EVERYONE MUST VISIT THE DEAD SEA NOW. It’s an incredible body of water that straddles itself between Jordan and Israel much below sea level at the lowest point on Earth. If you can overcome the fierce smell of sulphur with the desire to have cotton-soft skin, then I promise the Dead Sea is the place to go. There is something surreal about floating in the Dead Sea and feeling your wounds burn as you stare up at a beautiful sunrise or sunset. It’s easy to allow this remarkable body of water to engulf your limbs. The desert sand mountains that reach far into the sky make for a splendid backdrop. Arriving in Ein Gedi at noon, Jill and I decided to stay at the Ein Gedi Kibbutz. I mentioned before that the Kibbutz is a place of community living. In our particular Kibbutz, we looked out on a spectacular mountain range on one side and the Dead Sea the other. It’s estimated that the Dead Sea will completely evaporate in the next 50 years. It is only about 50 some km and the lack of water in Jordan and Israel is depleting the Sea’s natural resources. I’m sure industry and humankind is not helping maters. Plus, the pure make up of the Dead Sea, (the lowest point on Earth) creates an entirely different dynamic making it nearly impossible to restore the water levels.
After floating in the Dead Sea, Jill and I received some amazing spa treatments. It wasn’t fancy but really if I am on the shores of the Dead Sea do I need the Four Seasons? I think not. I decided to get a bit crazy and go for the Dead Sea salt wrap and Swedish massage. The wrap may have been the best experience of my life. At first, I thought the technician was scrubbing so hard she would be removing an entire layer of my skin then figured this was the process….scrub so hard the victim won’t have any skin left and a fresh new layer will emerge…in three years. Thankfully, I came out of the process glowing and wishing my skin always looked this good. My skin wrap/peel left me feeling so refreshed I didn’t even want to chance a massage but after 3 1/2 weeks of carrying a backpack I realized a massage was necessary. I ducked into a parlor completely exposed to find Nadia the Russian goddess who ripped up my shoulders and said to me she had never seen a back as tight as mine in three years. f she only had met my shoulders in NYC,these newly traveled shoulder were in fine shape compared to the stress of city living.
After returning from the spa, we dined on a Kibbutz dinner which consisted of freshly grown fruits and vegetables where of course I devoured their sampling of desserts. I kept telling myself it was preparation for my climb to Massada but I am not really sure how I can justify the pralines and fudge sauce I devoured at breakfast. I set the alarm early to watch the sunrise over the Dead Sea. From Ein Gedi, we traveled few miles to Masada and the mountain top fortress Herod constructed. It’s literally a city on top of a steep mountain. Atop Mt. Massada, Herod created a world ahead of his time but his greed and insecurity led to the suicide of many Jews who refused to let the Romans conquer them as slaves. The views alone of the desert and the Dead Sea are powerful but when I climbed the Snake Path to the top of Mt. Massada and looked beyond the stones androck, I realized the magnitude of this ancient accomplishment. The commanding views are nothing when I considered the struggles of the Jewish people who were just trying to establish a secure homeland for their people even in the time of Herod.
After a rest from climbing, Jill and I headed to Jerusalem about two hours from the Dead Sea. Jerusalem on first sight is breathtaking. It’s an ancient city that combines a blend of new and old and a unique mix of history and politics. I’m not sure foreigners can even understand the power of this city. Jill and I entered the Old City at the Jaffa(Yaffa) Gate, which looks like a market from afar. Further down the cobble-stoned street, a city within a city emerges. There is a massive wide open space that gives way to the Western Wall or Wailing Wall as it is often referred. Hundreds of people journey to this one particular spot that Jews consider the most holy of places in the world. To watch people pray at the wailing wall is one thing; but to maintain composure as people place notes of hope and love in between the stone layers is quite another. I find the experience humbling even if you are not religious especially as I watched men dancing for joy and all Jews backing up to exit the wall as one would never turn their back on God. It was truly one of those surreal moments where leaving the scene speechless speaks volumes.