A day tour to Masada and Ein Gedi
This is an article about a part of one of the many tours at Shalom Israel. Enjoy.
It’s morning and everyone just finished the breakfast. The guides are preparing themselves and you for the things to come. Everyone has bottles with drink, hats, checkout the shoes and sandals and all the details, which are really needed for a day like this.
Everyone gets their maps and books about Masada and Ein Gedi. And slowly everyone will exit the hotel and enter our waiting bus. The bus driver is in a good mood, because this trip is at least for him easy and he can stay inside the bus if he wants. We start driving and after 30 minutes the whole landscape start changing dramatically.
The guide will tell about the Dutch guide, and how he learned all of the Qumran caves (he got lost and wandered for ours through the caves).
Anyway, the Dutchman knows everything about those Qumran caves. He told a week ago that there is even a cave, connected with the Qumran caves there, which goes all the way back to Jerusalem! When you have a tour in Jerusalem with him, he will show you. For this tour we will only pass the Qumran caves, so if you have the Dutchman as guide, he will wave at them, and you can join him.
The Qumran caves are a series of natural and artificial caves where the famous Dead Sea scrolls were discovered by one, simple man. Ask the guide who discovered the scrolls and what the man thought what those scrolls were originally. Ask the guide to tell both versions of that story. Only one version is funny.
For those who like museums, we will arrive at the Good Samaritan, which is next to the neighboring museum – The Good Samaritan. It’s a mosaic museum. The coffee and the cakes are excellent there.
A one of a kind mosaic museum in Israel and one of only three in the world. The has on display many unique and significant artifacts discovered at various archaeological spanning across the entire region of Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
We then leave and head for Masada, where we ascend by cable car to tour the Herodian fortress built by the roman King Herod, approximately two thousand years ago. The site is filled with history to explore the “Jewish Zealots famous stand against the Roman rule over Judea”. They managed to stand against the Romans for years! Ask the guide for some good battle stories and he will give them to you.
The interesting things about Masada are the little unknown things, like the cistern!
King Herod was a strange fellow, you know that? You also know what he did with the Masada cistern? He filled them with water! The cisterns Herod let built to provide water during times of siege … or more likely to fill his luxurious swimming pools and supply his bathing complex … but he himself rarely took a bath!
The amount of water needed was staggering. There were several swimming pools on top of the desert mountain, where little rain fell. The main bath complex was one of the largest in Israel, and there were several smaller, private ones for Herod in each of his palaces. Since the floods in the wadi below were unreliable, Herod needed water sufficient for his family and staff. Scholars have estimated that if all the cisterns were half full, there would be enough water to sustain thousands of people (in the desert) for ten years.
He, or better his harem, was one of the first in history, who had something like a water ballet. Every visitor was amazed! They actually didn’t see the wives, but the female slaves dancing in and on the water.
The contrast between the surrounding desert and the abundance of water inside the fortress would have impressed anyone who visited this place. They probably marveled at the vision and ingenuity of Herod, a result that he passionately desired.
The water flowed into cisterns cut into the base of the mountain on the western side. It was then carried to the top of the mountain and emptied into cisterns like this one, which held more than 1 million gallons. The cistern was originally a quarry that provided stone for the buildings on Masada. Can you imagine the work it took to bring all that water to Masada and the fortress?
With all that water, guess where King Herod actually lived? In his Herodian fortress.
King Herod looked like one of our tour guides. He also wants to build a legacy for himself and has something with water. So did King Herod! Neither of them likes to bath.
And now we are going to leave the heath and dryness behind and move to our next sight! The Oasis! A wonder ‘on wheels’, it’s simply amazing and it keeps being amazing. You can visit that place thousand times, and it never gets dull or boring. The magical moment is when you walk through the desert and you see the first glimpse of Ein Gedi. You will agree with me, it’s straight from a fairytale.
Be aware, the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is not free and demands entry fee! Sorry, I didn’t want to spoil it.
En Gedi is the largest oasis (yes, there are more like it) along the western shore of the Dead Sea. The springs here have allowed nearly continuous inhabitation of the site since the Chalcolithic period. The area was allotted to the tribe of Judah, and was famous in the time of Solomon, according the Torah and Bible.
We move (walking) through the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, along the signed mountain path. In the reserve you’ll witness several beautiful, breathtaking waterfalls and the unique setting of the reserve which allows a wide array of plants and animal to thrive in co-existence. Bla, bla, bla. I must write it this way from the boss. Now some juicy things about Ein Gedi.
Now, what is really amazing is that everyone can walk different routes in the Ein Gedi. Or you take the stupid route, with other words the hiking route, or you take the easy one. Both of them have its good and bad points. The hiking route will keep your feet dry. That’s it. It will also make you tired, dirty and dusty. The easy route will keep you reasonable clean, but your feet might or will be likely get wet. Look at the plants. And don’t forget to count the fish!
If you were hot during the Masada thing, you simply drop yourself in the many pools and soak in the blessed coolness. Don’t forget to give your phone to the guide before doing something nice like that!
And Ein Gedi is not without some history, it’s in Israel, so it has a history. Ein Gedi is there because of two big springs. Those are not the only springs along the Dead Sea, but they are the two sweet water springs, most of the other ones are salt water springs.
Next that Ein Gedi is thousands of years old, it also served as one of the main places of refuge for David as he fled from King Saul, according the Torah and Bible. David “dwelt in strongholds at En Gedi” (1 Sam 23:29). En Gedi means literally “the spring of the kid (goat).” Evidence exists that young ibex have always lived near the springs of En Gedi. One time when David was fleeing from King Saul, the pursuers searched the “Crags of the Ibex” in the vicinity of En Gedi. In a cave near here, David cut off the corner of Saul’s robe (1 Sam 24).
Then there is the Chalcolithic temple (built between the 4,000-3150 BC). Archaeologist believe that this is proof that En Gedi supported a significant settlement at that time. The “Cave of Treasure” in the Nahal Mishmar was excavated by P. Bar-Adon and is thought to be connected with this temple. The cave is approximately six miles south of En Gedi. A hoard of extremely well preserved artifacts was found in the cave, most of which were made of copper.
And then there is the Dutch guide, who can tell stranger stories about Ein Gedi. It’s rumored to be the home of several UFO’s, who are visiting the Oasis when it is closed in the night, each Sunday evening at 2 AM! They exchange stories about tourists and rude guides.
Or another one. This one might be true, partly. It’s about a tourist from Japan who got lost and was never found again. His ghost is haunting the tourists when it rains. Well, that is according the Dutchman.
When you all reach the end of the Ein Gedi, you will be pleasant surprised with a waterfall. Volunteers can take a ‘free shower’. It’s amazing. Diving is also allowed there. It’s fun.
For those of you interested in the caves, ask the guide and you can swim there too. It’s mystical and fun and the water is cool in the heath.
We walk slowly back through Ein Gedi again until we leave the it and take the bus and go back to our hotels or homes. This part of the tour is finished … except for the evening. Dinner is waiting and we still have something for the group waiting.