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a day filled with highlights


View Shalom Israel - 2020 on Ils1976's travel map.

8th of March is not only International Women's Day, it is also the birthday of my best friend and travel buddy Tania. More than 20 years now, we almost always make oversea trips together, except for this year when I decided to do this trip solo. Of course more travels will follow later this year, but still, waking up now that the sun is shining and seeing the date, made me think of her and the first thing I do is wish her all the best on her 42th birthday, hoping that it is going to be an awesome day!

Of course I hope that our group and me will have the same awesome day and after we checked out at 9 AM and been told that we were going to stay in Jerusalem for the next 3 nights, it is starting the look that way.

The sun is shining as we leave Tiberias behind us and first things first, our program for today, which is actually still a mystery to us all. Inès had to alter the program entirely because normally we should have gone to Bethlehem today, but now with Covid-19 lurking around the corner, this wasn't going to happen all that soon.

I must confess that I got over it the same day we heard the news and as long as we are in good health, there is always a good excuse to come back again!

Today we were going to have a busy day, but sadly enough another highlight on this trip was lost due to the virus, the visit of Qumran. I so wanted to visit the place where the dead sea scrolls were found, that my heart bled when I heard the news. Staying positive was the key word today and that is just what I intended to do.

We quickly learned that Palestine or to be more precise, the Westbank was off limits. Because of the bug going around the entire area was forbidden territory . We were able to drive through it, but stopping was out of the question. They were just that nervous that us humble tourists would spread the virus.

Instead of visiting Qumran, our first stop of the day is Yardenit and it blew my mind coz I never had heard of it. Yardenit baptismal site turns out to be a baptism site located along the Jordan River frequently visited by Christians all over the world where they have a chance to get baptized in the holy river just as Jesus did.

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This to me smelt tourist trap from miles away and as we entered the place, we seemed to be the first ones to arrive at the scene. We arrived seeing a river with stone seats, nothing more, nothing less and I didn't get it at all ... although it wasn't an amusement park, when seeing the souvenir shops and all, to me it looked like nothing more than a tourist trap and I felt nothing but pity.

What was it that people come to this place to get baptized, I didn't get it for one bit!

As we do have a few people in our group who are very religious, they wanted to go for a "swim" so to speak coz for them it felt like they were connected with the holy water. I was just in disbelieve, this is not normal if you ask me, but then again, I am not religious, so who am I to say something about it.

It felt so unreal but as we were looking at both our members of our group dipping their feet into the water and getting completely submerged, it looked like they were going for a summer swim in freezing temperatures when all of a sudden a "flock" of people arrived, all dressed in white robes pointing, yelling, screaming hallelujahs and taking pictures at the same time ... what the heck was religious about that? To me it felt like looking at a circus attraction, seeing one person after another getting "baptized" by a pastor wearing a baseball cap.

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There was nothing holy about that to my feeling, but as I got closer to another group in the back, I learned that those people where really looking forward to this event and they "studied" a long time to get here. This was so crazy, but you saw it on their face that they were a bit "enlightened" if you may call it that. I guess that is the difference between believers and non-believers!

We had a bit of time to look at all the souvenir shops, but I was just glad to get out of that place and be back on the road again.

Driving for almost an hour and seeing the landscape changing from green and lushes to a more desertlike one, Albert, our oldest member of the group suddenly tells us all he needs a toilet break. This sounds so funny, but if you think about it, we just crossed the border at the West Bank and what have we been told !?! We were allowed to go inside, but under no circumstances we could stop ... as we crossed one little town after another, we did stop at a gas station for a quick toilet break. Our guide being nervous as hell, warned us tourists to be quick about it, but instead we loved every minute of it and till our surprise the people running the place were very friendly and chatty.

Once back on the bus, we drove further on highway 90, being the longest road of the country and as we passed the great city of Jericho, inhabited way back to 10000 BC and with lots of Neolithic, Persian and Herodian Period founds, this sounded so interesting to me but for our group the fact that Jesus visited this city and gave sight to a few blind beggars as well as a conscious to a tax-collector called Zacchaeus, who was as dishonest as you can be, this sounded more to the point of this trip. Maybe they are right because it is even said that the road towards Jericho is famous because of the parable of the Good Samaritan. True or false, I don't know but I was just happy to sit inside the bus and could have a look at all the beautiful sceneries outside!

Arriving at Ein Gedi, I was just as happy as a kid could be, this looked like an awesome destination, but sadly enough we only had half an hour here on this site.

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Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is the biggest oasis in Israel with springs and waterfalls spread over the reserve, but as we only have limited time, we just had enough time to walk towards the base of the David Waterfall, named after the biblical figure King David of which I am only familiar with because of the story of that little kid fighting the giant Goliath. It seems that after all of this, it is only fair that the guy gets his own waterfall. Although it is not that big, it is situated in the middle of the desert and surrounded by dry trees and births flying happily around, I just wished we could have stayed a little bit longer.

