Day 6 – July 8, 2022

Masada & The Dead Sea


An early start with another delicious breakfast to start today’s trip. Yigal joined us on the bus; music, singing and dancing was expected or so we told Yigal. We got the music and the singing. We travelled to the South to Masada. As we passed through the Judean desert we saw Bedouin villages scattered over the hills. The Bedouin are loners and prefer to live on their own keeping to their own traditions. We arrived at Masada. It is as impressive as the name sounds. As a natural fortress, sitting in the Judean desert it overlooks the dead sea. It stands impressively as a, symbol of the ancient kingdom of Israel. Originally
built as a palace for Herod, who reigned 37-4 BCE, it was violently destroyed by the Roman Empire in 73AD.
The mountain, as we look from below, is imposing and extends up towards the sky.

The Dead Sea, also known as the sea of Arabah, is a salt lake bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. It lies in the Jordan Rift Valley, and its main tributary is the Jordan River. The lake’s surface is approximately 430 metres below sea level, making its shores the lowest land-based elevation on Earth. The border between Jordan and Israel sits across the middle of the sea. Our first view of the sea was a large deep blue body of water extending back to the hills with the sun gleaming on the surface. On one side of the road we could see tall golden cliffs while on the other stood palms, standing to attention. As we moved further around the sea the water turned to a rich turquoise colour. You always hear about the fact that you can’t sink in the Dead Sea but you don’t quite believe it! Seeing and feeling is believing. I watched as others walked out on the hot salt. They did exactly that, they floated. So off I trotted to the water. I flopped down on my back and floated. I tried to stand and could get no purchase with my feet. I flopped and rolled, crawling to the edge of the water. Your skin as you left the water had a coating. So seeing is believing you will indeed float.
After that we had an amazing selection of food for lunch then on to the bus yet again and off to the shuk.
As we drove we saw large rocks of salt.

Machane Yehuda, the pulse, the energy, the vibrancy, the Jewish heart beating at a million miles an hour. We were lucky enough to experience a blending of cultures, languages and food from both modern and ancient worlds at the Shuk on Friday afternoon. From the past to the present, the young, the old, the ultra orthodox, the tourist and the hayal (soldier) making his way home for Shabbat, this is not just any market place but an array of colours, smells and tastes, an incredible spread of cheeses, olives, vegetables, breads, pastries, clothing, jewellery and traditional foods, there is just nowhere quite like it. And as the country gets ready to pull the duvet over their heads and finally stop running, to tap into the spiritual instead of the physical, the energy and feeling and the beauty of Shabbat  nearing and so special to see in the eyes of all the JNF participants. Those who have been here before and those that haven’t we are now as a group bonded together by this incredible, enriching experience and welcoming in the Shabbat together with a musical tefilah that will give us the time and perspective we need to reflect on the inspirational week we have had in this incredible country.

From the park we had a leisurely stroll back to the hotel where we lit Shabbat candles and sat down to lovely Shabbat meal.

We finished with an enlightening lecture by Yosef Hadad about his experience as an Arab Israeli and the need to be an Israeli first. He spoke of his upbringing, with friends who were Muslim, Jewish and Christian who just wanted to play football together and of his pride in being an Israeli soldier serving his country. After being injured and the long road to recovery he has become CEO of Together – Vouch For Each Other, an organisation trying to bridge the gap between the Arab sector of Israeli society with Israeli society as a whole.

Thanks to KKL-JNF for making this opportunity available to us. It has been an amazing experience so far and we still have 4 days to go!

Sandra Stockley (Kadimah NZ), Simone Brill (Moriah College) and Leah Joseph (Yeshiva College)