There are so many great places to visit in Israel that it’s difficult to choose which one to start with. So, instead of trying to rank them, I decided to randomly choose a place. Masada and the Dead Sea were the winners this weekend.
First a Little History
The palace of Masada was built by Herod the Great in the first century BCE on a plateau overlooking the Dead Sea. If you’re like me, the first thing you are going to ask yourself is where Herod found the water to support a palace in the middle of the desert? The answer is that he built aqueducts that routed flood waters from the surrounding mountains into over a dozen cisterns arrayed around the plateau. The cisterns could hold up to 40,000 cubic meters of water, or over 10.5 million gallons! And that doesn’t even include the swimming pool.
While Masada itself is certainly impressive, what it’s most famous for is being the last stand of nearly 1,000 Jewish rebels in 66 CE during the First Jewish-Roman war. The Jewish rebels attacked the Roman forces at Masada in 66 CE and captured the palace. In 73 or 74 CE, the Romans built a ramp up to the gates of Masada and towed a huge siege tower with a battering ram to the top of the ramp.
The night before the Roman’s were to breach the palace walls, the Jewish warriors drew lots. 10 unlucky souls were tasked with killing every man, woman and child in Masada, then they would kill each other and the final one would fall on his own sword, committing suicide. They would rather be dead than be slaves to the Romans again.
Masada is now one of Israel’s biggest tourist attractions and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.
The Snake Trail is one of two path’s up to the mesa. The other path is the ramp that the Roman’s built 2 millennia ago. It still stands, on the opposite side of the mesa. Fortunately for me, we live in the 21st century and there is a cable car that goes to the top of the plateau.
The Dead Sea
And a few pics from the the lowest place on Earth. I didn’t get any pictures of me floating in the Dead Sea, but it was an interesting experience. Between the high salt concentration and the various minerals dissolved in the water, it felt more like swimming through olive oil than water. You also have to be careful not to get the water in your mouth or eyes as it will burn. It is true what they say, you cannot sink in the Dead Sea, even if you try.