We started off the day by waking up at 4am to climb Masada for sunrise. We had a short drive to get to the base of Masada. Once we were there the sky was starting to look all pretty and we were really afraid we were going to miss sunrise. We walked about via the Roman ramp, which is pretty much the easy way to do it. We did it pretty quickly since we were so afraid we were going to miss the actual sunrise. I wanna say it was about 20 mins or so. But honestly it was almost perfect timing. We got to one of the towers just as the sun was rising.
After the sun had officially risen Gidi gave us a tour of the ruins. Masada was originally built by King Herod. He was pretty much the king of the Jews appointed by the Romans. Masada was pretty much built as a vacation home. As Gidi said he probably went there once every 3 years, but they had to be ready at any time. The majority of what we spent our time looking at was the roman baths and the store rooms.
The second period at Masada was after the destruction of the 2nd temple. There was a sect of Jews that escaped from Jerusalem and captured Masada from the few guards there. There were several structural changes we saw from this period such as the baths being turned into a mikvah and a synagogue. Of course the Romans didn’t really want a Jewish city, so they went to capture it. The built a ramp to get up to the city, (ie the path we took up) and overtook it. Masada is famous because once the soldiers finally captured it and made it inside, all the Jews had killed themselves and were dead. They figured it would be better to end their lives free than be killed or raped or enslaved. Of course no one knows how true the story is. There was a Roman historian that wrote down what happened as well as names. However, once Israel got possession of the Negev desert after the 6 days war, they were able to do evacuations. Interestingly enough they uncovered stones that had the same names from the story dating from the correct time period.
When it was time to head down we took the easy. Most group take what is called the snake path. A switch back path that goes back and forth ALL the way down the mountain. He however took a cable car down the mountain, mainly to save more time so we could do more doing the day. We stopped at another youth hostel for breakfast then went on our way.
The second thing we did that day was a hike. I want to say it was at En Gedi. I think that’s what it was called I don’t remember exactly. The hike was fun because it ended at a waterfall. Gidi had us wear our bathing suits under our clothes so we were all able to go swimming. Very refreshing. And since it was so hot by the time we starting walking we were pretty much dry.
After the hike we drove to the Dead Sea. Since it’s such a big body of water there’s obviously a bunch of places you can get to it. Something that I hadn’t really thought about before. We wound up going to the spa, literally called something like the Dead Sea Spa. They did have an actual spa there with sulfur baths along with a private part of the beach roped off. When they originally built the building it pretty much was built right on the shore. However since the Dead Sea is disappearing, since Israel is using most of the water which used to originally get deposited in it, they now have a tram driving people back and forth to the Dead Sea. While you can walk, it is a bit of a hike.
The Dead Sea is totally what you expect it to be. Literally you just kinda lift your legs up and you’re floating. The water is so salty though its dangerous to get in your eyes or mouth. They tell you not to go under; also they have an eye wash of fresh water floating in the sea. Everyone said that being in the Dead Sea was really painful. Like it would burn your legs and any cuts you might have. I think because I was really expecting the worst, I didn’t really notice anything.
Since we didn’t have a lot of time we stopped floating so we could have time to coat ourselves with mud. In the hurry to get back on the tram off course, I left my sunglasses on my car. O well, they were pretty cheap in the first place. We got to the mud and coated it pretty much everywhere. Arms, legs, face, the whole nine yards. After a few pictures, we rinsed it off first with a salt water rise. Then our faces and everything else with plain water.
We went inside the spa for lunch then. Gidi bought us tickets which included a main course, the salad bar, bread, dessert, and juice. The food wasn’t amazing, like most the food we didn’t have to pay for. But like I said it was free.
After eating quickly we were back on the bus. We stopped at an Ahavah outlet on the way to Jerusalem. Just outside the city we picked up our solders. We had 4 guys and 3 girls. Since the people on our trip we kinda older, they gave us officers most of whom were around 22-ish. When we got to the hotel they had this woman from New Zealand come and do ice breakers. Of course we were all exhausted, and kinda smelled from the mud. But it was an interesting experience. We had diner and then went out in Jerusalem.
We spent the first part of the night on Ben Yehuda Street. Of course the highlight was walking past Shoshanah’s bar. I wouldn’t have noticed it, but Moshiko, one of our Israelis, pointed it out to me. When I had told him my name at diner he was kinda stunned that an American had such an Israeli name.
After walking around a bit we all met up to go to a bar. Pretty much the only people at the bar were other birthright groups. It was a fun place though. There were two floors. The top floor had a dance floor and an outside bar, and the bottom floor was like a lounge. At first the dance floor was empty, but me, Sara, and Micki went out on the dance floor, and eventually it was full. One from instance from that night was when we were dancing the guy came up behind Sara and started dancing with he. She kinda moved her way to the other side of the circle away from him. Micki was like, “How old are you?” When he said he was 19, she told him Sara was 24. He responed, “I don’t care,” to which Micki responded, “Well she does.” He was actually pretty made about the experience, but overall it was pretty amusing.