Friday, June 4, 2010

Yad Vashem / Masada / Dead Sea

The Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, served as a sobering start to the day. Very tastefully done. Educational. Easy to get around. I'd argue that it serves as a good model for museums around the world. 
They gave each of us personal headsets so that we could hear the tour guide talk and also browse the museum at our leisure. Sure beats being stuck at the back of a crowd of people and unable to hear what the guide is saying.
Some of the other groups had guides with guns. An Israeli charity has a 'Birthright' program in which Jews from around the world are invited to come to Israel for a 10 day heritage trip that is sponsored. I don't know really where the gun comes in, but it seems to be part of it, too.  
Then it was south to Masada, the site of an ancient fortress on a high plateau on the eastern edge of the Judaen desert. You know, the site of the famous mass suicide of the Sicarri rebels after a siege of the fortress by Roman troops? Oh, you didn't know? Me neither. Pretty neat site though. I am often amazed at how advanced ancient civilizations were, setting up communities in locations that are seemingly uninhabitable due to natural conditions. In this case, the lack of a permanent or regular water supply, combined with extreme heat would have seemed reason to find another location to build. Instead, they developed an elaborate water harvesting system using natural rock features. 
From there, we headed to the lowest place on earth and cooled off with a dip in the Dead Sea. 
The water feels funny when it touches your skin; a little oily feeling at first, and a bit caustic when it touches the skin on your face (word to the wise: do NOT dunk your head in!). But it's a lot of fun to play in on account of its superbouyancy. 
And don't let me forget about the mud at the bottom! Lining the bottom of the 'sea' is a nice black paste, perfect for body painting. 
Tonight we are staying in a Kibutz and have been promised a very special surprise. I can't wait!


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