I thought it was extremely amusing that at the Dead Sea they have a lifeguard tower. Seriously, it would be impossible to drown. IMPOSSIBLE! I imagine, though, that people might sometimes need help standing up again once they have floated to the top. When I was floating on my back in the Dead Sea pool I tried to put my feet down and couldn't do it. It was like trying to defy gravity. I'm still not sure how I actually was able to stand up but I'm fairly certain it involved a lot of flailing about.
We only had two stops today. The first was at an area called Mt. Masada. I'm talking a serious mountain here. Thankfully, there was a cable car to get us to the top, though some of the other visitors walked up and down on a switch back trail. Our guide said it would take about 45 minutes to walk up (three minutes on the cable car) but let me assure you, had I tried, I would still be there seeking shelter for the night.
Mt. Masada doesn't really have a lot of Biblical significance but is still an interesting historical site. First, King Herod had a palace built there on the side of the rock. It was an amazing palace, and really an incredible work of architecture considering it was built before the time of Christ. Herod was a bit paranoid and had this palace built as a place to go hide should he need to escape his enemies. The interesting thing is, he NEVER used it. Not once; didn't even see it!
Later, in 66 AD, when the Jewish rebels were being persecuted by Romans they fled to this area to seek asylum. Eventually, the Romans surrounded them and were planning to attack. Knowing that they'd be slaves to the Romans, with it's ensuing torture, the Jewish men chose instead to kill their families and themselves before they Romans reached them. Apparently, there is a movie from the 60's called "The Siege" that captures the whole story. I thought the fact that they were able to stage a movie on this mountain was pretty much of an amazing feat in itself considering the equipment available that many years ago.
Our cable car ride back to the bottom of the mountain included at least 20 - 30 Israeli high school and junior high aged school kids. This was but a small portion of the approximately 4500 kids we saw throughout the day! I might be exaggerating with my estimation but it looked like Israel had declared today, Tuesday, November 23, as "school field trip day." We also learned that for every 20 kids there has to be an armed guard that travels with them. Let's just say we saw a fair number of AK-47's today and I'm very grateful that the United States and Israel are friends.
Our second stop was at En-Gedi where David hid from King Saul in caves when Saul was trying to kill him. The story is in 1 Samuel 24:1-7 and let me just say that those caves don't have the most pleasant of odors. Verse 2 talks about the "rocks of the wild goats" and those goats seem to still live there today and leave quite the scatological messes around. On the upside, there is a beautiful water fall that flows between the rocks so at least David didn't go thirsty.
The goats here are called Ibex and the other animal scurrying about on the mountainside were Hyrex, which look something like a woodchuck, or possibly a beaver without the big tail. For such a short, squatty little animal, they sure do run fast.
There won't be a blog posting tomorrow night. Internet isn't exactly cheap in our hotel so I'll wait until Thursday to post both tomorrow's and Thursday's activities. Tomorrow we'll be doing a walking tour through the old city of Jerusalem so there will be plenty to write about. I can't wait!
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