Masada (October 31, 2019)

While we were sleeping the NATS WON THE WORLD SERIES! I don’t follow baseball but even I can appreciate what a wonderful surprise that is for the team and Washington DC.

Happy Halloween everyone! While you are trying to stay out of the candy you bought ahead of time or running out to replenish what you promised yourself you’d not eat, we were exploring the cliff-top fortress of Masada.

What a day! I saw two things that in my wildest dreams I never imagined seeing. We traveled through the Judean desert to the clifftop fortress of Masada, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We took a 65-passenger cable car to the top of this large, barren plateau famous for being the Jews’ last stronghold against the Romans.

In a nutshell here’s the story. Recognizing the defensive advantages of Masada Herod the Great, King of Judea, (who ruled from 37 to 4 B.C.) originally built Masada as a winter escape and as a haven from enemies. He built an elaborate three level castle on the side of the mountain, massive storerooms, cisterns, baths, and a defensive wall. Years after Herod’s death, the Romans built a garrison at Masada which they eventually abandoned. When the Great Revolt of the Jews against the Romans broke out in 66 A.D., a group of Jewish people took over the Masada complex. When Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D., the remaining Jewish rebels joined the group at Masada and lived in Herod’s former playground.

With Jerusalem in ruins, the Romans turned their attention to defeating this last community in Judea with its 960 rebels including many women and children. A legion of 8,000 Romans built a siege wall, a massive ramp on the western side of the mountain, and eight camps surrounding the base of the mountain.

After an unsuccessful three-year siege, the Romans finally built a tower on their ramp in an attempt to take out the fortress’ wall. When it became clear to the Jews that the Romans were finally going to take Masada, they systematically took one another’s lives (it is against Jewish law to commit suicide). When the Romans finally broke through in April of 73 A.D. they realized they had been beaten after all, because to win without fighting was a humiliating defeat, especially after camping in the desert for three straight years!

I know what you are wondering: how do we know all of this? Well, two women and five children hid in the cisterns and when the coast was clear they came out and told the Jews‘ side of the story. Dan and I remembered seeing the movie by the same name years ago and now want to see it again.

Masada overlooks the Dead Sea, the other site I never dreamed of seeing. It is the lowest place on earth at 1,004 feet below sea level! We followed it for miles and miles. In some places we could see what looked like little white caps but they were actually salt. Sadly the Sea is losing ground at a rate of 39” a year which was very clear from the road. Massive sink holes are the aftermath of rain and receding flood waters melting the salt in the ground no longer covered by the sea.

Before we knew it it was time to grab lunch and head to the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge boarder crossing. Our Jordanian visas had been arranged by Gate1, but we each needed to pay 180 ILS departure tax. We said our goodbyes to Gabi, transferred our luggage to a Jordanian bus, and met our new driver.

After sunset we arrived at the five-star Kempinski Hotel Ishtar and were blown away with the magnificent property on the shore of the Dead Sea. Our enclosed balcony overlooked a couple of the nine pools as well as the sea. The moon was front and center when we looked out. Our large room had a make up station, dressing area, and Dead Sea toiletries.

The wonderful day ended with an orientation by our new guide, Abdullah,  and a delicious dinner on the property.

… Fun Facts …

Masada means ‘strong foundation’ or ‘support’ in Hebrew.

The salinity of the Dead Sea is 33.7%, almost 10 times saltier than ordinary seawater.

Jordan is the third driest country in the world.

The population of Jordan is approximately 11 million. 40% live in Amman, the capital.

90% of Jordan is Sunni Muslim and 10% is Christian.



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