What was that? Yeah, yeah, I know it seems like forever since I went to Israel. But that doesn’t mean I can’t continue to drone on and on and on and…
While Jerusalem is a city I could explore for a seemingly endless amount of time, I was very excited to get out and see some of the sights outside of the Holy City.
Our first stop was the Jordan River, where we came across a baptism in the river. It was pretty emotional and although I’m not really comfortable taking photos of people, especially in personal moments, everyone else was snapping away. What can I say? I’m just a follower at heart.
Afterwards, we made our way to the Mount of Beatitudes, located above the shores of the Sea of Galilee or Lake Tiberias. The Church of the Beatitudes sits on top of the mountain and is said to be built upon the location of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The views from this church are insanely beautiful.
Then, we made our way to Canaan, where Jesus is said to have performed his first miracle of turning water into wine at the Marriage at Cana. Indeed, to this day, “They have no more wine” are words that require swift action.
And while all of these sites certainly deserve a singular post of their own, I’m just going to skip on to my favorite day trip out of Jerusalem.
The Dead Sea and Masada.
And no, I’m not going to post a photo of a buoyant Hamatha fumbling around in the Dead Sea. Am I the only one in the world that absolutely hated the floating feeling? Too weird and weirdly greasy.
And don’t even get me started on the mud, which thanks to the clumsy mitts of my husband made it to my mouth and well, let’s just say that the famous skin softening mud mixture may be made up of a little something else organic-y.
Anyway, after our obligatory float in the amazingly desolate and strangely beautiful area of the Dead Sea, we made our way to one of the most impressive sites in Israel, Masada.
Originally a fortification constructed by the Hasmoneans, Herod the Great decided to further fortify the area for his own refuge around 31 BC. Located on a steep hilltop plateau in the Judaean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea, this area was valued for its safety and thought to be inpenetrable by invading forces.
In 66 AD, at the beginning of the Great Jewish Revolt against the Roman Empire, which had sieged Jerusalem, a group of Jewish extremists, the Sicarii, settled in Masada looking for protection from Roman persecution.
Of course, like so many throughout history, they were proved wrong by pesky Roman soldiers who, starting in 72 AD, acted on orders to take control of Masada. While trapped within the fortress, the Sicarii watched as the innovative Roman army simply built a ramp to the top and subsequently invaded the “impenetrable” fortress.
However, when the army entered Masada, instead of a defensive battle waiting for them, they found what they referred to as “a citadel of death”. With the exception of one woman and her children, the entire Masada population was found dead.
Death before slavery.
According to the story, since suicide is prohibited in Judaism, there was a methodical killing process that had men killing each other and their respective wives and children. The only woman found alive was a widow and therefore, had no one to take her life.
According to Wikipedia, “Masada has become a controversial event in Jewish history, on the one hand becoming a place of reverence, a site commemorating fallen ancestors and their heroic struggle against oppression, and on the other a stark warning against radicalism.”
I choose to believe what our guide told us: while the events of Masada may have been skewed a bit over time as a way of encouraging Israeli pride and strength, today, the idea of glorifying the mass suicide of Masada is mainly considered to be an unwanted boister to religious zealots and should not be used as a political tool.
Again, trying my best to avoid any political nonsense on this nonsensical blog, but I have to say that Masada is one of the most fascinating day trips from Jerusalem and totally worth the time it takes to get there.
And yes, if you must, go float in the Dead Sea first, but beware of that damn funky mud.