MASADA AND THE DEAD SEA


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Middle East » Israel » South District » Masada
May 29th 2011
Published: May 30th 2011
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MASADA AND THE DEAD SEA
Regent offered all of the world cruisers an extensive tour of Israel with an overnight in Jerusalem. We had a choice of a tour with a Christian focus or a Jewish focus. We opted for the Jewish tour because of the places that we would see and especially because we would be able to swim in the Dead Sea. We started our two day exploration of Israel early on a sunny morning. Our guide, an Israeli woman named Nurit which means ”Buttercup" in Hebrew, would be sharing her knowledge and love of her homeland. As we drove across Israel we were astonished by the agriculture. This country is the world’s leader in developing irrigation and water conservation techniques thereby turning desert wasteland into a bountiful breadbasket. Fruit trees, tomatoes, melons, vineyards, flowers and vegetables cover the landscape. The sunflowers were in bloom and the yellow blossoms stretched for miles. As we crossed into the Negev desert the bright colors changed to sand browns. Herds of camels roamed the hills and Bedouin shepherds tended their flocks just as they did in biblical times.

The descent down to the Dead Sea is quite amazing. We went from
NURIT NURIT NURIT

Our great Israeli guide "Buttercup"
an elevation of 1300’ down to -500’ below sea level. This is the lowest exposed place on earth. Just like flying in an airplane, our ears popped during the descent and ascent.

We first went to the mountain top redoubt of Masada. This hilltop fortress was built by Herod the Great after he left Jerusalem seeking safety from the invading Roman Legions. The ancient archeological site is probably one of the most spectacular places in all of Israel. We took a packed cable car up to the palatial fortress, one of the best preserved in the world. The Snake Path gate led us past the water cisterns and bathhouse, the storage houses, a quarry and frescoes. The fall of this last bastion of the Jews against the Romans signaled the destruction of the kingdom of Judea. All this took place at the time of Christ—from 4BC to 66AD. The view from atop this mountain of the Roman encampments, the Dead Sea and the desert is really something. The Roman legion consisting of 8000 soldiers laid siege to the 960 Jews of Masada. After several months, when all hope was gone, the inhabitants decided they would rather die than surrender
OUR TOUR BUS DRIVEROUR TOUR BUS DRIVEROUR TOUR BUS DRIVER

The driver did a great job getting us safely around Israel
to the Romans and become their slaves. So they systematically committed suicide. Two women and five children, who had been hiding in a cistern, survived to tell the story of those that perished on the mountain plateau.

From there we went to the Dead Sea for a swim—I mean a float. Because of the heavy mineral content of the water it is almost impossible to sink in the Dead Sea. It is such a beautiful setting between the Judean Hills and the Jordan mountains—this blue, blue water shimmering in the desert. People come from all over the world to take to the water for the health benefits. It certainly does make your skin tingle and the taste of the water is terrible. It really stings when it gets in your eyes. So we wore goggles and just enjoyed the weightless feeling of floating in the water.

We drove to the Qumran Caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found by a shepherd boy in 1947. These are the oldest known biblical writings in the world.

On the way into Jerusalem we passed by Jericho and one of the Palestinian settlements whose walls many in the Arabian world would like to see come tumbling down.

That evening we went to the Mount Zion Hotel for a world cruisers special event hosted by Regent. We had dinner on the terrace overlooking the Old City. The setting was quite stunning, the food was delicious and the evening festivities ended with music by an Israeli jazz quartet and a fireworks show against the backdrop of this most holy of cities, Jerusalem.



Additional photos below
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CATAPULT ROCKS USED BY THE ROMANSCATAPULT ROCKS USED BY THE ROMANS
CATAPULT ROCKS USED BY THE ROMANS

"Let's all get stoned!"
DEAD SEA SCROLLSDEAD SEA SCROLLS
DEAD SEA SCROLLS

Found in the triangular cave
LAZER AND GEORGELAZER AND GEORGE
LAZER AND GEORGE

Lazer was the MC at the dinner--many jokes!


31st May 2011

Floating in the Dead Sea
So wonderful to read your amazing descriptions and photos of a place I recently visited: you brought it all back to life for me. I also stayed at the Mount Zion Hotel, was there for five nights. What a beautiful setting and perfect place for your excursion dinner. All the Best, Stephanie

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