How the extreme heat prevented a homicide

Trip Start Sep 07, 2007
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Trip End Sep 21, 2007


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Where I stayed
Kibbutz Sdot Yam

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

We left the kids at home, got our directions and headed out early towards the Be'er Sheva and the Dead Sea.  The plan was to go through the Judean desert on the way there, and go back through Jerusalem on the way back. The trip was to take around three hours one way, we stopped and got a few baked goods for breakfast, and filled up our car 180 NS (around $45 for 3/4 of a 4 cylinder car).
Now we know why in Israel only the rich people drive SUVs.

It was a hot day, for a while we were driving with full air condition blowing freezing air on our chests, while the sun was shining through the windshield burning our faces; a strange feeling.  The Sodom-Arad road is long and winding through the desert, very dangerous but with beautiful desert scenery.  We saw the Bedouin, camels, mountains and stopped at a lookout point when we got closer to the Dead Sea.  It was beautiful and also had a fort (named Zohar Fort) below the lookout, and if you ventured off the "safe zone" you could see car wreckage.  However the stench was horrible, people stopped there not only for the views.

Once we got to the Dead Sea, and our ears stopped popping from going so low below sea level, we entered a strip with the beaches and the hotels.  We found a public beach (free to go on, but 10 NS a chair) and went in the water, which smelled almost like sulfur.  Once you go in you can actually feel how heavy the water are, and you simply cannot sink.  It takes a while to get your baring and stop flopping like a turtle, but once you do it's enjoyable.  After about an hour we got out (at this point you feel every sore or scratch you ever head), took a shower on the beach with clean water and did a bit of present shopping.

We wanted to go to lunch at Ein-Gedi, an oasis in the Judea dessert.  We drove a bit and go there, the "restaurant" was a communal dining hall like in a kibbutz, and smelled like bug spray so we walked out.  Cheri told me that I must have stepped in something because I smelled like piss, it turned out that my shirt picked up the smell from the overlook we stopped before.  Yuck!

We were going to go all the way back to Arad to come to Masada from the other side (otherwise you have to climb the "snake path" being that it was hot and we didn't eat this wasn't going to happen), however on our way we notice that there is a cable car from our side.
Great, saved us another hour of driving. 

If you are not familiar with the history, then here is a short version.  Masada was built between 31 - 37 AD by Herod the Great.  At the end of the Jewish revolt and extremist Jewish rebel group called the Sicarii took Masada from the Roman garrison stationed there.  The Sicarii weren't nice people, they murdered and pillaged to get their way.  The group on Masada was joined by other Sicarii who were kicked out of their own towns for their behavior. 

The Romans lay siege on Masada for two years while building a ramp against the western face of Masada (the side towards the Judean desert).  Before they breached the walls, the Sicarii men killed their own family and then drew lots to see who will be the last man to die (he will kill the others and commit suicide).  A few people survived including some children.

I think there are plenty of examples of true Jewish heroism which don't end in mass suicide to bring as inspiration to younger generations.  However it is still important to learn the lessons Masada teaches us.

They did a great job at Masada, the visitor center is beautiful, air conditioned and best of all .. they sell snacks.  We paid about 100 NS for a round trip ticket on the cable car, and watched a short movie explaining about the historical significance of Masada.  We were the only ones in the room, so we sat down and ate our snacks.

The cable car service is quick, and we got brochures which guide you around the site, but it was very hot (and this was the end of summer), and the ruins are ... well ... ruins.  We walked around a bit, seeing the bath houses, Herod's castle, their houses, supply storage and great views from on top of the mountain.

< ANECDOTE>
After a long day, with a small breakfast and no lunch (save said snacks), a dip in the Dead Sea and several hours of driving under our belt we found ourselves at around 15:30 walking around Masada in the extreme heat.  After about an hour Cheri had had enough.
She announced she was sitting in the shade, and I could walk around the site myself.
"But honey ... it's autum".
Luckily it was too hot for Cheri to throw me off the mountain.

And that's how the extreme heat prevented a homicide!

We spend about one and a half hours on Masada, and it was an excellent trip, but hot.  The heat is different, it's a dry heat and you don't feel yourself getting dehydrated, so you have to be aware of drinking all the time.  We went back down, they didn't have any serious food, and 60 NS for a new t-shirt was out of line (actually everything there was expensive) so the old shirt went into the trunk and I drove shirtless the rest of the trip.

On our way back we looked for places to eat (we didn't eat the whole day, but since it was so hot we really didn't mind), not to mention trying to find the right road, but we did.  We stopped at a strip mall where I could get a new shirt and ate a Yemenite dish called Malawach which was excellent.

We did not engage in the Israeli national sport of tailgating and passing cars just for the hell of it. 
From some reason drivers in Israel act as if they are in a constant state of frenzy while driving.  It is not uncommon to see someone cuts in and out of traffic only to be first at the red light, or someone trying to pass you on the right, simply to get into the left lane to make a left turn.

As we understood, the road takes a heavy toll on Israeli society, even more then terrorism does.  People drive as if to let someone get in front of you is a personal insult, and to risk it all to simply get one car length ahead might actually be worth it.

We saw road maneuvers pulled by seasoned drivers that you might expect a teenager to pull on his first year of driving, certainly not afterwards.  In a country where every time you step into a bus you take your life in your own hands, to pull some dangerous maneuver on the road seems ludicrous.  However, the Israeli mentality of "I won't let anybody get one over me" can be attributed to many of their downfalls.

Overall a great day, long drive and hot. 
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