Travel to Israel: The Dead Sea, Ein Gedi, and Masada
Views of the Dead Sea, the spring at Ein Gedi, and the now almost sacred Masada.
Visibility-clouding mists are common on the Dead Sea. The emerging flats are an indicator of the sea's declining water level, a result of high evaporation and diversions from the Jordan River.
The highway here, which traces the western bank of the sea, was once close to the water.
Unlike the stinging brine of the sea, there is fresh water at Ein Gedi. The spring has been capped and its water put to utilitarian uses, but a small quantity is allowed to run into this pool, for which hikers with an ounce of brains are grateful.
In Turkish times, the spring water was run through this grain mill, which raises the interesting question of where the grain came from on this barren slope overlooking the Dead Sea. The answer, presumably, is from the hills farther west, where there is a bit more precipitation but even less running water and where the alternative to carrying the grain back and forth was grinding it by hand.
The name "Ein Gedi" means "spring of the ibex," and ibex there are, singularly tame.
South of Ein Gedi, the butte of Masada, accessed either by trail or cable car. Gotta stand in line: we're gonna have lots of company.
Up top. Groups listen soberly and without a trace of skepticism as tour leaders recount the history of Josephus, who tells of Romans conquering the place and finding only the bodies of families who had committed suicide rather than face slavery. This is powerful stuff--the kind of story that builds national identity.
No doubt the Romans did seize the place: here is one of their camps.
The cliffs look impregnable, but the Romans had time, labor, and experience building ramps. That's their handiwork in the middle.
Up it, they finally walked straight into the Jewish settlement, where, contrary to Josephus, they probably killed everybody outright.
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