Saturday, February 28, 2015

Israel: Dead Man's Float

After visiting Masada, we drove to the Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth.

 We were expecting a beach. We brought snacks. We brought towels. We brought sunglasses and cameras. We couldn't wait to float unaided! But when we got there, we realized we had to descend this to get to the water.

I really, really wanted to find a way to get in the Dead Sea. Though it was not my highest trip priority, it was something I wanted to do. I wanted to touch the salt-encrusted rocks and float in the famous sea which contains no living thing. The sand and dirt (pictured above) just slid down with the slightest movement. So, the kids just squatted down, got their swimsuits and faces full of dirt, received a few scrapes and nicks, and got down to the water. Coming down with my cast on was nearly impossible, for I couldn't balance on it. The dirt, with my bulky cast on, made me slip everytime. But without the cast, my foot was so tender, it wasn't stable enough to let me walk on it. Finally, I sat and scooted and slid as close as possible, took off my cast, and crawled the rest of the way. (CC helped immensely, but the dirt just took us both down when he offered me his arm for help.)

We read all the warnings. Don't splash. Don't rub your eye if you get water in it. Don't go to the bathroom. Ouch!

It's all smiles til a salt water drop pierces your eye!

It was strange to all of us. Even when following all the warnings, the salt and mineral content was so high, it made places on our bodies sting. 

We read to just lie back, ease into the water, like you'd sit in an easy chair.

And sure enough, the kids popped right up.

It felt so strange to float like this, unlike the float you "achieve" in a pool. It took serious effort to be still enough not to splash because your body felt out of control.

Finally, I made it in! And this would be the last time I saw this lovely right croc. Somehow with the climb back up, my cast, kids crying from stings and salty eyes, etc. the right croc stayed behind at the Dead Sea.

Getting in was hard for me. Getting out was hard for all of us. We were slimy (yes) with salt. Getting back up that landslide was nearly impossible. I had to do it with the cast on; it hurt too much to try it without. So I took home a castful of Dead Sea sand and dirt. CC sent us all to the showers, gladly paying the shekel to get the grime off. We greatly anticipated the shower! Warm water, fresh, non-salty water! But the shower was ice cold, in full view of everyone else (same gender) in the shower room, and sandy/dirty/gritty everywhere. Perhaps I left the croc there; I was a little dumbfounded with group showering.

It was a beautiful place, and I am so glad we went. It is said that the Queen of Sheba preferred this place over all for her beauty treatments. As we drove away, wiping off the grime, CC said, "She can have it!" As difficult as it was to get in, my skin did feel like a baby's for a couple of weeks!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Israel: Masada Part II

It's hard to show through pictures the beautiful view from Masada. This is an ancient fortress, sitting atop a plateau, overlooking the Dead Sea.

It was first built in the 1st Century BC. After his father's death, Herod the Great captured it, re-fortified it, and built palaces for himself in the 30's BC.
After the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70, Jewish rebels, called Sicarii, overtook Masada and began using it to defend themselves against Rome. They slaughtered 700 women and children at Ein Gedi (Dead Sea area).
The Romans began their attempt to take it back, by building a circumvallation wall (a line of fortifications) and a seige ramp.
Then a seige tower and battering ram were built and brought in. The Jewish rebels threw rocks at those who were constructing the ramp to their fortress. The Romans responded by forcing fellow captures Jews to construct it. The rebels at Masada decided to stop throwing stones at their countrymen, realizing this perhaps sealed their fate. 
In 73 AD, the Romans succeeded in breaking through the walls of the fortress.
But what they found was not what they expected. The rebels had burned all but a few buildings, then committed themselves to mass suicide.
The leader evidently wrote moving speeches, and convinced them all that it would be better to die the victor than be captured by the Romans. They drew lots, down to the who would kill whom, and who (in the end) would have to kill himself. Only two women and five children were found alive.
It was a sprawling, impressive site, and is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I was shocked at how preserved the color was in some of the rooms.
These are bathhouses.
This was a lookout tour. CC is waving to me, with Big Ben, the scout, to his left.

This point is, they believe, the breeching point by the Romans.
More soldiers!

And we found one beautiful spot, a Byzantine church, from the Byzantine era.
One particularly meaningful thing to me was the presence of ancient Scriptures found there in the synagogue, hidden in pits dug underground. They found portions of Deuteronomy and Ezekiel (the "dry bones" passage.)
After a full tour, it was time to go. My bones were dry. I let the family finish exploring, while I sat in the sunshine.
You know what I kept thinking about was Barabbas. He was to be crucified, and historical records show that he was a "rebel." Thinking of these people and their ruthless will to survive as free men, even to the point of suicide, made me think of the kind of person he might have been. And Barabbas was chosen to live. Jesus was chosen to die.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Israel: Driving South (Masada Part I)

After a good sleep, we headed out the next day to Masada.

I really wanted a camel picture. But this one would only show me his rump.

And then the friendly fellow turned towards me and seemed to almost smile at me for his picture!

The terrain was so beautiful!

And soldiers were there, too.

There was really no question whether we would ride the cable car or walk it up! Broken foot meant cable car!

Do you see the little walking path up to Masada?

And besides, this was my five kids' first time EVER to ride a cable car! We were so excited! Sort of.

It was a short ride up and a memory that I hope will last.

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