Today, we went to Ein Gedi and the Masada Fortress in Israel, but first we had to go through border control to get from Jordan to Israel.
Border control was really strange. There was a lot going on around us, but we were just sitting in a waiting room, waiting for someone to come back with our passports and let us know we could cross the border between Jordan and Israel. We finally got to cross into Israel, but right away the people were not too friendly. For example, a lady working there was in charge of the security for seeing what the people have in their pockets. So, Ryan walks through the metal detector and the lady said, “Go back and walk slowly” Ryan goes back and walks slowly through the metal detector. Then, the lady says, “Walk SLOW – LY!” Ryan goes back again and walked even slower. The lady rolls her eyes at him. Then she says, “GO back and walk, normally!!” Ryan goes back and tries his best to walk normally. Finally the lady lets him go. Later Ryan comes to us and since we saw the whole thing happening we asked “what happened?” and he said. “I dunno.” but then he told us the whole story and at the end he said that after the lady said to walk normally he thought, “I don’t know how to walk normally anymore.”
They also grabbed my Dad’s backpack and started going through it and playing with our lacrosse sticks while we went through security. My Dad was not too happy about that. Once we went through our first set of security checks, we were brought into a room to leave our luggage, so we could go through a second set of customs. Finally, we went back to get our luggage and passed the last set of security measures and we were free to go into Israel! The scariest part about that time at the border control was seeing all these guards and security people carrying machine guns!!!!!!
Our first stop in Israel was Ein Gedi. Ein Gedi means “Spring of the Wild Goat.” This is the site where King David hid while King Saul and 3,000 soldiers looked for him. We also learned about some rocks that are found in the area, including flint. Flint is very sharp when freshly broken so it can be used as a cutting tool and is also helpful for starting fires.We saw the ruins of a small village where they used to grow persimmons for making incense. At the time, these persimmons were worth more than gold because the incense was used for worship and covered up the smells of the stinky sacrifices. The area was really pretty and looked like a nature reserve. There were a lot of waterfalls coming from the David waterfall. The water came from a fresh water spring. We also saw a small furry animal, called a rock hyrax, that is related to an elephant, but, way, way smaller and incredibly cute! We thought we might see an ibex too, but did not. An ibex is a desert-dwelling mountain goat found in this area.
Our second stop was the fortress of Masada. The fortress was built by King Herod for himself to use as a safe place if he was ever attacked. Ironically though, King Herod never visited Masada after it was built. Masada was built on the top of a large hill to give good views of the area.The fortress is 2,000 feet in length and 750 feet wide. We ascended 1,300 feet by gondola to Masada and it is only 100 ft above sea level. In 73 BC when the Romans were stopping a Jewish revolt all over Israel, a group of 800 Jews were the last to refuse to surrender and headed to Masada.
They were surrounded by the Romans who started a siege of the Jews in the fortress. The Romans were able to build a dirt ramp up to the fortress and were going to invade Masada and keep all the Jews as slaves. So, the Jews decided to make a pact to kill all the women and children first and then kill themselves instead of being captured. They did not want to die or live as enslaved Romans. Two women and four children hid and lived to tell their story (we think, but same as all history you NEVER REALLY KNOW). All of this was recorded in a story by Josephus Flavius, so it is not clear if it is perfectly accurate, but what I do know for sure is this story made me so sad.
When we visited Masada, we saw many water pits where they would store water for cooking and cleaning. The view from Masada was a lot like being on top of Windy Hill, which is a large hill where you can look down and see most of Portola Valley near my house in California. I really liked visiting Masada because it felt calm up on top of the mountain, there were not a ton of tourists and it was a peaceful setting, regardless of the bad things that had happened in the past.
Our guide is an archaeologist, so he also gave us many facts about Israel while we toured today:
- Israel is 35,000 square kilometers in size
- Israel recycles 80% of its water (reduce – reuse – recycle!!!)
- Much farming is done with drip irrigation to save water—the water is dripped right by the plant’s roots
- Some people live on a Kibbutz, which is a small community where everyone works together and shares their profits among everyone- but the strange thing is that 90% of the Kibbutzs are privatized so actually people can make profits (I think?) He said socialism never really works.
- The Dead Sea scrolls were found in a part of Jordan which is now a part of Israel starting in 1946. Many of the scrolls are copies of the text in the Hebrew Bible. We drove right by the caves where they scrolls were found by a shepard looking for his sheep.
I really like Isreal. I knew I was going to learn a lot about ancient history and the different people and religions of Israel and today was a really good start. I can’t wait to learn about Jerusalem tomorrow.