US Israel Center Internship - Week 5

July 21, 2014
by Jamie Weisman

Hey! It's Sunday and that means back to work for us after a really nice, relaxing weekend. Though we'd planned on going to the Dead Sea and Masada last weekend, due to everything going on here, we thought it best to wait a week. Even this week we hesitated, but I am so happy we decided to go. What an experience!

On Saturday morning (Friday night?), Vance and I woke at 2 AM and drove our rental car 2 hours Southeast, past Jerusalem, and to Masada. We were pretty much the only car on the road for most of the drive, and we didn't exactly know what our surroundings looked like the entire way. We parked at Masada's parking lot, bought our ticket to hike, and started climbing. Already, though it was an hour before sunrise, our surroundings began to illuminate. I love when this happens. Have you ever arrived to your destination at night, then woke up and realized the incredible space you are in? There's something to be said about getting it all at once, instead of gradually along the drive. As the sun began to rise over the Dead Sea, Masada glowed. We followed the snake path up a(n unexpectedly) steep slope, which took about 40 minutes. We summited about 15 minutes before sunrise to find Masada's ancient ruins, which, though I'd seen them before, did not cease to amaze me.

1We saw a few other people at the top of Masada's plateau gazing over large, castle like stone structures. We had a tough decision to make: From where do we watch the sunrise? Every space looked more interesting and more picturesque than the next. We finally settled onto a stone ledge where we could look down about 1,000 feet and see miles of desert backed by the sparkling Dead Sea. We took so many pictures and then just relaxed as the orange globe rose, waking the birds and making the sea shimmer. The birds sang a sweet song and we started to browse the immense plateau.

1To be in a place that was inhabited over 2,000 years ago is surreal. I can't even begin to grasp this amount of time! Masada is the first site Herod the Great fortified after he gained control of his kingdom. It is where the Jews stayed to resist the Roman Empire. The inhabitants found ways to capture water (from the one day of rainfall they could count on all year long), build bathhouses, and distinct rooms. There were lookout towers, synagogues, and storehouses. And from one side of Masada you can see the Roman camp. Masada is simply an incredible place to visit.

1We hiked down as the sun's heat began to set in. We then drove about 20 minutes along the Dead Sea's coast, which in some ways resembled a drive down the 1 in California, and arrived at En Gedi, a Dead Sea entrance. We hiked down the rocky terrain to the shimmering sea. It feels different to even walk in this thick, incredibly salty water. After a few steps I let myself begin to float. And I stayed that way for about an hour- I think. As I told Vance, I've never been so comfortable. I imagine lying in this water is what it feels like to defy gravity. I was so buoyant that when I layed on my back, I couldn't even get my head under water when I tried. The water basically stopped at my ears, and the calm sea allowed me to float, effortlessly and comfortably. I was rocked to sleep within minutes. I woke up and had drifted a bit, and found Vance doing some "core exercises" using the water as resistance. Typical. I tried to do what he was doing- "stand" with my body upright in the water. I couldn't do it. I kept falling over! It was really fun though--- but enough was enough. After an hour or so we drove back home to Tel Aviv.

1Saturday was also the first day in Tel Aviv in about 10 days without a siren… which was another relaxing part of the weekend. These sirens, though I am not worried about something actually happening to me (the chances are incredibly low and as I tell people, the chances of me getting hit by a car while biking to work are way higher), are very unsettling and the "booms" in the sky (caused by the iron dome intercepting the rockets fired from Gaza) scare me every time. I just cannot wait for this to be over… I hope we have news of the like next week…