Friday morning we left Jerusalem at 4 am to travel south the Masada. Of course it was dark the whole way there, and the reason we wanted to do that was to have sunrise at Masada. I had an injury in October and am not completely steady on the feet so I opted not to climb the mountain but have been there many times before so I stayed with the bus, chatted with the driver (an 8th generation Jerusalemite) and did some sunrise drawings. A bit about Masada: In 72-3 CE, almost 1000 Jewish rebels sought refuge atop Masada, a mountain in the desert south of Jerusalem that Herod had developed for himself complete with two palaces, baths, etc. The Temple had been destroyed in 70 CE and this was a kind of last stand against Rome. The rebels were besieged by the Romans though they were able to hold out for two years while the Romans built a giant ramp to access the top (on the west side). When the rebels realized they were going to be defeated, the chose mass suicide rather than submit to Roman death or enslavement. Terri provided the photographs of the ruins on top of the mountain.
After she came back down (cable car down and a 45 minute hike up) we traveled to the Dead Sea for a dip and to Ein Gedi, an oasis nearby that has a National Park preserve alongside the Kibbutz which grows dates. Ein Gedi is a spring fed oasis with gorges and waterfalls, ibex, and interesting plants and trees including Acacias and something called the Sodom Apple (poisonous if eaten). This would have been a complete enough day as is but we returned to Jerusalem to prepare for Shabbat which will give us a much needed rest. After Shabbat we will be leaving Jerusalem for the coast and the north for more adventures.