Backstage Travels

All the world's a stage…

Israel Day 4: Longest day of our lives

on January 9, 2014

We woke up…at four thirty in the morning. I cannot emphasize how four-thirty in the morning we woke up…

So we got dressed in our tent, where it was warm, and then had biscuits (kinda) and tea outside, where it was cold. First breakfast. Then the bus. Everyone was falling asleep because it was like 5 am by then.

Then we get to Masada. This is the mountain we are supposed to climb to see the sunset. (I find out later that it’s not really a mountain, and I was lame for being tired after climbing it.) We are lead to a path and then told to walk.

Whatever. I walk every day. Slight incline? Psh…I’ll walk the crap out of this path. I’ll…*pant*…make it…*pant pant* …how are…*pant*…you people…*wheeze*…still talking to each other? *coughsplutterpant*

I need to get in shape. Like woah.

But I make it. And I’m not the last one. Not that that’s a bad thing, to be last…ugh, anyway. Most of us, exhausted and hot after the climb, forget that it’s about 37 Fahrenheit outside, and strip off all the nice fluffy jackets we’ve now sweated through…just to remember and hastily put all those layers back on again.

The sun is starting to make an appearance, and we can’t be late! We go to the lookout point, look towards Jordan, the Dead Sea, and the mountains, and wait. And wait. Shutters click and there are sighs of disappointment as most of us realize that our cameras are not doing a very good job capturing what our artistic eyes all want to be able to capture. Two of our companions, however have excellent cameras. They are now assigned to take pictures for everyone, whether they like it or not. “These better be on Facebook [for me to steal]!”

The sun winds up being later than the forecast, which puts our tour behind. But just look at these shots (that I took myself!):

Then we toured around the place. The history’s pretty cool; it was a massive palace that was the size of a small city, and then it was taken over by Zionists, who were a Jewish dead end, because then they all killed themselves in an act of defiance.
…Yeah, you should probably just read the Wiki article about it…
Pictures!
This paint is original.
The bath house had double floors and walls to allow the hot air to be cycled throughout the building itself. The ceiling was also domed, so that any collecting condensation would slide down instead of drip on the occupants.
Under the line is original, and over the line has been restored.
Now this was a tiny model of the place that showed how the aqueduct system was used here to make this palace in the desert livable for many years:
We also went to the temple on Masada. It is one of the oldest temples (if not the oldest) still in existence.
It’s also a fully functional temple, with a Torah and everything. A few years ago, people brought up a Torah to put back in the temple. It’s behind this door.
Now, the night before, I, along with two other outgoing people, was asked to read a monologue in front of everyone at a specific time during this tour. Mine was at the temple.
I was a bloodthirsty Zionist, as you can tell.
This was a swimming pool.
There was enough water collected by those aqueducts that there was a fully functional and fairly large pool. On a mountain. In the desert.
Then we yelled into this valley.
The echo effect was incredible.
Back down the mountain. But not the path we came up, oh no. This time, we took:
That path was pretty wicked. My legs were not happy after that walk. Oh, and it started to rain. We were supposed to do another hike, but apparently it go rained out and flooded. This started our streak of “more luck than brains.”
Second breakfast, and then we were off to the Dead Sea for some hardcore floating. I’m not going to lie, I was not looking forward to swimming in the Sea. The temperatures had stayed around single digits Celsius, and I really don’t like being cold…
Our choice for the Dead Sea part of the trip was to go to a free part of the beach where you had to buy packets of the mud, or go to a paid part of the beach, where you didn’t have to pay for the mud, and there was a hot spring fed by the Dead Sea itself. Oh, and the pay one was free as long as we watched a commercial for Ahava Dead Sea products. Um, duh. We watched the (really strange and oddly sexual) commercial, and then we were let loose in the store. At that point, I still only had a very primitive knowledge of the dollar to shekel exchange ratio, but I still knew that I totally did not want to spend that much money for salty face cream. (I demean it because I actually wanted to get some, but I can’t afford to keep up the regimen.)
Here’s a picture of the weird salt statue from the shop!
The sea ended up being a lot warmer than I anticipated, because the cold front had come in so suddenly, the large body of water hadn’t absorbed all that coldness yet.
Photo courtesy of Steph D
Photo courtesy of Steph D
Photo courtesy of Brian A
Photo courtesy of Brian A
That last one was homage to one of our American leaders, Rachel L. For the first few days, she kept telling us that any photos posted on social networking sites should be tagged with #gokesher, because the name of the chapter of Taglit Birthright we were traveling with was called URJ Kesher.
The sea was amazing to float in. The Sea is about 1/3 salt, which creates incredible buoyancy, something that was recreated in the hot spring. I tried to sit one the little bench in the pool, but it just floated about 6 inches above it, in a sitting position.
Then we had lunch. Yep, all that was before lunch.
Then we were back on the bus for our next place to stay. Games ensued, and Shira said that she’d never had a group that played together so much; mostly they just sleep. I think we were too tired to sleep.
We had a couple hours of free time (!) before dinner (I’ve had so much hummus by this point), and then an activity. Our Israeli companions were to join us the next day, so we were going to make something for them. We were split into groups, and given one of their names, plus three or four facts about them. Then we were supposed to draw out what we thought their FaceBook page would look like…
We got Anat, who was just getting out of the military, had majored in Jazz and Dance, and loved the opera.
https://fbcdn-sphotos-b-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/q71/s720x720/601230_615244431873837_989175450_n.jpg
We drew her in her uniform with a gun, not knowing she was an Israeli hippie with a couple braids. And we threw on a YouTube link to our bus anthem, “Shalala” by the VengaBoys. We also included some Facebook ads, like one for umbreallas with the tagline “Because you never know,” alluding to our experience with people telling us that “it never rains in the desert” while we’ve been sheltering from showers for three days.
Then I felt like I wanted to sleep forever……

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