Monday, March 28, 2016

Our Trip to Israel - Days One and Two (of five) - Tel Aviv, Masada and the Dead Sea

The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and the gold covered Dome of the Rock

This blog is taking a break with this post from the Family Tech columns, and the too infrequent insights into technology, for a travelogue.

My wife is studying/researching in Israel on a Fulbright grant. Our son and I returned today from six days visiting there.  This post will be one of two or maybe three with a narrative of our whirlwind trip to Israel.

We visited Masada, Jerusalem, The Dead Sea, the Israel Museum and the Crusader cities of Acre and Caesarea during our stay.  

Note: Click a photo to see it larger.

First Day - Tel Aviv

We wanted a low key day so our first full day we went out to take care of some errands.  We went to the huge Central Bus station, also a large shopping mall, to exchange some currency and buy SIM cards for our phones. 

Afterwards, we decided to take a bus to a restaurant we had found in Fodor's.  It turned out to be something of an adventure, in that the bus app we were using was of course in Hebrew.  We got a bit turned around and it took a few hours to find the restaurant. 

The time on the the bus did give us a chance to catch up with one another. At this point my wife had been in Israel almost a month. so it was good to have time to talk.  The next few days would turn out to be a whirlwind of touring without as much time to visit, concluding with us falling into bed exhausted each evening but ready to start a new tour the next day.

We finally found the restaurant near the beach, and...

it was no longer in business.  We did find an excellent pizza place a block away we enjoyed immensely.

And while we ate our pizza we finally began to understand the bus app, and were able to take a bus straight back to our AirBnB.

Second Day - Masada and The Dead Sea

We signed up with a tour bus company, and spent our second day at Masada and The Dead Sea.

Masada is the site where Jewish rebels opposed a Roman Legion. It was built by Herod the Great as an immense castle meant to impress visitors from Rome with Herod's hospitality, thus promoting Herod's reputation.

After the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, rebels fled to Masada and took it away from a small Roman garrison there.

In 73 CE, the Romans laid siege to Masada.  The Romans built a huge earthen ramp and ultimately broke through the walls of the castle.

While it is possible to hike up the mountain in forty minutes, I was thankful there was a cable car to make the climb.

Our guide Eli lead us to the Commandant's House, the Roman bath house, store rooms, pigeon aviaries, and many other features of the fortress.

This image is from the bathhouse. The white portion at the bottom is surviving portions of the fresco that once covered the walls. It is hard to remember when looking at stone ruins such as these, that once the walls were covered in fresco and were colorful  art.

 He ultimately showed the remains of the ramp the Romans built up the side of the mountain.

When the Roman's pierced the defenses, they fell back to their camp, confident the next day would bring them success.

Instead, they found the entire population dead, except for two women and a few children.

The historian Josephus, writing in Rome, said that a group of men were chosen to slaughter the entire population. Then they drew lots to see which of them would kill the rest of the team, and then kill himself, thus denying the Romans the victory.

Indeed, stone lots with the names of ten men and the commander were found by archaeologists.

After several hours atop the fortress, we took the cable car back down, and went from the towering mountain to the lowest point on planet Earth, the Dead Sea.  Or as it is locally called, the Salty Sea, for it has a 34% salinity.

Our son went swimming, and found himself of course to be amazingly buoyant. You do have to be careful not to get the water in your eyes, or to swallow any.

Minerals from the sea are some of Israel's biggest exports.

The sea is getting smaller. The once seaside resort we visited is now almost four fifths of a mile from the sea.  

From the shoreline, you can see Jordan on the other side.

On our drive back to Jerusalem, and ultimately Tel Aviv, we pulled over so the guide could point out a couple caves up in the hills.  

These two are among the eleven where The Dead Sea Scrolls were found starting in 1946.

Day One and Two - Tel Aviv, Masada and the Dead Sea

Day Three - Jerusalem

Day Four - Israel Museum

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