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TRAVELOGUE ISRAEL

  

 

 

MASADA - DEAD SEA

12.11. 2013, travel book part I.

 

Why to go to Masada

The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth (420 meters below the surface of the world's ocean) and thanks to its salinity, which is ten times higher than in the Mediterranean, is a great experience. Dead Sea waters have a high mineral content, which has a healing effect helping mainly in treatment of psoriasis. Due to the huge vapor, the Dead Sea is drying at about 1 meter per year and is now divided into two parts where the southern part is very shallow and reaches a depth of only 6 meters. The main tributary is the Jordan River and is heavily used for irrigation on both the Israeli, Jordanian and Syrian sides. There is a threat that the Dead Sea will soon disappear from the map of the world.

Masada is a national legend for Jews. It is a fort built between 103 and 76 BC and extended during Herod the Great in 43 BC, who built here two luxurious palaces. It is built on an inaccessible plateau at an altitude of 450 meters above ground level near the Dead Sea. It is located 20 km north of the famous resort of Ein Bokek. The legendary fortress was re-discovered only in 1838. The story of the tragic heroism of the Jews at the end of the first Jewish war was thus confirmed. In 66 AD for the first time the Jews rose up against the Romans, and after four years of battles, only the Masada fortress was still resisting. The Romans besieged it for years, and finally came into the fortress by exposing a rampart from the valley itself to the very top of the hill thus leading wall breaching devices right to the wall of the fortress, and after that, the Jews realized that the end was near - instead of falling into Roman slavery, they chose joint death. They chose among themselves ten soldiers who had the task of killing thousands of their own citizens, including women and children. Then they drew one soldier whom killed the other nine warriors. Suicide, which contradicted faith, was carried out by the last soldier... Only a few women with children survived the massacre by hiding in a water tank. Today, an extensive archaeological survey is being carried out on the site of the former fortress.

 

How to get to Masada

To make the most of the time we had in Israel, we chose a night flight with Israeli airline El Al, which flew at 22:25. When traveling to Israel, it is recommended to be at the airport at least two, two and a half hours prior departure. The reason for this being mainly that in front of the check-in counters themselves, additional counters are situated there, which the passengers must first pay a visit to. Here, the employees of El Al will get acquainted with the tourist during which they will ask for the reason of the trip, the itinerary, etc. In my case, this questioning lasted almost fifteen minutes. Afterwards I could proceed with check in. At 3.15 local time, according to plan we landed at Ben Gurion's airport in Tel Aviv and expected the same process of questioning and queries, but our surprise was nothing of the essence. After processing the entry procedures, we withdrawed our first shekels from the nearest ATM and went to look for our car rental office which we used for rental before departure. We chose the local Eldan company, which had good referrences. The car rental company area was quickly identified, we picked up our car and set off the Israeli highways right to the Dead Sea. Given that the rented car can not enter the territory of the Palestinian Authority, we did not go east through Jerusalem, but we drove south across the Negev desert. We passed the Ein Bokek Resort (160 km) at 7am and were in Masada right before half past seven.

 

Accomodation tip

We had a reservation at one of the big hotels on Tel Aviv Beach. If I traveled myself, I would choose a hostel like the Hayarkon 48, located just one street from the beach. Alternatively, see Agoda.com or Booking.com.

 

My experience in Masada

My colleague who travelled with me was running late at the airport, so I had to stand the prior to check-in queue of inspection twice. When we had finally reached the check-in counter, the dear lady did not want to allow him to take his baggage aboard because it weighed 12 kg. Okay, my little bag weighed 6 kg, so now I'll be waiting again after landing by the luggage belt, this time for his bag. He got upset, and he put his camera in the bag which he had to surrender. I reminded him that electronics did not belong there, but he didn´t really care. When he later settled down on the plane, he got a little nervous, thinking whether it would get broken.

On the plane, we had just over three hours of possible sleep, and even this luxury was disrupted by two Jews that were arguing like crazy, as others had to calm them down, it seemed they would start fighting at any moment.

After landing, we successfully hired a car, however it seemed to my colleague that it was sticky and that it stunk.

It's good to have GPS navigation in your car, making traveling easier, saving you a lot of time, miles and nerves. The colleague had only one task ahead of our trip and that was trying out the navigation on our iPad. Of course, we only managed to test it for the first time when we left the car rental garage. Although a little sweating and somewhat nervous, we finally started the navigation and took off. Nevertheless, we did have some complications and drove some extra distances, twice. If you can´t bring your own navigation, you may obtain one at the car rental company, forb a minor fee. (Today simply use app Maps.me).

Israel Masada

Masada

Just as we left the Tel Aviv highways, my colleague fell asleep. I acted out alone as the driver in pitch darkness and only from time to time another car passed by. Gradually as dawn began, I watched the surrounding countryside changing into desert. After driving through the city of Arad, Route 31 had already started dropping towards the sea and we could follow signs on the way explaining how we descend under sea level.

Israel Masada

Masada

At 6:30 we stopped in the desert, had our breakfast and made the first photos of the Dead Sea. At 7:00 we passed through Ein Bokek and before half past seven we stepped out our car onto an empty parking lot at Masada Fortress. Being without enough sleep, we unambiguously chose the cableway cabin and left the walking Snake Trail to the other visitors. (58 NIS upwards). From the top there is a magnificent view of the Dead Sea and the silhouettes of the Roman camps that besieged Masada two thousand years ago. The fortress is under reconstruction and for the most part is currently formed by ruins. On the zigzag way back down we were walking along the Snake Trail with ease.

Israel Masada

View from Masada fort

At ten o'clock, we returned to Ein Bokek and parked the car in front of a shopping center, which was adjacent to the public beach. At the beach we found ourselves blinking at pieces of salt that bordered the shore and finally went into the water. Even though I suspected what was awaiting me, still I was a little surprised because the water brought me back to the surface, so I felt like being somewhat on a trampoline. For the rest of the day I decided to do silly things in the water and find out in which positions may one drown in the Dead Sea and in which not.

Israel Dead sea - Ein Bokek

Dead sea - Ein Bokek

It was 31 °C.

On the way back we got some petrol (200NIS). It was quite a hustle, because the station had displays and wanted us to insert information, the manual was only in Hebrew. After a few attempts I approached the station crew, instead of ID we input our car registration number and in the end I successfully went through payment.

Israel Dead sea

Dead sea

A month after returning home from Israel, Eldan sent me an invoice with a small fee for driving through a paid section of the highway even though I didn´t know about driving there. Well I geuss I probably did.

 

VISITED COUNTRIES

zeme 100

37

KM ON THE ROADS

km 100

48 560

DAYS ON THE ROADS

dny 100

397