After a wonderful evening at the Dead Sea, we set out the next morning for Masada. I had no idea what Masada was but D kept telling me prior to the trip, “Mrs. Berthel said that we have to hike Masada.” I enjoy hiking so it sounded fun to me. We told Isaac, our guide, of our intentions to hike up Masada and it took a little convincing for him to let us. There is a cable car that takes people up and down the 1300 foot mountain. Eventually, Isaac gave in and seven of us from our group decided to make the hike up and take the cable car down.
It was really fun (and at times challenging) to hike up Masada. Something that I noticed very quickly is that there were only a few other people going up but most others were coming down. The groups coming down were from all over the world and included some Israeli soldiers. In Israel, even when off duty, soldiers are required to carry their guns with them. It was sort of strange to see young men and women hiking down Masada with rifles strapped to their backs. However, everyone was very encouraging and as we got closer to the top, those coming down were encouraging us and said stuff like, “You are almost there!”
It took us about forty-five minutes and we got to the top of Masada. We caught up with our group to listen to Isaac’s explanations. I probably could not do the story of Masada justice by trying to explain so check it out here. It is really interesting and is the second most visited spot (next to Jerusalem) by tourist.
After spending the first half of our day at Masada, we headed to Jerusalem where we would spend the remainder of our trip. Up until this point, we had not really experienced anything having to do with the turmoil in Gaza that was happening (and is still happening) while we were there. It is hard to understand how the rest of the country goes on while a war is happening not far away. It was on our way to Jerusalem, that we saw some tanks traveling north (as a preventative measure to protect those borders, we assume). We were also able to see Gaza way in the distance where we saw smoke rising. Regardless, we felt safe and knew that Isaac would not take us anywhere he felt would put us at risk.
We made a stop in the Valley of Elah on our way to Jerusalem where David fought Goliath. Dan was able to pick five stones from the same stream as David.
We then traveled into the West Bank briefly to go up to the top of a tower where we could overlook Jerusalem. The tower was used by the military in the 1940s and they have left some old tanks and jeeps there for kids to play. These girls had a good time giggling at the tourists. And, of course, Dan had to join in the fun.
We arrived at our hotel in Jerusalem and said goodbye to Isaac (who I’ve come to think of as the Israeli George Clooney). It was sad to say goodbye as we had come to appreciate his dry sense of humor and vast knowledge of the land.