Holy Land Epic!

Massada Travel Blog

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Bedouin Camp

From here we headed into West Bank territory of Palestine. We passed through a checkpoint easily and continued on. There were settlements made of concrete buildings and then in the valleys along the roadside some of the Bedouins make their home. Near the highway, you would see a bunch of small tanks on wheels. Our guide told us that they are filled with drinking water as there is no plumbing or water nearby. Their homes were make of wood, plastic, paper, whatever they can find to construct a shelter.

 

The landscape from there became barren but amazingly beautiful. The mountains of sandstone but mostly of sand were set against a striking blue sky. They weren’t particularly tall but amazing none the less.

 

From here we started our descent to the lowest place on Earth.

Jericho
The point at which we reach sea level was marked by a plaque.

 

The land became flat and we were even able to see the city of Jericho one of the larger Palestinian cities. There is a large, long concrete building that dominates, well IS the skyline.

 

 We continued down from there, all the way to 422 m below sea level (1385 ft). The Dead Sea is a kinder, gentler translation of the Hebrew “Yam Ha Maved” which means killer sea. It’s ten times as salty as any of the oceans (33.7% salinity), but we’re not there yet.

 

We continue in the flat lands, with an interesting grouping of plateaus in the distance. The flatlands continue to the sea. We head south from there. There are date palm plantations and several kibbutz dotting the land between the mountains and the sea.

Palestinian check point
There was a vast area of coastline now uncovered due to the continuing drop of the water level. This coastline area actually revealed some green brush that with the on the sunny day looked almost Mediterranean.

 

We passed through another Palestinian check point and now, across the water, the mountains of Jordan were visible. So close but……that’s journey is for September 2010.

 

Within the wall of mountains, to our right, a plateau with steep cliffs is the magnificent Massada. It’s one of the most frequently visited sites in Israel and a World Heritage Site since 2001. From below you would not expect that there was such a complex high above. The story of the Massada is one of perseverance and power, faith and surrender, ambition and a tragic end.

The fortress of Massada was built in 30 BC by Herod the Great, who was a great architect whose designs can be seen through out the region.

Dead Sea coastline
This site, however, became the last stronghold of a group of Jewish Zealots during the great revolt against Rome in 68 BC. In the year 72 the Romans besieged Massada and succeeded in reaching the steep fortress after constructing a huge earthen ramp on its western side.  In the year 73, the 960 Jewish Zealots living at the top of Massada chose to commit suicide rather than to fall into the hands of the Romans alive. Their deeds left behind a saga of courage, heroism, and martyrdom. 

 

So…we pull up and get in line to take the cable car to the top. You can take the twisty path that winds its way to the top. We file in and ascend to the plateau. The views of the valley and the Dead Sea and even across to Jordan are fantastic.

Massada
You can see for many, many kilometers around. The scene is amazing and desolate!!! You have the desert panorama to the west and the Dead Sea to your east. It’s Middle East drama!!!

 

So, the guide took us around to the many sections of the ruins, many of which have been partially reconstructed. You are able to tell the difference between the original ruins and the reconstructed areas by the black line that delineates them.The most impressive structure on Massada is King Herod's northern palace, built on three rock terraces overlooking the gorge below.  Near the palace is a large Roman style bath house with a colorful mosaic floor and walls decorated with murals.

Massada
  Many other buildings at the site - such as the luxurious western palace, the mikveh (Jewish ritual bath), storerooms, watchtowers, and synagogue relate the history of Massada,

 

From the lookouts you can see several Roman camps and areas of obvious water run off channels. The strategically placed palm groves surround or line little oasises in this barren plain.

 

In one of the buildings, that was mostly intact, some of the painted walls were still visible…amazing. Some floor mosaics also were intact. Also, on of the ends of a building had bricks arranges in geometric designs. The guide said she could see a menorah but…..I couldn’t.

 

We had a few minutes to look through the souvenir shop. They had many interesting crafts and ancient artifacts from the surrounding area, used in interesting way. Such was the case for the cross that we bought. It is a circle and a Jerusalem cross within. It is open and has a backing that is made from Roman glass that is multi colored. To add to my hat collection, a Dead Sea hat…I know, cheesy!!! I also found a miniature of Massada to add to my now crowded village of souvenirs.

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Bedouin Camp
Bedouin Camp
Jericho
Jericho
Palestinian check point
Palestinian check point
Dead Sea coastline
Dead Sea coastline
Massada
Massada
Massada
Massada
Massada
photo by: delsol67