Monday, February 9, 2015

Southern District Israel: Masada, Dead Sea, and Mizpe Ramon

After three short, short days in Jerusalem, we headed south to Masada, the Dead Sea, and Mizpe Ramon, or Ramon Crater, the biggest crater in Israel. It's 40km long, 2-10km wide, and 500m deep -- pretty big. The first photo is of a date palm plantation beside the road on the way to Masada. The south of Israel is only a rocky desert, but it still has its beauty. I got so excited driving past signs saying "Kidron Brook", and imagined Elijah in the caves we could see in the mountains.
We got to Masada and bought tickets to go up -- my dad and brother walked up, and the rest of us (my mum, two sisters, and me) went by cable car. (Thankfully, the cable car took only three minutes, because it was so full, we were squashed from every side.) Before we went up, and to give the guys some time to get there, we went to the little museum at the base of the mountain. I'm not usually into museums and find it hard to remember stuff, but some things found at the fortification were really amazing. There were remains of Bible books, a full head of braided hair (it was still in almost perfect condition!), tiles, pottery, etc. When we finished walking through the museum, we caught the cable car up and found my dad and brother waiting at the top for us. Apparently, they had been there for about half an hour already and walked around the whole top. The views were spectacular and we took plenty of photos (or so it seemed... now I look and there aren't actually that many).
We left Masada and kept driving parallel to the Dead Sea until we came to a place we could stop and go in. My brother and sisters went in, and I put my feet in. (Should've gone the whole way in, but I didn't...) Of course you know, but the amount of salt was just incredible! It is like sand; you can pick it up in handfuls. The water is a bit oily, and if you rub the salt on your skin, it takes all the dead skin off, leaving you smooth as a baby. Almost.
After the Dead Sea stop, we drove the rest of the way to our hotel. It was a hot and sticky Friday evening (despite it being winter) and we hadn't bought any food, so we had to kind of 'ration' what we had until the next evening. None of us slept well that night, but we actually have a funny story to tell. When everyone had just fallen asleep, my mum woke up saying, "Oh no! I can't believe it: we left the passports in Jerusalem! We forgot the passports! I remember putting them in the drawer and then we never took them when we left." Well, that woke everyone else up. The next morning, my mum wrote an email to the lady whose house we had stayed in through Airbnb. She reassured us the passports would be safe and agreed to meet on Sunday morning.
The next day was Sabbath, but we had planned free things to do. We woke up early, packed everything into the car, and drove to Mizpe Ramon. The views from there were even more breathtaking than from Masada. The first photo under the two of the camels (we saw them on the side of the road and had to take photos of them) is of the crater. See the tiny dot on the left hand side? It's a person. And in the next photo, there are tiny dots on the path. They are people, too. We were hoping to see ibex there, as well, but they didn't appear. We did see birds, though, and in those wide open spaces of Masada and Mizpe Ramon, they flew so beautifully. So freely. Another thing I noticed about Israel while we were there: the skies were so blue and clear.
Later in the afternoon, we stopped at my mum's kibbutz. She had wanted to see it for so long, and it was nice for us to finally see what a kibbutz is actually like. We got to see her house, the cafeteria, the bunkers, etc. Although it was nice, there was also a sad feeling around the place. Half of the buildings were deserted and neglected, falling to pieces. They got rid of the animals just a couple of years ago, so all the cages and pens were there, but empty. My dad said it reminded him of Chernobyl. I wouldn't say it's that bad, but we tend to exaggerate every now and then. :)
We left the kibbutz and drove the last short leg of the day to Tel Aviv. We had dinner with some distant relatives of my mum's and then left for our Airbnb house. The next morning, my parents went to Jerusalem for the passports. They had breakfast at the markets and are still talking about it: "they were the best falafels I've had!" Right on the day we didn't go with them. Typical. But I can't complain... I had lots of good food there and have done fine without those falafels. Next time I'll have  to try them, though. As long as I find the same stall!


  1. As usual Nivi, your photos are amazing. I'm glad I'm a source of funny stories for you ��

  2. A very entertaining narrative.
    The photos are outstanding.
    I like the theme of taking photos of total strangers...


thanks for the thoughts!