Posts Tagged With: Kana`im Valley

Masada in the Morning

Jan 8 2009
The lights in the tent turned on and I heard movement. Wake up time. It was extremely early and still pitch black outside. I got dressed and ate some of the crackers they put out for us. We boarded the bus and waited. It turned out that Jordi was sick. We waited for her for a bit. Finally, we learned that we’ll have to leave her behind with Anna. Staci boards the bus and immediately gives us a lecture about staying hydrated. We each purchased a bottle of water from the bus driver.

We reach Masada National Park and Shabat and Staci rush us up the Roman Path. We can’t miss the sunrise! The Roman Path is the easier path, but a lot of us were having a hard time breathing. This was probably because it was steep, early in the morning, change in altitude, and we were rushing. Not to mention my 9/11 weird asthma thing didn’t help matters. Eventually we got to the top! All of us thought we missed the sunrise because the sky was light, but we were wrong. Shabat had us sit on the mountain and wait. We sat watching another mountain. Slowly, the sky went from red to yellow to orange. Then we slowly started to see the sun peek out from the mountain in front of us. We kept watching as it rose. It was magical!

Then Shabat made us sit in a circle and told us the story about Masada. All the Jews living on Masada killed themselves instead of letting the Romans take them. It was a very sad story and it impacted all of us. Next he took us over to the side of the mountain where we could hear an echo. We screamed a bunch of phrases and heard them come back to us.

We looked at some of the ruins including a synagogue and then we used the restroom. After that we started our long trek down the Snake Path. Where do I even begin with the Snake Path? It was super scary and super long! There were no handles most of the way, so if you slipped you could pretty much fall off the mountain. The walk down was narrow and took forever. Morgan slipped and hurt her ankle. When we got to the bottom I wanted to jump for joy!

We walked to an area with tables and we were given a boxed breakfast. I only ate the chocolate and the bread. I gave my food to whoever wanted it. Then we were given some time to shop in the gift shop. I bought a pair of earrings and some postcards. Then I spent a while debating about which expensive necklace to buy for my mom. I finally decided on a blue and white star. Alan bought a really cool shirt about climbing and conquering Masada.

While we were leaving Masada we found out that the northern part of Israel (where we were yesterday morning and the last time we had cellphone reception) had been hit with a missile. Pretty much none of us had spoken to our parents in 24 hrs and the last they knew we were in northern Israel. Needless to say a bunch of us called home.

We drove to the Ein Gedi Spa where we would spend some time by the Dead Sea. We each got a towel and we had to share lockers. I changed into my bathing suit. We had to wait and catch a shuttle to take us from the spa to the Dead Sea. This is because the Dead Sea has dried up and is no longer right next to the hotels and spas.

When we finally got to the Dead Sea, Lindsey, Jen, and I put our stuff on lounge chairs at the farthest end of the “beach” area. Then we all headed over to the mud pit. Everyone (but me) covered themselves in the mud. Ricky even swam in it. Since I didn’t go in the mud, I took all the pictures. I put a bit of mud on my screwed up thumb and that was it. A family even approached me to take pictures of them. Everyone’s pictures were hilarious.

Afterwards, we all went into the Dead Sea. I was a little scared since I hate water and swimming. It felt extremely strange to just lay back and float. The entire bottom of the sea was covered in hard sharp salt. I cut my toe open and the salt water burned so badly. After I got out of the water I felt nasty. The salt residue was gross. Before we went back to the hotel the girls took a group shot. Then we boarded the shuttle.

Back at the hotel some of the people went into the mineral pool, but I didn’t feel like smelling like sulfur. I already smelled like camel and salt. I went to the showers and rinsed the salt off. After that I walked around the shop for a bit. I got a couple of free samples for my mom.

When everyone was ready we headed to lunch. We each got a ticket that was good for certain items. We had to wait on a really long line for food. We were able to get a drink, desert, bread, and one item. I got baklava, a roll, and yummy french fries. The place was packed and it took us a while to find a table. Unfortunately, we were rushed through lunch because of our tight schedule.

We then drove to the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. I immediately spotted a press a penny machine and got a penny. Yeah! So did Alan. We walked through the reserve and there were so many animals. They got so close to us, which was freaky at times. Shabat had us sit down and talked to us about some of the animals. He had Noah taste poop. He also had Ricky, Zac, and Roi act out a mating ritual for us. It was hilarious.


