In a change of pace, we visited a nature reserve called En Gedi. It was so much fun! We hiked through the park for a couple of hours and enjoyed the oasis in the middle of the desert.
The wildlife there is adorable: rock hyrax & ibex. Random fact (per our guide): despite the fact that they look like rodents, the rock hyrax is the closest relation, genetically, to the elephant. Bizarre, no?
My favorite location on the hike was a waterfall. It was just such a spot, says our guide, where David cut off a bit of Saul’s garment while he slept.
After we finished our hike, we drove to Masada–up which we did NOT hike, because by then, it was hot! I think the officials had closed the Snake Path already, but even if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have braved the climb in that heat. If you wish to hike up, I suggest you start early. We rode up, and when we got to the top, the ruins were definitely a sight to behold.
Learning about the sheer feat of architecture it was to build Masada on the spot was interesting, but the most touching part of the visit occurred as we sat in the shade, staring at the remains of the siege ramp and listened as our guide told the story of the Jewish rebels who held out against the Roman forces atop Masada. Over 900 people died–even the hardened Romans must have been shaken to enter a ghost town and walk from house to house, finding scads of people who’d agreed to kill themselves (and each other), rather than lose their freedom.
After we’d ridden the cable car to the bottom of the site, we drove to the Dead Sea. I have never encountered such strange water before–touching it is rather like touching baby oil (strange-smelling baby oil, I’ll grant you). I put a drop on my tongue, and it tastes vile! I suppose that’s to be expected with over 30% salinity, but yuck!