Thursday, August 29, 2013

Floating in the Dead Sea

This was our LAST out of Jerusalem field trip. Such a milestone! All of the sites we went to are along the west bank of the Dead Sea. Feel free to refer to this map to see where we were :)

Our first site was Qumran, which is where they found the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls were first discovered by some Bedouin shepherd boys by accident in the 1940s. Over the next few years, archeologists found about 1,000 manuscripts in the surrounding caves. The texts were written by a group of people called the Essenes. I believe the scrolls were written roughly around the time of Jesus. The Essenes were a fringe religious sect who believed the end of the world was coming. They lived like monks out in the middle of the desert. One of the reasons that the Dead Sea Scrolls are important is that they include copies of the Old Testament that are a full 1,000 years older than the previously oldest copies. Here's me with the caves where they found the scrolls in the background!

Our next stop was Masada, which is way to the south. Masada is a mesa that made a good natural fortress. Herod the Great built it up to be an even better fortress. 

Masada is famous in history for being the last Jewish rebel holdout during the first revolt against Rome. The Jewish nation had been defeated, the temple was destroyed, and the last people still fighting against Rome were under siege at Masada. You can still see the Roman siege ramp there. When it became clear that Rome was about to win and take over Masada, all of the Jewish rebels committed suicide to avoid being enslaved.

It's a famous site now because Jews see it as an example of bravery and doing everything you can to save the Jewish homeland. There are t-shirts at the gift shop there that say "Masada shall never fall again." As in, the Jewish state will never fall again.

Here's the view from the top of Masada. Or is it Mars?

It was HORRIBLY hot at Masada. Yet our professors still thought it would be a good idea for us to fill out a worksheet (like we were on an elementary school field trip) while we saw the site. However, the trip to Masada was saved when there was a food court on the way out, and I got an oreo McFlurry. The simple pleasures in life.

After Masada, it was time to swim! Sadly, not a cold, refreshing swim. But it was an exciting swim! The Dead Sea is 30% salt. If you compare that to the ocean being 3% salt, and the Great Salt Lake being 15% salt, you'll understand a little better how salty it is. 

If you ever get the chance to go to the Dead Sea, I would suggest trying REALLY hard not to get this water in your eyes, nose, or mouth. Not that I know that from personal experience, or anything...

It's so salty that you can't NOT float. I couldn't even put my feet straight down. I wouldn't have been able to touch the bottom anyway. It was deep!

The water was really warm, almost hot. Which didn't feel super pleasant since it was 110 degrees. But I'm so glad I can say I've floated in the Dead Sea! It was fun :)

Dead Sea mud is rumored to be great for your skin. A lot of my classmates rolled around in it. It smelled terrible, and that's not really my thing (uhh, that bus smelled awful afterwards). But I didn't miss out, because me and my roommate had already done Dead Sea facials earlier that week! One of the shopkeepers gave us some extra Dead Sea mud that he had for free.

Our last stop on this field trip was En Gedi. It was only 5 minutes away from the Dead Sea beach. It's a place with freshwater springs and waterfalls. There were some that were a lot bigger than this, but this is the waterfall where I hung out with a few friends.

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