We stopped at some waterfalls and some of the group went swimming. I spoke to Dror for a bit about his upcoming trip to the USA. The reserve was absolutely beautiful and very calming!
We drove to Jerusalem and dropped Guy off. Then we went back to the Shalom Jerusalem Hotel with its horrible elevators. Rachel, Sarah, and I got a room in the middle of the hallway. We were directly across from Lindsey, Jen, and Jordi’s room. Sarah took the cot. Our shower didn’t flood this time, which made us all happy. However, our toilet wasn’t acting right. We all put our clothes on the shower rod to dry and went down to leave for dinner.

We drove to Ben Yehuda St. for shopping and food. I walked in and out of shops with Jen and Lior. It was a little unsettling to see signs thanking the brave tourists for shopping. Someone, maybe Lior, told me that the street had been attacked before. I ate a bagel for dinner. I found a Sephardic bakery and loaded up on goodies. The bakery was on a small side street so I was so glad I found it. I bought a shirt, some postcards, and an evil eye bracelet. I didn’t want to buy too much because everything was a bit over priced. Josh got a shofar and kept blowing it. Ali and I went to McDonald’s to use the restroom before we boarded the bus again.

I went back to the hotel and immediately took a nice long hot shower. Bye bye camel salt sand smell. After I showered I hung out with a bunch of people in Lindsey, Jen, and Jordi’s room.

Categories: Asia, Food, History, Israel, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Romans and Roaming Camels

Jan 7 2009
Wake up was at 6:15am. It was awful! I went back to bed. I timed it close and ate my breakfast in the room. I only went downstairs for a glass of water. I dropped my bag off in the lobby and we all waited outside the hotel a while. We found out that something was wrong with our bus. We said bye to Hilla and took some pictures with her. I wish she could have stayed longer so I could have gotten to know her better. I went back to our room one more time to make sure we had everything and then I handed our key in.

We found out that we were going to be delayed in Tiberias for awhile because of the bus situation. Shabat had us walk back in to the hotel and use the 2nd floor bridge to cross over to the area by the water. We sat on the rocks as Shabat talked to use about the Sea of Galilee. After a while Anna took out her banjo and started playing and singing. When I was looking around I noticed a sign that said “Go in Peace” and next to it were our two armed guards. Nice contrast. I wasn’t really paying attention to the other members in our group, but all of a sudden I saw Sarit was bent over with her hands on her face. Then she started crying. Anna screamed for Lior, but he didn’t hear her. I screamed for him as well and he finally looked up. It turns out Sarit got hit in the face with a rock. Staci, Lior, Keren, and Guy took her to the hotel.

Not too long after that Shabat told us the bus was fixed and it was time to leave. Ali and I ran to the bus and threw our stuff in. We also reserved seats. We ran to the 2nd floor to use the restroom before our long ride. It took awhile to load the bus and other people had the same restroom idea. Plus others went to the “restaurant” in the hotel to get some eggs to snack on. I was upset we got up at the crack of dawn only to leave at 11:30am. I could have slept another 3 hours.

I enjoyed looking at Tiberias as we left. It made me wish that we could have had more of an opportunity to walk around.

We drove for a bit and then came to a pit stop. Shabat gave us no warning as to what we were about to see. The sign said Bet Shean National Park. Once we got through the gates I was amazed at what I was seeing. It was like stepping back in time and it reminded me of my trip to Athens. Needless to say I was on cloud 9! I noticed an awesome gift shop, but I had a feeling Shabat wouldn’t let us stop there.

As we followed Shabat all I saw were rows of columns. We finally turned a corner and entered into an intact amphitheater. It honestly took my breath away. It was 10 times better than the one I saw in Athens. How did I not know this place existed? Shabat had us sit in the theater and took out his map. He draped it across Anna’s head and body, which was hilarious. He explained that the Romans had left this place after they had taken over Judea. So it wasn’t Greek, but then again the Romans stole their architecture from the Greeks, so of course it looked extremely similar. Shabat gave us a history lesson and I had to jump in at a point. How could I resist not talking about the ancient civilizations? We then forced Julie to go down to the stage and test the acoustics. They worked!!!

