Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dead Sea, Masada and Shabbat

Let's start with Shabbat. I accidentally got on a Shabbat elevator today and guess what? The buttons don't work during Shabbat. A Shabbat elevator goes to each floor one-by-one, up and down, automatically because pushing the button is considered work, and forbidden during Shabbat. I took me a second to realize what I had done, and that repeated pushing of the button of floor I wanted to go to did absolutely nothing. After getting off the Shabbat elevator and getting on the regular elevator, I found that it would only go down to the lobby before going back up. I will have probably just figured all this stuff out right about the time we are gettin ready to leave.

Jeanne and I both agreed that Masada was probably one of the most impressive historical sites that we have ever been to. My pictures don't even do it justice, so the couple that I will put here is just a taste of what it was really like. If any of you come to Israel, be sure to put this on your must see list. A fortress and palace originally built for Herod in the event of a revolt (or assassins) threatened his life, it was the the last stand of  a certain sect of Jews (Secarii) and other Jewish families who, after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, took refuge there. In the spring of 73 AD, a Roman garrison, led by Lucius Flavius Silva, built a siege ramp (the remants of the ramp and the 8 camps around the fortess still exist and are plainly visable) on a natural rock spur, and used an armored siege tower and battering ram to enter the 1300' high fortress. According to Jewish historian Josephus, upon entering the fortress, the Romans found most of the  buildings ablaze andthat the 900+ inhabitants had commited mass suicide rather than fall into the hands of the Romans. Today, it is a place where every  Israeli Soldier takes a solemn oath that Masada (Israel) will never fall into foreign hands again.

Looking up at Masada from the tram base.

Looking down at the Dead Sea from Masada.

Looking down at the Northern Palace.

Brave Jeanne going down the hanging staircase to the Nothern Palace.

Looking north to south across the fortress.

View of one of the Roman Camps from above.

Roman siege ramp.

After leaving Masada, we went to a public beach on the dead sea. At 1300' below sea level, it is the lowest place on earth. And at 33.7 % salinity, the Dead Sea is the saltiest body of water (so salty that if inhaled into the lungs, it would be instantly fatal). Because of the insane density of the water with salt and minerals, you literally cannot sink. Jeanne and I took a brief and very chilly dip, and yep...didn't sink.

Before I could get up to the fresh-water showers, I had an almost-table-salt granular residue forming on my body.

The highlight of the dead sea trip was as rain began to fall an we looked over to Jordan, a bright rainbow formed over the sea. All 6 of us in the van almost simultaneously spoke of the promise from God to never destroy mankind again by flood, and that he gave us a reminder in the form of a a rainbow.

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