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November 11, 2009

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                    Masada

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Shalom from Israel! I continue to tell you about my amazing trip to the Holy Land. This week we head to the Dead Sea, Masada and Bethlehem which is in Palestine.

In case you missed it, last week we left off from Jerusalem. Using our hotel as a home base, we made a couple day trips to popular (and unpopular) attractions. Our first trip was to Masada. Our guide, Amir, picked Natalie and I up at 8:30am for the 75-minute drive. To get to Masada we had to drive past the lowest place on earth, the Dead Sea.

The highway for the descent was brand new and wide. Along the way we passed sea level markers and many Bedouin camps – here the Bedouins live in shacks, not tents. To take a quick break and a photo op for Natalie on a camel, we stopped at a sea level sign. The photo op was 15 Shekels, but we gave him 10 and he took it.

The road then turned into this picturesque drive that reminded me of the California coast. We drove along the Dead Sea. As we passed a huge section of palm trees, we saw the AHAVA Israeli Cosmetic factory that uses Dead Sea minerals (their products are popular in the States). We were so close to Jordan (on the other side of the Dead Sea) that my cell phone got a welcome text message stating: “Enjoy GPRS Services to assist you during your stay in Jordan.”

Masada is a huge tourist draw and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The word ‘masada’ means ‘fortress’ in Hebrew. Masada is the site of a complex of palaces built by King Herod the Great around 37 BC. He designed it as a refuge in the event of an attack against him since he was a friend of the Romans. Although the remains are basically a pile of rubble, you can see it was more than a safe haven. Today it’s a symbol of Jewish heroism since this was the site of the Jewish rebels’ last stand against the Romans. Instead of being defeated, at the very end they committed mass suicide (supposedly two women survived, by hiding in a well, to tell the story).

To get to the top of the 1,300-foot (400-meters) high palace, we took the 3-minute cable car that leaves every 15 minutes. It costs 67 INS for a return ticket, 49 INS for a one-way or 25 INS if you want to walk up and down. I walked down by myself, which took 25 minutes. The path was steep at parts and my fear of heights kicked in so bad at one point that my knees were shaking. It was the middle of the day, so I was all by my lonesome for the descent. But, I did pass 7 hikers walking up (3 of them Americans) who gave me motivation. TIP: Bring sunscreen, a hat and water and go early in the morning.

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Pictures From

The Trip


Drive To Masada


Palm Trees




Beautiful Drive




Cable Car


Kids Walking Down


View From Top


One of the Palaces


What It Used To Look Like


Walking Down



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Natalie Bahadur
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