Then we walked around the rest of the ruins, which was mainly bath houses and columns. Then Shabat said we had a couple of minutes to use the restrooms before getting back on the bus. My plan was to use the restroom and shop in the amount of time given. So I ran to the restrooms and was first. Then I went straight into the gift shop. It was so big and there was so much to see. I wound up buying a mini replica of the Dead Sea Scrolls, some pens, and some postcards. While I was paying Shabat walked in to rush us to the bus. We got back on our bus and continued our drive to the Bedouin area.

Then we started Bus 804 Karaoke. It was very entertaining. Dror and Roi sang a lot. Then it switched to funny jokes. Ricky told a great one and Lior did as well. I don’t remember the whole thing, but it had something to do with stepping on bunnies, being ugly, and being chained to someone. Shabat told a sexual joke, which surprised a lot of people. He even had this guy sitting on a toilet picture and you had to use your fingers to make him a butt. Then he talked to us about the Judea Desert and the Dead Sea Scrolls. I took a lot of desert shots as we drove.

We stopped for lunch at Beit Haarava, which is the lowest place in the world. It’s 394 meters below sea level. The two options for lunch didn’t look very good or very clean. They were fast foody. Jen didn’t want to buy anything, but Lior convinced her to buy a falafel. I ate my own food and took a bite of Jen’s when she didn’t want anymore. I had promised my NYC falafel guy that I would try some in Israel and compare. The Israeli guys in NYC have better. I liked watching the strange contrasts as we sat there. There were camels, our big tour bus, and a military vehicle.

We got back on our bus and continued our drive. We had to stop at a military/police checkpoint. We drove through lots of desert before we spotted a group of trees in the distance. The trees were where our Bedouin tents were. I was excited and nervous. We really were in the middle of nowhere.

We got our day packs off the bus and went into the giant tent we were directed towards. It was extremely hard to get into the tent. You had to lift this heavy carpet material off the ground and then scoot in under it. For tall people this was a problem especially with having a bag. I placed my stuff near one of the metal poles.

Then we were given an opportunity to shop at the little Bedouin store. A lot of the girls bought hand knit scarves. Ben bought a shirt/jacket/hoodie thing that officially made him look like Moses. I bought a bag for Gayla. We dropped off our purchases and then went to the camel area.

There weren’t enough camels for everyone. So a little less than half the group could ride into the desert on a camel. The rest would have to be on donkeys. I didn’t want to ride on a donkey so I walked along with a couple of others. I’m glad I didn’t choose a donkey because they were low to the ground so the feet of the people riding them hit a lot of rocks and donkey poop. We got halfway into the desert and it was time to switch. I walked over to the 1st camel and waited for a partner. Ricky joined me. I was in the front of the camel and Ricky was in the back. It was a lot of fun!! Who would have ever thought that I would be riding a camel through the desert as the sun was setting?! The camels had extreme personalities. They made this loud screaming kind of noise and one even tried to eat Jordi’s hair.

After the camels we went to a tent all the way in the back of the village. They made the vegetarians and the meat eaters divide up. I was of course in the veggie group. They gave us this huge elevated tray for our group. It contained rice, bread, water, and vegetable skewers. I stuck to bread, rice, and the water. I had some cookies that I brought for dessert and I gave some to Anna as well.

After that we went into the main tent to listen to some music. It was a lot of fun and very entertaining. It was called a drum circle and pretty much was one big exotic jam session.

After the drum circle we went back to our sleeping tent. The Israelis were in a group talking. They all had dark sunglasses on. We knew something was up. Then they yelled at us to stand in straight lines in rows. They taught us how to salute properly and how to respond to commands/orders. Anyone who laughed or messed up had to do push-up’s. They were showing us what it was like to be in the IDF.

Afterwards we went for a walk in the desert. We sat and laid back in the sand while looking up at the sky. We talked for a while. When we went back to the tents a couple of us hung out at the bonfire outside our tent. I stayed only for a little bit. I preferred to get some sleep.

I waited on a long line for the bathroom area to change and wash. Then I went to bed. There were only a couple of us that chose to go to bed “early.” I slept on the mat and blanket they gave us. I used my coat and scarf for a pillow. Surprisingly, I slept.

Categories: Asia, Food, History, Israel, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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