And here goes the next post…
As I mentioned in the last post, we had a 2 hour bus ride to the kibbutz where we stayed the night. A kibbutz is a communal settlement, where everyone takes part in the betterment of the community. We were only in the kibbutz to sleep, so I cannot give you much information on how they function or what they were like. I can tell you about the giant cockroach and two spiders that were in our tiny shared room. After my cockroach infestation in New York, I was a bit terrified and did not get any sleep.
Early the next morning we hiked Masada. For anyone who is interested, we hiked up on the Roman Ramp and hiked down on the Snake Path. At first we were angry that we were not hiking both ways on the Snake Path. After just the hike down, I am so thankful!
The fortress that is Masada was actually build by the Roman King Harrod. He was known as a builder, and of course his most famous building is Masada. Because of the dry weather on the mountain, scrolls and leather were preserved. Many of these texts have been so important since they date back to 2000 years ago.
One of the most famous stories about Masada is the Siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire towards the end of the First Jewish-Roman War. Legend has it that the people on top of the mountain knew that the Romans were coming and would make them all slaves. The group decided that they would rather die than become slaves and committed a mass suicide, where family and friends were killing each other. Only two women and 5 children were found alive. Whether you think that this mass suicide was the heroic choice or not, it makes for an interesting moral dilemma.
Masada overlooks the Dead Sea, which is where we headed after hiking down. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth. The water has 34.2% salinity, which means it is 9.6 times as salty as the ocean, and the world’s saltiest body of water. Now just as pouring salt water on a wound hurts, imagine submerging your entire body into it. Every cut on your body, ones you did not even know existed, begins to burn. Once the initial shock is over, the burn goes away, and you can enjoy the water. This is why the water is said to hold healing powers.
The best part about the salty water is that is has a density of 1.24kg/liter. (Yeah I found that on Wikipedia, but you get the point). This means that swimming feels like floating. For me, it is what I imagined space feels like. Your body immediately floats on the surface. It is very difficult to try and not float.
That night we were staying at the Bedouin Tents. These were tents made out of goat hair, that housed 100 people. Our entire group was in one tent, where we were given tiny mattress pads (no pillows) and slept on the floor. For somebody with scoliosis and whiplash, this was a challenging evening without a pillow, but such a cool experience.
The Bedouins are nomads who live in the deserts. Their name literally means desert wanders. One of the Bedouins came to talk to our group about their culture. He said that their society focuses around respect and responsibility. One interesting aspect was that when a child is 10 years old, he is sent out to make it on his/her own with 60 camels. I know this sounds crazy, seeing as I can’t even imagine caring for one camel at 10 years old, but they are still doing it. They live off the land and create no waste. Livestock and herding, particularly goats and camels, comprise the traditional livelihoods of the Bedouins. These animals are used for meat, diary products and wool. Watching this community function in 2016 was amazing to me.
We were also given a Bedouin dinner, complete with tea and biscuits at the end. This was hands down the best meal I had my entire trip. Honestly, I am not even sure what I ate, but I know that it was delicious.
After we had a group bonfire where people shared stories. (Remember that Bedouins tents do not have wifi) Nights like these are always my favorite.
The next morning we did a desert canyon hike (Ein Ovdat). This included the grave of Ben Gurion, the primary founder of the State of Israel and the first Prime Minister of Israel. His grave leads to a beautiful hike around the desert canyons.
After this gorgeous hike, we rode on camels. Camels are a lot taller than you’d expect. To mount the camel, you have to wrap your legs around and hold on tight because when the camel stands, you might get thrown off. I found it especially exciting because we were riding the camels on Wednesday…HUMP DAY! The irony was making me so excited. The ride was only 2-3 minutes, but honestly that is all you need.
The next days were spent in Jerusalem and included a visit to Yad Vashem (The Holocaust museum) so I will end here to leave time to speak on those topics.
Until next time, please enjoy this photo of Shoko B’Sakit, otherwise known as chocolate milk in a bag. It is surprisingly delicious…