10/10/13 No trail running this time, but another trip to Israel meant more fascinating tours of some immensely historic sites.
1 View from the hotel lobby. Volleyball courts on the Mediterrean. Too bad no one was playing!
2 Beautiful Mediterrean morning.
3 Panorama from the boardwalk.
4 Tel Aviv has a beautiful coastline. Anywhere else in the world, it would be a tourist mecca.
5 Tourist trip for the day was out to Masada and the Dead Sea. Masada is one of the most historic spots for Jews in Israel. It was the site of the last stand of the Jews against the Romans in 73 CE. Note the "CE" for Common Era, not "AD", which along with "BC" is not used by the Jews.
6 Masada is built on top of a high plateau overlooking the Dead Sea. A tram takes you almost 1,300' to the top.
7 Herod the Great had palaces here. Quite the view!
8 After the Jews fled Jerusalem in 70 CE, they settled at Masada. In 73 CE, the Romans laid seige to Masada to eliminate the last of the Jews. They encircled the entire mountain with a wall, which you can still see portions of here. They built multiple seige camps around the mountain. Here you can still clearly see the remains of the squared walls around one of the camps.
9 After a long seige (history says 2-3 months, legend says years), the Romans built a huge seige ramp to reach the fortress entrance high up the cliff walls. The Roman Legion X, led by Lucius Flavius Silva, ultimately captured the city. But the 900+ inhabitants had commited mass suicide rather than be captured. The last few people wrote their names on shards of pottery and then drew shards to determine who would be the last alive to kill the second to last and then kill himself. It's a story that has taken on great signficance to the Jews as a symbol of their struggles.
10 Herod's palace was build town the side of the clif from the plateau on top. Here's a scale model showing the amazing building.
11 Here are the remains of the real thing looking down from the top of the plateau.
12 A look at the remains of the town on top of the plateau.
13 An acient sauna. Hot water was poured in from underground, which would heat the stone columns and thereby heat the water.
14 Outside the baths, where the water was poured in.
15 Remains of the stonework, some of it restored.
16 The black line shows the original height of the wall when the site was excavated, which amazingly enough didn't happen until the 1960's.
17 Restored stonework and the amazing view.
18 This must have been an amazing place in its prime.
19 Great picture of the walkways carved into the side of the cliff. This fortress was definitely impregnable except for the front door.
20 Another area of the town.
21 This is where the inhabitants kept the carrier pigeons that were used for messaging to and from the fortress.
22 Some of the original mosaic tile restored in amazing condition.
23 The town swimming pool.
24 After the tour of Masada, we headed down to the Dead Sea. It is the lowest spot on the surface of the Earth at 1,401' below sea level. It's pretty weird driving for miles down the highway from the "Sea Level" marker. The Dead Sea plays a very important part in biblical history.
25 There are several resorts along the Southern end of the Dead Sea, which is over 31 miles long. The border between Israel and Jordan runs right down the middle of the Sea. Here you can see a ramp where we walked out into the Sea and then floated around for a while. You pretty much can't swim because it's so buoyant. And the slightest cut on your skin will sting like crazy!
26 The Dead Sea is over 34% salt, making it one of the most saline bodies of water on earth. At over 1,000' deep, it is also the deepest hypersaline body of water on earth. The mineral content is so high that nothing can live in the water, including algae. Thus the Dead Sea name.
27 The white froth at the edges of the water looks like foam from a distance, but on closer inspection is actually mineral deposits.
28 One last view of the Dead Sea and the conclusion to another amazing, historic trip in Israel.