Feeling Alive at the Dead Sea, Israel! Part 4 Holy land Tour

Feeling Alive at the Dead Sea, Israel! Part 4 Holy land Tour

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Destination: Israel, Masada & the Dead Sea
Date: March 2010

The view from down the ravine from the top of Masada
Masada, Israel March 2010

(experts from a letter to my mom and kids)
Today we had another early morning and headed out to Masada. It is an interesting place but doesn’t really have anything to do with the Bible.
“Masada in Hebrew means fortress stronghold.  Archaeological remains indicate that this hill may have been used for such purposes dating back to early Old Testament times.  This natural rock fortress rises 900 feet on three sides and 675 feet on the west, with sheer cliffs all the way around.  It was used by Hasmoneans and later by Herod in 40 BC to protect his family from the pro-Parthians while he traveled to Rome and was appointed King.” LDS Travel Study Guide

The outer walls of the city of Masada and the cliffs off in the distance
Masada, March 2010
Some of the ruins that are almost 2,000 years old
Masada, Israel March 2010

 So in essence it was the winter palace of King Herod but is better known for being a retreat for the Jewish people, after they were defeated in Jerusalem  in 70AD. Then in 77AD the Romans found them and when they were about to attack the Jewiah men killed their families and then themselves. Kind of a terrible story but still an impressive sight set up on a plateau in the Canyon overlooking the Dead sea. 

The view from the bottom looking up at Masada
Masada, Israel March 2010

“Masada became the site of one of the saddest chapters in Jewish history.  A Roman garrison was overthrown in AD 66 by the Sicarii.  Masada became a refuge to some of those fleeing the Romans.  When the Sicarii leader, finally realized that no miracle would save them, he gave a speech urging suicide rather than surrender.  Only part of the group agreed with his first oration, but his second was convincing.  Only two old women and five children survived to tell the Romans of the events that happened.” LDS Study Guide

The Dead Sea
Israel, March 2010

There is also a great Hollywood movie called Masada that stars Peter O’Toole that was released in 1981.  When Trent and I got back from this region we couldn’t wait to watch this because so many of the guides at Masada told us about how well the movie depicted the saga and it was actually filmed here in Israel.
From Masada we went on to visit the site where the Dead Sea scrolls were found.  The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts discovered near the Dead Sea in the 1940’s and 50’s.  These are extra manuscripts that belong to the Bible and are said to add to biblical, secretarial, and commentary to the rules, and history of the Bible times.  These scrolls can be found now in the Israel Museum.

Our group fooling around in the Dead Sea.  None of us are using any kind of floatation devices!
Dead Sea, Israel March 2010

The coolest part of our day was going swimming in the Dead Sea. My sister, “K”, was right by telling me I needed an old bathing suit (which I did bring) so we could rub mud all over our bodies.  I loved to feel the soothing scrub from the minerals and salt from the Dead Sea.   We took some funny pics of all of us in our dirty muddy bathing suits. You guys would have loved it. Funny thing is that the sea mud does make your skin soft. I know it was a way better mud bath than the ones I’ve paid for in Spas.

So much fun giving each other a mud bath!
Dead Sea, Israel March 2010

“At approximately 1,300 feet below the level of the sea, the earth’s lowest point, sits a blue body of water on the north and a green body at the south.  There are no animals nearby, there are no fish in the water, and there aren’t any plants on the shoreline.  This is the Dead Sea, the saltiest body of water in the world–ten times saltier than the ocean.” LDS Travel Study Guide.

I don’t usually post bathing suit pics but here’s Trent and I after our mud baths in the Dead Sea
Dead Sea, Israel March 2010

The day at the Dead Sea was one of my favorites.  I wanted to continue the marvelous tour we were on and see more of what our Savior had done and places He had been, so spending time at the beach wasn’t a top priority.  However, after getting in the water and feeling buoyancy and the density of the salt, actually holding my body up without a flotation device, was incredible.  The mud made my sin soft and smooth and the sweet Israeli woman who gave me a towel in the changing room (since I had come unprepared) was touching.  In the changing room on the beach there are showers for cleaning off the mud and once I exited the shower I realized my mistake of forgetting to bring a towel.  I tried drying myself off with my shorts a little before putting them on but out of the corner of my eye I could feel a woman looking at me.  When our eyes met she quickly diverted them but still walked across the changing room to offer me a towel.  It was a sweet moment.  I was so grateful for her generosity.  The Dead Sea swim was a great side trip to our very spiritual and scheduled trip!

Back to Jerusalem
Israel, March 2010

After our trip back into Jerusalem our guide left us again and we headed out shopping. After two more wood carvers we walked into old Jerusalem. It was about 5:30 pm and the sun was setting and so many orthodox Jews with their crazy Russian hats and curls were rushing past us on the street to make it to the wailing wall for the beginning of the Sabbath. Their Sabbath is on Saturday here.  So we followed all the Jews through the Muslim part of the city toward the Jewish sector. We even had to stop and go through metal detectors to get through. We hear they are very uneasy about the risk of suicide bombers. So we made it to the wailing wall where it was packed with Jews hitting their heads against the wall and many waiting to do so. Since today was the holiday of Shabat the women were also in circles dancing and singing. 

The Wailing Wall at night during prayers  It was crowded and against the rules to take this picture.  Sorry!
Jerusalem, Israel March 2010

It was a cool sight to see. The wailing wall or aka Western Wall is the last part of their temple that remains  At this website you can see a live feed of the Western Wall at all times of the day,  www.aish.com/w/46127727.html. The Jewish people only have a small portion of the original part left after all the times Jerusalem has been destroyed.   Up where the actual temple stood it is now all Muslim Palestinian so the Jewish can not enter there. 

Some Orthodox Jews on the way to the Western Wall
Jerusalem, March 2010

Last of all we ate dinner at the nicest pizza place in Jerusalem called I Dream of Pizza. It was pretty good. It was Palestinian owned and we made our group of twelve comfortable as we ordered about eight different pizzas with canned sodas.  It was nice to sit and rest awhile and take in all we had done and seen today.  From going up to the top of Masada all the way down to the very lowest part of the earth at the Dead Sea.  At one point our server heard the call for Muslim prayer and we watched him sneak back to say prayers on his prayer rug and it was interesting to see how so many religions regard this area as a Holy place.

As always be safe and happy travels!!