On the Way to Tiberias

Trip Start Apr 19, 2010
Trip End Jun 06, 2010

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Flag of Israel  , Galilee,
Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Today we travel through the Judean Desert to the Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth not under water at 1200 feet below sea level. We went to Masada on our way to the Dead Sea.

Masada was a fortress built by King Herod and later used by the Jewish Zealots as their last stronghold against the Romans.   A siege of the fortress by troops of the Roman Empire led to the mass suicide of the Sicarii rebels, who preferred death to surrender.  The cliffs on the east edge of Masada are about 1,300 feet high and the cliffs on the west are about 300 feet high; the natural approaches to the cliff top are very difficult.  The Romans had to build a rampart to finally get to the top.  When they entered the fortress, however, the Romans discovered that its 960 inhabitants had set all the buildings and the food storerooms ablaze and committed mass suicide rather than face certain capture, defeat, slavery or execution by their enemies.  Accounts of the siege and suicides were given by two women who survived by hiding, along with five children, in a cistern.

Fortunately, today you do not have to climb up to Masada (although there were lots of hardy souls who did just that).  The site is now a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has a cable car to move visitors to the top.  The temperature must have been in the high 90's or over 100.  The most amazing part of this settlement was the water or lack of it.  They filled cisterns by an clever system of catching rain runoff in the winter and stored it all in cisterns to last the year.  The little rain that falls here can not be absorbed into the sand and so there are runoffs in the valleys running to the Dead Sea.

After our visit to Masada we stopped at Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories to view and, hopefully, purchase their creams and lotions made with minerals extracted for the Dead Sea.  Then off to our hotel, Daniel Dead Sea Hotel, for dinner and a swim.  The hotel has views of the Sea and several folks walked over for a swim in the Sea.  All reported that it was hot, the water was quite hot and most walked back after a few minutes in the water.  Jacqui and I just jumped in the hotel pool and enjoyed that instead.
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