Caution: Some Objects May Get Wet

Trip Start May 19, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Mizpe Ramon Youth Hostel
What I did
Ashkelon Archaeological Dig
Judean Hill Country Trail
Mediterranean Sea
Valley of Elah

Flag of Israel  , Southern District,
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I once again apologize for failing to get a blog up yesterday-we didn't have functioning free wifi at the hostel we stayed in last night, so rather than pay I thought I'd go to sleep early.  Take that.  However, my story ends in a youth hostel rather than begins in one, so let's back up to Monday morning at 5:40.

Monday morning at 5:40 is when Nicholas woke up for a brief workout before breakfast and a devotional and bussing out at 7:00 to leave Jerusalem overnight for the first time since being here.  Mixed feelings about that, no lie; everyone else in the group seemed to be more than eager to move on and see new areas of the country, but I really thrive when I get myself into a bit of a groove, so while I was eager to explore, I wasn't quite as gungho as the others.  All that to say we bussed it out of the city to a hiking path in the Judean hill country, trying to get in a position where we could imagine what it would have been like to hike the central ridge route down the spine of Israel, minus all the modern buildings.  This meant A:  it was awesome scenery, more greenery than we had previously encountered in our excursions, and at times something closer to the Biblical era, and B:  a hike strenuous enough to start a sweat that probably didn't go away for the rest of the day, by the time the heat started climbing.  Then it was back on the bus and into the Shephelah, the "humble hills" between the Judean Hill Country and Coastal Plains.  Specifically it was to Beth-Shemesh, a city dating to the time of the judges which gave us both a representative look up the Aijlon Valley to where Samson would have come from and had most of his exploits and free pottery shards from as early as the late Bronze age.  The last bus stop of the morning was at Azekah, a fort overlooking the Elah Valley where David and Goliath squared off.  Alas, Mitch and Jackie wouldn't do a reenactment for us, so we just posted up for lunch, then moved on to Ashkelon.

Ashkelon is a port city on the Mediterranean in the southernish half of Israel, and, importantly, has been that since about 2000 BC.  Ashkelon is also the site of Wheaton's summer archeological dig, a fact intimately related to the first.  We met Dr. Masters, whose poor body had just arrived in Tel Aviv airport following a route similar to ours earlier in the morning and who was clearly jet-lagged.  Still, he powered through and warmed considerably as we got into talking about this city which was much more cosmopolitan "read, pagan" than any of the Judean cities in the interior.  While we were trapsing around in the ruins of a theatre dating to the 1st century AD I stood on what I should have, in retrospect, realized would be an extremely weak limestone stage fragment and caused it to collapse.  How many people get to say they've destroyed a 1st century theatre, other, of course, than marauding armies?  Anyway, I managed to gash my leg relatively significantly on the way down, so we'll see how much fun that'll be in the Dead Sea.  As a point of optimism, it wasn't too bad in the Mediterranean, but of course that's hardly the same.  Correct, we went swimming in the Mediterranean for about an hour before getting back on the bus, and it was awesome.

From there it was a long drive out into the Wildernesses of Zin and Paran to stay the night at Mitspeh Ramon in a youth hostel that buffed out my previous experiences with hostels:  great food "probably not as good as I thought it was because we hadn't eaten in 7 hours and had been swimming earlier but hey", clean and spacious rooms, ac, living the dream.  I promise I'm not actually saying that tongue in cheek, it was really nice.  The post that is supposed to be from today will get a pic of the kind of stunning barren scenery we drove through to get there from the lush coast of the Philistine Plain.  I think that post will come after dinner, so until later tonight, you stay classy Arad.
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