Today started like any other day: I woke up in a Bedouin tent to the echoes of peacock screeches at 5 o'clock, drank some tea as the sun came up, and boarded a bus to the second most visited tourist site in the country; aside from the zoo of course! After filling up all of our water bottles, we headed through the twists and turns and totally-unsafe-roads of the desert until we arrived at our location,Masada. At this point, I'd like to tell the tale of the treacherous route we took to the top, full of cliffs and rocks, but the truth is we just walked up the ramp that was created by the Romans to storm the Jews (I'm sure you parents are happier about it anyways). Irrespective of the ease of our journey, it did work us up just enough to sweat, and the arrival at the top was powerful. We spent time looking out over the desert on one side, and the Dead Sea on the other. Personally, I saw a friend of mine on a different trip when we reached the top, and if I could give one piece of advice, it would be to coincidentally see someone who lives 10 minutes from your house 6000 miles away. It's fantastic.
We learned about the history of the fortress, and took more pictures, but being up there meant more to me than a new Facebook profile picture. Whereas many people carry around a Jewish necklace, often a "Chai" or a Hamsa , I carry a roughly 2000 year old coin around my neck, that was excavated at Masada and dates back to the Romans unsuccessful siege. It is truly one of my closest connections to my religion and to bring it home, even briefly, meant the world to me.
After what seemed like forever, but ended up only bringing us to 8:30 am, we took the cable car down and had breakfast. After being up for 3 hours. Need I say more?
We travelled to the Dead Sea and even though the first beach we were supposed to go to was closed because of sinkholes, we eventually made it to the second beach, and even got a tour of the world famous AHAVA factory. The beach we were at was unbearably hot, and after nearly burning my feet off on my way down to the water, we finally took our first steps in. To those of you who don't know me, I am 6 foot 2 inches, and about 175 pounds. I have become accustomed to stepping in water and using my entire frame to keep my head just above the surface to prevent myself from sinking. So, to lie down in the Dead Sea was truly like nothing else I've ever experienced. However much we enjoyed floating and how smooth our skin suddenly was, we soon boarded our bus to Jerusalem, sweaty and tired.
By the time we got to Jerusalem, all problems had been cleared up, with some naps and air conditioning. We arrived at Kennes, which is for all of the international cohorts (aka everyone in diller minus the Israelis). Even though we were late, dirty, and entirely overwhelmed by the insanity of the event, we soon adjusted from the desert to comfortable hotel living. We had some mixers, but the main event of the evening was the (potentially ill-named) "White Parade," where everyone dresses in white and walks together towards Shabbat services.
It was a beautiful way to start the weekend along with our new international friends. After services, we met up to reflect on our experiences, then came down for a final Oneg Shabbat. It's safe to say we got to bed nice and late that night, and then slept really, really well. Thank God for late wakeup!
At over 20 hours long, this was our longest day by far. We woke up in the middle of the Negev with sand and animals all around, and went to bed in a hotel outside of Jerusalem with over 300 Jewish teens. It was the perfect way to start off the weekend...