The Dead Sea is Salty. The Desert is Beautiful.

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Hey guys. I’ve done it. I’ve officially swum in the Dead Sea.

Of course, by ‘swim’ I mean more ‘floated awkwardly and painfully’. But still. It HAS been done.

And I can happily and confidently say, that I never ever ever want to do it again.

But more on that later.

First. The Desert.

When Mercedes and I journeyed to Israel to visit Asdru and Gal, we were extremely lucky that Gal, from here on known as Guider Gal, was able and willing to take time out to show us around his homeland.

Being a wise man, who does not shy away from the desert, but knows well of Its Might, Guider Gal recommended that on the day we visited Masada, we leave not-too-late in the morning.

Which is why you see us here, in the wee hours, at a gas station, getting our very first coffee of the morn*.

*I should actually mention here that it was probably already 9. And that, in fact, our other Israeli friend, who has a small child and perhaps therefore has a higher tolerance for sleepless nights than us, suggested that we get to our destination, 2 hours from Tel Aviv, by sunrise! We politely nodded, and decided for the sleep-in.After loading up on caffeine, and committing to one of Guider Gal’s hazing rituals that involved us eating what he called the worst candy Israel has to offer (because if you’re going to do a road trip, you might as well do it properly), we hit the road again.

And then, as the first batch of candy began to settle in/erode our tummies (verdict: not as bad as he would have you believe), we took a break to gaze out over the land.

I’m going to be honest, every time I see a stunning kind of scenery like this, I immediately think of the Lion King.

See that Simba? All that you see before you?

Well it’s not yours, but it is where Sodom and Gomorrah used to be. You know, Simba, those cities of the biblical fame that got completely damaged because of some such nonsense about sex?

(As another aside, because I’m in a chatty mood today, I just read some of the wiki about ‘The Judgment on Sodom  and Gomorrah’ and, apart from the general ‘not okayness’ of the whole thing, there is an extra creepy part about Lot trying to save some visiting angels from molestation by offering up his virgin daughters in their stead. Which… Just Wow Lot. Wow.)

Anyway, as you can see, biblical horror stories aside, the landscape is pretty spectacular.   

Also spectacular? These birds.

I’m fairly convinced that they are sentient. And about 93% certain that they are plotting against us.

So anyway, unlike these slightly foolish seeming people above, who apparently were all about the self-powered-mobility, we got back into Guider Gal’s car, and headed to Masada. And at the point of our arrival at the base of the mountain that is Masada, not-a-single-one-of-us was disappointed to read that the snake trail- a hellish hike to the top of the mountain- was closed due to extreme heat.

We took the cable car instead.

Look at that distance! This is literally why cable cars were invented.

I feel at this point, as we physically enter Masada, I should give you some information on what Masada actually is.

Masada is a fortress, built on the top of a rather foreboding and isolated rock plateau, that overlooks the Dead Sea.

Herod the Great, who you might remember from his ‘attempting to kill all the babies Infamy’, built it way up there, mostly because he could.

So when you go there as a tourist, you get to wander around this rather nice fortress and look out on the extremely special and incredible alienesque world around you…. ^For storage. The wells in the middle mean that if a case of wine or oil breaks, it will gently slope towards the hole and can be scooped up and rescued. Neat huh?

… but aside from being Herod’s holiday home, Masada is also the locale of a great Siege, with the Jewish Sicarii rebels, about 960 of them, inside the fortress, and the Romans, approximately 15,000 of them, outside.

In the year 72, the Romans quite literally set up camp(s), erecting a huge wall around the base of the plateau to surround and isolate the rebels.

The camps are still quite visible from the fortress:  

Also visible from the fortress: the sheer height and huge angle of the cliffs. It took the Roman legions several months to gradually construct a siege ramp that lead them up to the city walls, and in spring of 73 they attacked those walls with battering rams.

Meanwhile, in the night, the Jewish Zealots divided into groups of 10 and drew lots.

When the Romans finally entered, they were met only with a scene of mass suicide.

Guider Gal told us that the story of Masada is somewhat controversial.

To some, it demonstrates the fortitude of the Rebel group. To others, it shows the dangers of fanaticism.

No matter your politics, the site is incredibly, incredibly impressive.    

Above is basically views of, and from, Herod’s front porch.

And below is an cunning little bird, who can do aerial tricks if Israeli candy is up for grabs.   

^Showing how the rain would run off the nearby hill into caverns at the base of the fortress.

After a bit more of a wander, we sought shade and sustenance.

And just as aside, Germany take note.

This is what ‘bad canteen food’ looks like in Israel.

Look. Learn. Make it happen.

After stuffing ourselves with hummus, we headed to the Dead Sea.

And here are some fun facts about the Dead Sea. And let me just say first and foremost, that Guider Gal warned us of all of these issues. We did not listen.

Kids, always listen to Guider Gal.

1) It is about 31 degrees inside the water. Think about sweat. It pretty much feels like sweat.

The sand around the sea is approximately as hot as lava. Bring thongs.

2) It is smelly. Not just sodium and chloride. But also sulfur and possibly actual sweat. See that guy down there with the paddle board? He is just trying to get his nose further away from the water.

3) Floating is a bit unnerving, but you can do kind of cool tricks. Like this:

And this:

4) You know that phrase ‘rubbing salt into a wound’. You don’t even need to even rub, it will just seep in. The sea wants to get under your skin and it knows just how. It will irritate any skin condition you might have, making you want to scratch. This is an evil trick designed by the sea to make you damage your own skin and help it get in there and burn you like the holy fire. Do not itch!

This is not a smile. This is a grimace.

I itched.

It hurt. It was warm.

I was a wuss. I went inside the water for less than 5 minutes, before hastily exiting. When you get out, the super-saturated nature of the water makes it feel like clammy oil on your skin.

I had many showers, and then sat in the shade and watched the other kids frolick. Then Mercedes convinced me that I really should get some photos so I went back in, did these three poses, and then went back to the shower.

Hey Ma, Hey Pa! Here is a photo of me in the Dead Sea. Hope you like it.

Anyway, because we had all gone in the mean sea, we all got to have icecream. And then we went back to Tel Aviv and swam in the real sea that was cool and calming and peaceful and perfect.

And then, just as it always should, the sun set over that sea.

Thanks for taking us on a fabulous day trip Guider Gal!!

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