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Our Magnificent Journey
Chapter 10
Israel, Paris


Carol and David and the ancient wall surrounding Old Jerusalem  

Day 15

Masada / Dead Sea

Slept well. Woke at 7:15am to prepare for our excursion to Masada and the Dead Sea. Enjoyed another delicious breakfast at the hotel. There are many dignitaries in Jerusalem today for a special presidential conference and we saw several African representatives, some in native dress, in the dining room. President Bush is due to arrive later in the day. He will stay at the King David Hotel, two blocks away from our hotel.


At 9:0am we were picked up at the hotel by a genial French-speaking Israeli fellow. The traffic in Jerusalem, normally crazy, is totally insane today due to the security for visiting dignitaries such as President Bush. Somehow we made it to the Hyatt where a larger tour bus awaited us. Prior to arriving at the Hyatt, we stopped to pick up a few fellow travelers, one of whom was David from LA who had been on our earlier Jerusalem tour and who we bumped into during dinner at the King David Hotel two nights ago.

Security on the streets of Jerusalem is heavy today - Bush is coming!!

Finally the tour bus departed. On the way to the Judean desert we climbed Mt. Scopus with a great view of the Dome of the Rock in the Old City. Dropping out of Jerusalem we began to descend towards the West Bank. We spent much of the drive through the Judean desert in the West Bank. Nearly all of the trees we see have been planted by human hand – millions of trees have been planted in Israel over several decades. The Israelis drained the swamps in the Galilee with water-sucking eucalyptus trees. Many of the other trees we see are Cyprus and pine.


Passed many Bedouin tent villages. Came to the spot where Jesus met the Good Samaritan. Passed the biblical oasis of Jericho, now in Palestinian hands. We passed the spot where John baptized believers in the Jordan River. Soon the Dead Sea came into view. We are 1,300 feet below sea level, the lowest spot on Planet Earth. We came to Qumram, the caves where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered. Mt. Moab is to the east, the Negev/Judean desert to the west.

Bedouin village in the Negev Desert
Qumran - where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered
We passed the En Gedi kibbutz

The Dead Sea is a lake, 71 km north to south, bordered on the east by Jordan, west by Israel. The north side is very deep, the south is shallow.

Dead Sea - with a lot of salt in the foreground
The Dead Sea - north end
Along the shore of the Dead Sea

Passed a machine-gun guarded check point, and soon the bus deposited us at the Masada visitor center. We took the cable car to the top and Haya, our multi-lingual guide, spent the next two hours plying us with information about this historic site where 1000 Jewish zealots defended themselves against the Romans for three years until the Roman engineers finished building an enormous wooden siege engine and stormed the top. By then, all but 3 people were dead by suicide.

Welcome to Masada
Looking down from the cable car - notice the outline of the Roman encampment near the visitor center
The top of Masada
Carol and David at the top of Masada
Looking down from the top of Masada - notice the outline of the Roman encampment
Looking down from the top of Masada at the remains of the earthen ramp built by the Romans
Ruins at the top of Masada

After descending from the top of Masada, we toured the visitor center, then boarded the bus. Next we stopped at the oasis at En Gedi and at the cafeteria we met Susan and Carlo Luzzi from Las Vegas. It turns out that Susan is from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, a small town where I lived for several years in the 1970s. Carol and Susan enjoyed floating in the salty waters of the Dead Sea, then enjoyed the mud baths. Carlo and I were happy to stay clean and dry and take photographs.

Carlo, Susan, Carol and David
Carol and Susan floating in the Dead Sea
Rinsing off
A group who just enjoyed the mud baths
Mud is fun
Mud lovers
Carol rinses the mud off

Back in the bus for the trip through the Judean desert, past Palestinian-held Jericho, rising up through the West Bank towards Jerusalem. Stopped at Ahava, the only factory allowed to market Dead Sea cosmetic products. Note - every tour we have been on in Israel has been efficient, informative, fun and well-managed.

Signs in the Negev Desert

On the ascent through the Judean desert en route to Jerusalem, we passed many Bedouin tent villages and camels and herds of goats. An hour later we were back in Jerusalem. Because President Bush is here for the conference, tight security has many streets blocked off or closed. So our tour bus had to drop us off at Ben Yahuda Street (where we naturally did some shopping) and we had a twenty-minute walk down King George street to the Prima Royale and much-needed showers.


Two blocks away is the King David hotel where President Bush is staying. Tonight you can’t get closer to the King David than our hotel due to security. Two nights ago Carol and I walked in, strolled out to the balcony and enjoyed a delicious dinner as the evening shadows crept along the walls of the Old City. Tonight there is an eye-in-the-sky surveillance blimp tethered to the old hotel. All of the tour guides, taxi and bus drivers are unhappy with the visit since traffic is impossible right now. Carol and I were fortunate to tour Masada and the Dead Sea today since that entire area will be closed tomorrow so that President Bush can have a look. In fact, there were workers cleaning Masada’s stairs and railings and Haya, our tour guide, remarked that she had never seen that happen before.


Showered and rested, we left the hotel at 7:30pm and walked north up King George street to Ben Yahuda, a twenty-minute stroll. This lively area appeals to us. The night is cool and there is a relaxed atmosphere here. The presence of George W. Bush has no effect here.


We window-shopped and people-watched until we came to a restaurant called Dolce Latte which looked inviting so we sat outside and enjoyed a dinner of shakshuka and sweet potato ravioli. The spot was great for people-watching and the food was delicious.

Sign on Ben Yahuda Street
Hotel near Ben Yahuda Street

We found out this evening that somewhere along the way, someone got hold of our credit card number and tried to use it online. Thanks to vigilant Chase Visa, none of the fraudulent charges went through.


Called dear Monica to see how the puppies are doing. Thanks to Monica and Warren we are able to travel knowing that the pups and the house are in loving, capable, trustworthy hands.


After dinner we walked once again up bustling Ben Yahuda Street to King George street, then south to Mendele Street and the hotel, where we finally gave our tired feet a break and fell into bed after a full day of adventure in the Judean desert.


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