Today was the one day I had planned as nothing but a tourist. From the time I was a kid, I have wanted to see Masada. I was so taken by the mini-series that aired in the late 1970s, I ended up buying the book it was based on, and have always been fascinated by that story. Today, I was able to visit it.
I took an organized tour to Masada and the Dead Sea. The tour was kind of frustrating, primarily because the guide never shut up. Blah, blah, blah… From the moment he got on the bus. It took 25 minutes to get from Jerusalem to the Jordan River Valley, descending from 800m to -300m. As has been par on this trip, the weather was ok, but there was a good haze. We got half-way down the dead sea and he announced a bathroom stop. It was at a Kibbutz, that really was a big store for one of the major Dead Sea Salts companies. It was very clear this was intentional, and master marketing. We went inside, and the first thing was watching a movie on the production of products from the dead sea. Come on already, lets get to Masada.
Finally, we got there, and while there was haze on the approach, from the mountain top, it was clear, and absolutely incredible. Remember, I said in a previous blog, that I love rocks, and especially old rocks. Well Masada has old rocks. And the excavations are incredibly detailed, and where-ever there is a reconstruction, they have a black line dividing between the original and the new. The ruins are incredible. The Roman ramp up the mountain is still there, there is an ancient synagogue, bath houses, Herod’s palace. It was awesome.
But we were limited to about 90 minutes and the guide kept talking, talking, talking. I should have just said, when do we need to be at the bus, and went off on my own. While a distraction, I still enjoyed it immensely.
We then drove to the Ein Gedi Spa, on the Dead Sea, where we had about 90 minutes to float in the dead sea, or use any of the mud baths, or such. I was leery about going into the water, it was not really warm out, but in the end I decided to put on the trunks, and for a short time, I floated in the water. It was pretty cool. And now I can cross it off my list. I think had it been warmer, and we had more time, I’d be more into it. But it was worthwhile.
Finally, we returned to Jerusalem, and I came back to the room. Shortly thereafter I heard from my friend from Barcelona, Sandra, who I met on the West Bank and Hebron tours, and we decided to go out for a beer. We ended up having a really fun 2 hour conversation, trying to decompress about everything we both have experienced here in Israel. We talked about the multiple narratives, and about the contradictions we see. I am not sure at the end that I am any more clear in terms of how to make out what this incredibly complex nation is about, or how to unpack “the conflict,” or the competing narratives. But I sure as heck enjoyed the conversation. It was a good way to end the day. (Well, I am ending the day right now, writing this).
Tomorrow is my last full day in Israel. I leave for Ben Gurion Airport at 8pm tomorrow night, and depart on a 1am flight. I am not looking forward to the security and searches, but am more than ready to come home. I have one more big meeting, and some time to get in my last sight-seeing, and views of the city. I am leaning towards the Mount of Olives. But we’ll see. I am not sure when I’ll get to write my last blog from Israel, but over the next couple weeks there will be a lot of unpacking to do, not of clothes, but of ideas. And I will be trying to make heads or tails out of this for a long time.
Shalom for now…