Yay for sleeping in! Since we didn’t have to leave the hotel until 11am, Jill and I slept in. We had intended on watching the sunrise over the Dead Sea from our hotel room… but we missed it by about 15 minutes. A bit disappointing, but I got to see pictures of it from others. It was nice, however, to take our time getting ready and repack our suitcases. My suitcase had gotten fairly disorganized by this point, so it was nice to make sure everything was in its proper place and to keep dirty clothes from fraternizing with the clean ones.
By 10:45 most of us had boarded the bus, and we headed back north a little ways to Masada. The word “masad” means “strong foundation.” Masada is a mountain plateau – it is 23 acres on top, and sits 900 feet high with a fabulous view of the Dead Sea. It was here that Herod built another one of his palaces as well as an army fortress. At the bottom we boarded a cable car that took us smoothly to the top. One of the first things I noticed at the top was how windy it was, but this helped the high temperatures feel not quite so hot.
We spent time viewing the ruins, especially Herod’s palace: the Hanging Palace. This palace was built so that it was perched on the side of the mountain rather precariously-looking. We also saw ruins from a brief time that a Jewish rebellion had control of Masada.
When you are done touring Masada, you then may either use your other ticket to take the cable car back down the mountain, or you may hike down the Snake Path. Dave, Grace, and myself decided to hike (see picture). You would think that going down would be pretty easy, at least easier than going up…. Well, you would be partially right. The stairs were very uneven, sometimes the depth of two normal stairs… there were usually guard rails, but not always… and sometimes it was just gravel paths. The path also zig-zags because of the mountain being so steep – this means that a 900-foot-mountain has a path of 2 miles. It really wasn’t so bad the first 2/3rds of the way though because there was a nice breeze keeping me cool. The last third, however, was hot! Hot! HOT! I did manage to spot some ibex through my sweat-fogged sunglasses. And when we reached the air-conditioned visitor center, that popsicle never tasted so good!
Thankfully we had over an hour to relax on the air-conditioned bus while we started to make our way west, toward Jerusalem. Just outside of Jerusalem we stopped at Genesis Land for dinner at Abraham’s Tent. We met our Abraham inside a Welcome Center and Shop. He gave us a brief history lesson of his travels, then led us outside. He had enough camels that about half of our group got to ride to his tent, then the rest of us would get to ride back from the tent. Suspiciously, our Abraham sounded a bit more Australian than Israelite, but he was a wonderful host. He treated us like kings and queens, and fed us the best food he had to offer.
When it was time to head back, I headed straight for the camels – I was not about to miss my opportunity to ride one! Jill and I were so excited. But somehow we ended up with the complaining camel. He grunted and groaned about everything! He was already complaining before we even got on him. Once we got moving though, he stopped complaining. It was so much fun! It is so unlike riding a horse.
When we arrived back at the Welcome Center and Shop, each of us were given a Camel Riding Certificate (to show that we can all ride – not drive – camels professionally) with our name in Hebrew! Watch out now! I can officially ride camels professionally!
After our fabulous camel-riding adventure, we hopped back on the bus to go to our hotel in Jerusalem. The road we took gave us an amazing view of the Old City – I could see the Temple Mount (where the Dome of the Rock now sits), the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Kidron Valley. I was finally in God’s City. The place where He dwelled among his people in the Temple. I couldn’t wait to start exploring this city!
When we did arrive at the Grand Hotel we all jumped in the pool for a much-needed cool off. The water was cold, but we didn’t care! After dinner we got to meet a jeweler from the city. He engraved rings, necklaces and bracelets. Since seeing Grace’s ring last summer, I knew exactly what I wanted. I ordered a ring that was engraved in Hebrew with the phrase from Song of Solomon 2 that says “I am my beloved’s and my beloved’s is mine.” Each of the 6 of us ordered rings that night, not all with the same phrase. It took a day longer to get mine, but once all of us had ours we took a picture of our rings together.