December 25th, 2014: Merry Christmas! Today we headed to Masada and then stopped to swim in the Dead Sea. We didn’t have presents to open, because our trip to Israel was our present… and the best we’ve had so far! The history and links are out of order in this post, they are in the order of the photos, so go back and do your own reading after you get through all the photos. Our guide recommended reading Josephus: The Complete Works for a better understanding of the history of Israel.
Chloe and Eleanor chose to skip the camel ride, but they were willing to pose for the photo!
We opted to take the tram up to Masada, but you can hike it, via the old snake trail, if you choose!
From the tram you can see two of the Roman legionary camps.
You can also see part of the wall around Masada.
This was built by the Romans to keep the residents of Masada from escaping.
Read about the Siege of Masada here.
Beautiful view of the Dead Sea.
The South view of Masada.
This is a storage room that was filled with wood, food, oil and spices.
There were several of these on the north end of the mountain.
It is estimated that there was 5 years worth of supplies and water on the mountain when
King Herod created a place of refuge for himself. He never used it, but you can see his mark on it.
Read about Masada here.
Another view from the north end.
Reconstruction of what the plaster walls looked like at the time of Herod.
It would have been incredibly beautiful and ornate.
Actual tiles from King Herod’s construction.
There were Mikveh everywhere at Masada. We saw them at several other sites as well.
This photo is dark, but I wanted you to see the lines on the walls.
The line represents where the walls were when Masada was rediscovered in the early 1800’s.
Everything above is a reconstruction, everything below is original.
These pillars held up a floor in the baths. A fire was built just outside the wall
and hot air was pumped through the wall and circulated around the columns.
This man is copying parts of the Torah by hand. He is making a Mezuzah.
Each Mezuzah must be done on one piece of animal skin and have no mistakes.
A Mezuzah is a piece of parchment that is placed at doorways in Jewish homes, often in a decorative case.
Because we stayed in a Jewish hotel, we had on on each doorway to our room and on the elevators.
For a donation, he’ll write your names in Hebrew.
Every year people (mostly Jews from the US) hold their Bar Mitzvah at Masada.
Our guide thought it was a silly thing to do because Masada really isn’t a holy place, but I found it fascinating. It is the closest I’ve ever been to a Bar Mitzvah and we spent a lot of time listening to the young people recite their Torah and all the joyful singing.
This is an ancient dovecot. They used the doves’ droppings for fertilizer.
The southwest view of Masada.
These are the types of memories that I hope Meg keeps with her.
I have so many wonderful memories of hiking around archeological sites with my brothers.
Incredible Mosaic floors in the Palace at Masada. (Above and below.)
I couldn’t resist this photo of the Israeli flag flying over the eastern wall of Masada.
On our way back down the mountain.
Lunch at this point was not memorable, and probably the worst meal of the entire trip, so I’ll just skip over that.
Eleanor was the first to try floating in the Dead Sea.
Chloe and Bella weren’t far behind!
Meg was a little more hesitant.
She floated once and then stayed out of the water for the rest of our visit.
This surprised me because she is my “water baby,”
but the Dead Sea isn’t exactly water you can play in or really enjoy much.
For safety reasons, you can only stay in for 10 minutes at a time.
And it is slimy.
There is no point in visiting the Dead Sea without taking full advantage of the free mud…
that costs $50 for 100 grams everywhere else!
See you tomorrow at the Jewish Market!