|Looking up at Masada|
It's also one heckuva big rock.
|Visitor Center and model|
|Model of King Herod's palace complex atop Masada.|
The complex atop what we would call a mesa were originally built by King Herod the Great as both a summer palace and a refuge in case the Jews got out of hand or Cleopatra actively pursued her desire to add Judea to the Egyptian empire. His palace literally "hung" off the northern side in three stepped tiers.
|Part of the administrative complex|
|You can tell a King Herod era building by its unique "framed" blocks.|
|The ramp for the battering ram.|
|With travel pal Carol Timblin in the synagogue. Anything below the dark line is original, above it reconstruction.|
|You can still see the squares of Roman encampments that surrounded Masada during the siege.|
According to legend, knowing their days were numbered, the 960 remaining Jews voted to take their own lives rather than submit to their fate under the Romans, death or slavery for all. This they did May 2, 73. Ten were selected by lot to be the last who would kill one another, torch the city and finally, commit suicide. They purposely left food and water stocks untouched to prove their actions were not the result of hunger or thirst.
|One-tenth of the cistern complex.|
Forty years later, Masada was abandoned and forgotten until rediscovered in the 1960s when excavations began.
|Walking along the top of Masada.|
|Even off path it's not bad.|
|The Dead Sea from Masada.|
|The Dead Sea closer up.|
Western border Israel, Eastern border Jordan
1,200 feet below sea level
Mountains surrounding it are 2,400 feet above sea level
65 feet wide at its widest point
20-minute drive from Jerusalem
Saltier in the north - 34 percent - than in the south - 12 percent.
Although said to be good for you - stretches and tones skin and heals cuts - DO NOT
• try to swim in it
• wear anything metallic; the water will eat it up
• get its water in your eyes
• drink it - tastes bitter and its high magnesium content will kill you!
After hearing all of those warnings and feeling the cold air of January it took a lot of curiosity to make the plunge. However, it's one of those once in a lifetime things and you shouldn't miss it.
|Bathhouse on left, path to the sea on the right.|
There will be opportunities for the traditional Dead Sea mud bath but I passed on that, preferring to buy mine from a tube. I do like the Dead Sea skin products, though.