If I liked Ein Gedi, nothing could prepare me for what was happening next. As we drove further down highway 90, all of a sudden we saw the Dead Sea and it was jawbreaking. This really was the lowest place on earth ... what an incredible sight it was and seeing the desert with all its high mountains on one side and the Sea on the other side it was just unreal. I was gasping air to be honest ... I just loved the contradictions of it all, but when you consider it is completely dead, this sounds just so unreal.

Although we sadly enough weren't going to visit mount Sodom, the story of the wife of Lot who turned into a salt pillar because she looked behind sounds more than interesting at the moment. I should read more of those stories of the Old Testament because driving through this area surely make those stories come to life.

To be honest, I had never got this feeling of thinking not only once, but several times on this trip that I hope to come back one day. Now on our way towards Masada, the feeling grew only stronger.

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Masada really is impressive and when you come to think about it that thousands of years ago a group of people called Sicarii or Jewish Zealots killed themselves to make sure they weren't going to be captured by the Romans, you wouldn't believe it at all. How can people be so crazy you might think, but living in that era maybe explains it all.

Build by Herod the Great, King of Judea, this dude really knew it all. Located on top of a rocky desert plateau with views to die for, he was smart enough to build an ancient stone fortress hidden from everyone to escape to during the winter periods. What has a guy otherwise to do besides constantly fighting against other countries and clans. Maybe once in a while he got tired of the warfare and just wanted to enjoy the beautiful view of the Dead Sea and who could blame him.

During the years, not only the Sicarii, who killed themselves, but also Romans, monks and even muslims had a taste of this place. Nowadays it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and I can totally see why!

With limited time and still wanted to float at the Dead Sea, we took the cable car up (hoping to take the snake path on my next visit!) and zigzagged our way towards the remnants of the stone fortress. From here you had a view to die for (not literally!!!) on the Judean desert and it was mind boggling.

From the top you even had an amazing view on the remnants of the Roman settlements and it must have been indeed scary for the Sicarii knowing that the Romans where there ready to conquer the fortress and sell of your children as slaves, not mentioning raping and killing your loved ones ... but still, killing yourself?

As we took the cable car back to the car park, we met up with Boas again and were ready for our floating experience about half an hour later.

We first had a very, very late lunch and then it was off to the water where we floated for as long as we could. We stayed in and out of the water for a few hours. The sun was burning on our salted bodies and I was more than glad to find showers on the beach. Contemplating about what a day we experienced while floating on the water, I must admit that I didn't wanted it to end. It truly was an amazing day and as the sun was almost setting, we left the Dead Sea and the desert behind us and went on our way for our homebase for the next upcoming days ... Jerusalem!

Arriving into the city, everything became hectic and busy, quite the opposite we experienced the last few days. Although it was already 8 PM, the streets were packed with people and traffic jams were no exception, but we made it. Our hotel for the next coming days was very luxurious, I guess it was a bonus for all the hazzle we already experienced the last few days but to make things even worse, we even had to say goodbye to our lovely guide Inès. She had to go into quarantine because she travelled to Bethlehem more than a week ago and as she reassured all of us that another great guide was going to join us in the morning, we said our last goodbyes!

We were a bit dazzled with this news, but wished her all the best and as we all set off to our room, I met up with a few people of our group a few hours later, just to have a drink and a nibble in the bar. After such an impressive day, we had lots to talk about, but as soon as the clock turned midnight, it was time enough to hit the sack.

Posted by Ils1976 03:33 Archived in Israel Tagged landscapes waterfalls mountains beaches churches people sky desert monument religion history river plants adventure group asia salt hikes

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Comments

Sounds like a day of real highs and lows! That scenery is wonderful - I was wishing you had included more photos

by ToonSarah

Hello, Ils! Your travel blogs are fun to read. Keep well!

by Vic_IV

I really enjoyed reading about your day in Israel, it's a place I never thought to visit. Looking forward to reading more about it.

by katieshevlin62

Sarah, there are more pictures in my page if you like! :)

by Ils1976

Nice to hear that you like the blog Katie ... Israel and especially Jerusalem is a place to visit. I loved it so much that I hope to visit it again in 5 or 10 years time, just to see how things have changed ... if you love food ... GO TO ISRAEL! :) :) ;)

by Ils1976

Ah yes, I've found those photos - thank you :) I hadn't thought to look as I only upload photos here that I plan to include in my blog!

by ToonSarah

Haha, nope ... I just put a few on them and the rest are in the gallery. Thanks so much for the lovely "stars". I can't thank you enough Sarah!

by Ils1976

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