Our departure was an early 7:30 and we went straight to Masada. I don’t know much about the history of Israel but even I know about Masada. This is the place where a few hundred Jewish people chose to kill themselves rather than become slaves to the Romans. Masada was built to be a palace fortress for Herod the great. It was built on an immense plateau making it almost impossible to attack. In 66 A.D. the Jewish people revolted against the roman regime and the Romans needed to make an example of them. Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by Titus in 70 A.D. and the Jewish people were scattered across the globe in the Diaspora. But a remnant of rebels held out for a couple more years and they retreated to the fortress of Masada. From there they were able to resist the Romans for two years. In the end the Romans built a giant land ramp to reach the fortress, battered down the walls, and entered the fortifications. They found that the rebels, rather than become slaves, had chosen to commit suicide. Since then Masada has become a symbol of resisting oppression. We rode a cable car up to the top and my ears popped. It was high enough to become significantly cooler on top. Mahdi took us around the ruins and told us about what all the rooms used to be. The sight wasn’t really all that impressive but the history made it all worth it. To be in a place that represented so much for the Jewish people was very important and fascinating. We stopped briefly by the Jordan River where Jesus was said to have been baptized. The place is in the “no mans land” between Israel and Jordan. The river serves as the border between the two countries and it’s not very big. As Mahdi said, you can almost jump across it and be in Jordan. Many pilgrims come to go into the water to be baptized. My dad made me pose in front of the river even though I didn’t feel the need. We also took a picture with some of the armed guards at the site. The security in Egypt looked like child’s play compared to this. There are armed guards everywhere and they all have very heavy automatic weapons. They don’t mess around in Israel. Interestingly, at least a third of the guards we’ve seen have been woman. It is a requirement for Jewish girls to go into the military for at least two years. These women are tough and you’re crazy if you try to cross them. They have the utmost respect just like any male soldier. Our guide told us that you don’t want to mess with these Israeli women or you’ll end up with your butt kicked - pretty bad ass.
Next up was Jericho, the first city conquered by the Jews when they took possession of Cana in Old Testament times. We got a good view of the Mount of Temptation and spent some time in the gift shop. Lastly we drove to an overlook of Wadi Qelt. Here the Monastery of Saint George is built right into the cliff face, seemingly defying gravity. It was breathtaking. The monastery looked like it could fall right off the cliff. The colors blend in perfectly with the rock creating a camouflage effect. It looked like it always belonged there. I had my first taste of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice from a Bedouin selling it near the bus. Then it was into Jerusalem where we would be staying for the next three nights. Once we had checked into the hotel I finally got started on my homework that I should have started two weeks ago. Oops. My dad went with another tour member to do laundry. He planned to be back by about 8:00 or 8:30 but he got delayed. He texted me and told me it might be more like 9:30 so I went out by myself to see if I could find something for dinner. I was shocked, there was practically nothing open, or at least nothing open that looked appealing to me. I had forgotten it was the Sabbath. So I returned home and waited for him to get back He finally returned home at about 11:00. He had had a few beers. It was quite amusing. We went out together finally and found a little falafel stand. We ate in our room at 11:30. I didn’t get to bed until sometime after midnight.