Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Israel - Day Five

We didn't have a wake up call this morning and didn't have to leave the towel until 9:30 AM. Ostensibly that was to give us a chance to go down to the Dead Sea to swim and take in the natural beauty. I spent the time sleeping and finally woke up about 8:20.

Our first stop was Masada, one of seven fortresses built by Herod the Great. It's a pretty impressive feat of engineering.

It's second claim to fame comes through a story told by Josephus, which may or may not be true. When the Romans defeated the Jews and destroyed the temple in 70 AD, a small band of 900 fled to Masada. The fortress, being on top of a mountain was isolated and fairly impregnable. The Romans came after them anyway and spent at least a year plotting how to get at the Jews. They ended up building a ramp to the top of the mountain and then rolled up a battering ram to bust through the walls. According to the story, on the night before the Romans broke through, the ledger of the rebels convinced his people it was better to take their own knives than to let the Romans kill them. So, with the exception of 5 women and 3 children who kinda hid out, they opted for the Jonestown method.

Then we tried to visit the En Gedi Nature Reserve but it was closed due to a flash flood warning. Flash floods are a big deal in the Dead Sea valley. While it doesn't rain much, when it does the water comes rushing down the adjacent hillsides pretty fast and furiously. It is such a freak phenomenon that folks drive down to the Dead Sea to see it. Kinda like driving to the Oregon coast to see a big storm roll in I guess.

We had lunch at nearby restaurant. Chicken leg and thigh, rice, corn, flatbread and a drink. I get to the check stand and she says, "$17 US." good grief! About twice what it seemed worth. On top of that, I handed her a $20 and got the equivalent of about fifty cents in change. Sheesh!

Then it was on to Qumran, the home of the Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls. In 1947 a Bedouin shepherd boy chased a sheep along a hillside. When it ran into a cave, he threw a rock in to scare it out. He heard something shatter and went in to check it out. What shattered was an urn that had been in that spot for almost 2,00 years. Inside the urn was a scroll. There were other urns and other scrolls. The boy gathered them up and took them into Bethlehem to see if they we're worth anything. A local shoemaker took a look and, while he was no antiquities expert, he knew enough to realize they were extremely valuable.. He bought the, for a song and eventually became wealthy beyond his wildest dreams.

From there we climbed our way to Jerusalem, going from 1,300 feet below sea level to 2,500 feet above. Along the way we stopped at an overlook to the st. George's Monastery, which looks to be hanging on a cliff in a very steep canyon. Some day I gotta go there.

We checked into our hotel about 5:30 PM and from there the daily battle for Internet access began.

Feral cat count: 6

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