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  • Day20

    Israel

    October 26, 2017 in Israel ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    Today we left Jerusalem & headed south to Beersheba with a stop at Masada & a swim in the Dead Sea along the way. However, before beginning our journey, we held a wreath laying service at Mt Scopus cemetary (Jerusalem) where our band played a beautiful tribute & our group were able to reflect on the sacrifices made by New Zealanders & Australians in WWI. Mt Scopus is to the Middle East what Lone Pine is to Gallipoli & Villers-Bretonneux is to France & Belgium. It was a very moving, beautiful service.
    After battling the morning traffic in Jerusalem, we were on our way heading along the coastline (& boy was it beautiful) of the Dead Sea towards Masada Fortress - the most visited site in Israel (outside of Jerusalem)! Our guide, Zel, told us about how much the water level has receded over the years & the problem that has been created with sinkholes occuring due to underground freshwater springs. Approximately 40 minutes later we could see the mountain that held the ancient fortress, separated from the mountainous ridgeline surrounding it. We caught a cable car up to the top as the heat in this arid, desert-like area was already at about 34°C & made it too hot for most of the group to contemplate walking up, via the zigzagged path that lead to the top.
    The view from the top; it was phenomenal! You could see for miles in every direction. The ruins were amazing and spread from one side to the other of the diamond shaped plateau - they really were completely self sufficient & very civilised on the mountaintop, thousands of years ago. There was remanents of grain store houses, mosaic baths & even a three tiered palace built into the side of one end!
    We had enough of the hot, dry heat up there after about an hour or so & made our way back down to the bottom (via cable car again) for a refreshing lunch before heading off to cool down in the Dead Sea.
    The Dead Sea - what an incredible experience! Even walking in the water was a struggle. Your legs are so buoyant due to the salt content. It was difficult even to right yourself after floating on your back. Those who cannot swim would have no problem here as it is impossible to sink 😁. We felt fantastic afterwards!
    Another hour down the road, & after driving up out of the valley back to above sea level, we reached our final destination - Beersheba; where Australian & New Zealand flags are displayed with Israeli flags on every light post along the main roads.
    Our bed at the Leonardo Hotel was welcome relief tonight!
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