After spending the night at Kfar Hanokdim, a remote Beduin camp located in the desert, the group got off to an early start as they deliriously piled into the bus around 5:30, running off sweet tea and crackers.
After a short nap, the group arrived at Masada, 7 minutes before it opened. As we were the first group to arrive, and it was pitch black, we wondered, what was the rush?
This question was answered instantly, as numerous other groups arrived soon after. We made the short hike up the mountain in the dark, not fully sure of what to expect.
Our guide Jonathan described to us the story and history of the secari, a group of Jews who rebelled against the Romans and made a self sustaining home in Masada. Though they created amazing innovations in terms of agriculture and water retention, their story, shrouded in mystery, seemed to end when they decided they could not defeat the Romans, and it was said that they committed mass suicide; however, no remains were ever found. Though this was a bit of a dark history, the ruins and artifacts the rebels left in their wake were beautiful and feats of humanity.
At approximately 6:30am, the sun arrived, and the group was treated to a spectacular view of the Dead Sea, with a gorgeous sunrise. The light was warm, and the view of Masada now illuminated in its full glory was awesome. As we continued through the buildings and caverns, it was amazing to bear witness to what the people who lived in Masada were capable of, from creating purifying pools, to heated spas, to sophisticated systems of conserving plenty of water, despite being centered in the middle of a desert.
Afterwards, part of the group took the 3 minute tram down the mountain, while others hiked down, a couple even running. We had a quick breakfast and again were on our way.
As it was still technically morning, most of the group knocked out on the bus as we made our way to the Dead Sea, the Ein Gedi Spa Beach. Though tired, the group was excited about a unique and special experience as they took the shuttle to the world famous body of water, covering themselves in skin promoting mud and floating around like buoys in the salty clear, blue water. Be sure to wear flip flops! Sharp salt crystallizations under the water cut up some of our group. However that didn't stop people from going in and enjoying the water. Coupled with the warm sun, the beach certainly invigorated the crew.
Lunch was fish, sniztel, or beef. After everyone was refreshed and full, we returned to Tel Aviv.
The group reconvened for the final farewell dinner at the Le' Entrecote restaurant, leading to a bittersweet moment as Professor Gneezy and the group discussed various aspects of the trip of what stood out to us in the program, a final review of our trip. We met those critically involved behind the scenes, including those from Israel Experts, to allow the possibility of this well put together program. It was a great time to reminisce on our new memories and to gather our thoughts from this unique and life changing trip. Many of us parted ways and some even returned to the States after this dinner, but we knew we all shared a little bit of Israel on our personal return trips home. It was the perfect ending to our trip.