Into the Negev
Guide Number Three
Our guide Avi is off to give a lecture in Greece today. He recommended Gadi Ben-Dov for our trip South from Jerusalem. We realize it is going to be a LONG day and the first thing we had to discuss with Gadi was possibly cutting something out of the itinerary. He quickly summarized the day and helped us decide to eliminate Qumran. We stopped on the road and he gave us a short synopsis of the dead sea scrolls. We could see one of the caves from the road. And on we went to Ein Gedi.
Ein Gedi is an oasis and a national park in the middle of the desert. It is very beautiful and is the area where King David hid from Saul who was chasing him. The caves that he likely hid in are still there. There is a beautiful stream flowing through and we hiked up to stream and saw several waterfalls and lots of ibex wandering free, which is the symbol for the national Park service in Israel. As with so many things it is amazing to think that you were standing in the place that king David was hiding from King Sauland that was something like 3000 years ago. This national park was a great break from archaeology and catholic churches. It was wonderful to hike in this cross between a desert and an oasis. It brings meaning to the biblical phrase “streams in the deserts”.
Be sure to see our Photo Gallery of Masada, En Gedi and the Dead Sea
Many will have heard of Masada. It was even a movie. What we know for sure was that the Jews rebelled against the Romans in
68AD. You might remember that the Temple was completely destroyed in 70 AD as Jesus prophesied. They stick wood in the cracks and burn it and the limestone crumbles. Anyway… the rebels were being defeated and escaped by taking over Herod’s Masada fortress. It is difficult to describe this massive fortress probably a half mile long in a quarter mile wide on top of a huge plateau with some very steep sides all around. Crazy King Herod built it as a place to escape if he got into much trouble in Jerusalem. It was a full complete palace with all the luxuries even though hair and never set foot in it. It had huge water cisterns and stocks of food. After 3 years the Romans began a fruitless siege with 8000 soldiers vs 1000 rebels. In the end they built an ENORMOUS siege ramp up the most accessible slope. I cannot describe how massive an effort this was. Of course the Romans being Romans, used Jewish slaves to build the ramp, since they knew the Jews would not kill them. They must have lost a lot of Roman soldiers. The story goes that rather than be captured, the rebels killed their families, then their comrades. When there was only 10 left they drew lots for who would have be last and kill himself. Suicide is a grave sin in Judeaism. They even found shards of potter with Jewish names on them. However, Gadi helped us understand that while it could be true, the only information we have is from Flavus Josephus
I knew Josephus Was a historian. What I didn’t know, was that he was an officer in the Jewish rebellion. And he himself had convinced his comrades to kill each other rather than be captured. But when it came down to him, he decided that wasn’t such a good idea and he basically defected to the Romans and changed his name to a Roman name. He was very tight with Titus the Emperor and really as such was a traitor and a level far worse than Benedict Arnold.
Consequently, I think it’s entirely possible that the legendary Masada event did not play out the way that he wrote it. It has a very Roman tragedy kind of feel to it. He might’ve been playing to his audience .
We didn’t get there early enough in the day to walk up the aptly named snake trail. We were sissies and took the gondola ride. It was at this point we said farewell to our third and final guide in Israel. He took a bus back to Jerusalem and we headed south to the tourist beach on the Dead Sea.
It was getting late in the day so we had to skip smearing dead sea mud on our faces and bodies and had to settle for the typical tourist poses floating on top of the water. It really is as freaky as it looks.
We continued straight south through the Negev desert and arrived in Eilat which is a city on the Red Sea about Two hours south of the Dead Sea. Don’tconfuse the Dead Sea with the Red Sea. After some difficulty getting into the gated building that was our Airbnb location, and finally getting connected with the man who had our key.,Our apartment was fairly decent but certainly not as nice as previous ones. We were so tired that night I can’t even remember where we ate.
the Next day I did something that has been on my bucket list for YEARS. Jim and I snorkeled in the Red Sea. And it was as good as I had heard.
Here are All of our Israel Photos