attack by the Romans for so long. The lasted some time, but in the end the Romans closed in, and to save themselves from a lifetime of slavery, they all decided it was better to kill their families and themselves before the Romans reached them. Ten men drew lots, with one man remaining to kill the others before committing suicide. I guess the story goes that a few were found alive and taken back to Jerusalem and they reported the story of what happened there, which was then recorded by a historian and this is how we know the story today.
The room my sister is posing in is actually the hall to pass from one room to the next in the bath house.
You can see the sophisticated system they used to create an open area under the floor (the floor would sit on these pillars) where the steam would collect and heat the room above it.
Here is more of the rubble found here. Some areas were intact when it was found, others were restored, at least partially, and others remain as piles of stone.
I mentioned this in my post last year, but the black line indicates what is original and what is restored to give visitors an idea of what it was like here in ancient times. Everything below the black line was here when it was discovered.
My sister, mom and Joe sitting in what was determined to be the synagogue used by the Zealots living here until the Romans got to them, which I believe was 2 years after the temple was destroyed in Jerusalem, or at least somewhere around that time.
For lunch everyone ate at the cafeteria at Masada. Definitely not the best food in the world, but at least it was something, and there were cold beverages after walking around in the hot sun on top of the mountain. Go figure, we ate falafel. In Israel you will always find falafel and hummus.
You will also be presented with a lovely salad bar filled with pickled items to enjoy with your falafel.
Since we were up on the mountain in the hot sun for so long, after lunch I decided to get a delicious ice cream bar. I am almost certain I have had this one before. I happen to think it is really good, but I do like Magnum bars better.
Next up we went to Mineral Beach to enjoy the Dead Sea mud and float in the water. This is the lowest place on earth, and the saltiest, so nothing can live in the water. You float because of all the salt, so you can't even swim here.
The picture is a little blurry, but you can see the beach and dead sea here. This is a different location from where I went in at last year, and one that was much easier to access the mud and the water. Although the place last year was less busy and a little more peaceful.
Once we got down to the water area we started off by slathering ourselves with the dead sea mud. It's just there in buckets and everyone is covering themselves with it in hopes of getting some of the benefits that the mud promises. You may have heard of AHAVA dead sea products, which are made at a kibbutz nearby. This, of course, is a cheaper way to go about enjoying the mud.
This was the first time I covered myself entirely in mud (or almost entirely), It felt so good!
Then we headed down to the water to wash off and float. Someone else took pictures of us while we were in the water, so once I get those, I will probably post some more pictures since they turned out really well. We all had a great time floating in the Dead Sea. It's very relaxing and your skin feels so good afterwards.
Once we washed all the mud off and spent some time floating, we headed to a hot sulphur spring to enjoy some more of the benefits of the minerals here. Then we washed up and headed back to the hotel since we were going to see the light and sound show in the old city. I saw this last year, but it was part of this trip too, so I went again.
Not much was open for dinner since it was still Shabbat when we got back to the hotel. This wouldn't end until the sun set, so we had some time. Once the sun sets everything in Jerusalem will reopen and the streets will become lively again. This happens at this time of year around 8 pm or so. Since we needed to eat dinner we ordered some things off the limited menu in the hotel. Good thing the limited menu still contains so many tasty items.
This is a platter of many traditional Israeli foods.
It was served with challah rolls.
My sister and I split a smoked salmon sandwich with avocado. Very tasty!
Last up, we grabbed some coffee drinks in a great place called Aroma, which I think it was the security lady that told Joe it was the best, even better than Starbucks, and she may be right. This was really good.
With my coffee I ordered one of these cookies, which I remembered from last year. It is filled with caramel. So good! It was a great way to finish off Shabbat in Jerusalem.
QUESTIONS: Have you ever celebrated Shabbat? What is the day of rest for your religion? Have you ever visited the Dead Sea? Have you ever tried Dead Sea Products?