Thursday, April 30, 2009


ISRAEL – 23 Apr 2009 --- We landed in Ashdod and were signed up for a tour to take us to Masada and then to swim in the Dead Sea.

The port security was evident, but not sure why they needed a telescopic sight.

Out in the countryside we were surprised to see forests. They have had a campaign in Israel to plant trees and the desert is being pushed back as a result. Everywhere you look there are green farm fields and tree-covered hillsides. There is still plenty of desert here, but they are shrinking it. Along the highway they had monuments to the war they had right after independence. Jerusalem was cut off and they attempted to bring convoys of supplies there most of them were destroyed. Some of the remnants have been turned into monuments along the highway.

We stopped at a highway rest stop with restaurants and shops. This camel was there giving tourists camel rides. His owner was using him to rest on while phoning. Security was in evidence here as is was near to Jericho (Palestinian).

We went via Jerusalem. Just stopped on the outskirts for a photo stop, but did not go into the city. The guide pointed out many historic features -- dome of the rock, western wall, etc. Here we are with Clyde overlooking the city.

Masada was originally built by Herod as a Roman fort. Although it was out in the desert near the Dead Sea, it had a palace and a Roman Bath. The walls were covered in stucco and the interiors had frescos. Jewish zealots (about 1000) holed up there to avoid becoming Roman slaves. They held off the roman army for 6 years and finally killed themselves rather than surrender. The Israelis have turned it into a National Park and it is high enough up that you take a cable car to reach it although the hardiest can take the “snake path” up to it. (see pic).

The Romans put the place under siege but the Israelites had enough food and water to last indefinitely while the Romans were living in tents at the base of the mountain with limited food and water. Here is what remains of their main camp.

The Romans built a wall all around the mountain so no reenforcements could get throught, but after a siege of 3 years they finally built a ramp all the way up (that took another 3 years) and attacked with a huge battering ram. There is a movie starring Peter O’Toole about it that we will have to rent when we get home. The Israelis have restored sections of it but were careful to highlight the difference between what is original and what is restored. This is what remains of the ramp.

Clyde enjoyed visiting the former commandant’s quarters and pretending he was on the lookout for Romans.

The Dead Sea was an interesting experience. It is 36% salt while regular sea water is 3% -- so you really can’t sink in it. It is shrinking every year however since less and less fresh water reaches it. This is a picture of a resort that 20 years ago was right on the shore – now they use a tram to take guests to the water.

There is an area with many resort hotels on the Dead Sea and that is where we went to go swimming. This picture is of Mary and our friend Doris floating.

There was sand on the beach up until about 2 feet from the water then there were salt crystals (see pic) and the bottom was covered with salt pebbles. It was like looking into your water softener. It was so buoyant that if you were out deeper than knee deep and were floating you could not stand up. When you pushed a foot down the torque from the effort turned you over. If you wanted to stand up you had to paddle into shallower water first.

No comments:

Post a Comment