Well, today will not be much being as we really did only one major thing and that was visit Masada. After we visited Masada we then went to Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. That consisted of walking to a viewing platform to look at the countryside and at some of the caves where various pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. The Dead Sea Scrolls are really three types of Scrolls: scrolls that depicted the day-to-day life of the Essene community, scrolls giving the rules were for the community and other Scrolls that are fragments of books of the Old Testament.
But regardless, certainly the most impressive sight today was that of the Fortress of Masada. We left the hotel and drove straight on down to Masada which is at the end of the Dead Sea and then took a cable car to the top and had a really, really nice tour of what the Fortress looked like. Herod built this Fortress and it was more or less his summer palace, a place away from his normal palace up in Jerusalem. It was four to five levels with some high walls. He had a three-level palace on one part of the fortress with the main palace up on top and then had another lower palace down probably about the 20 feet and then another portion of the palace down another 20 feet. He also had a freshwater swimming pool up on the top of the fortress. One of the very interesting things that we saw there was a Jewish man who was copying the Torah; I believe it was his second copy of the Torah. But the rest of it was pretty much looking at a synagogue and a Christian Church. Masada, of course, is well known for the fact that there was a group of Jewish zealots who held out against the Romans for some time. The Romans sent about 13,000 troops and support people to Masada in order to capture the fortress from about a few hundred Jewish people who are up there and this is out in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Number one theory is before the Romans did this they wanted to make sure the world knew that some group of people could not just hold out against the Roman Legions. This sounds like a reasonable explanation. So, the Romans built this massive ramp up the side of the Masada fortress and eventually did break into the fortress. After the gates were broken the Romans went down to their camp for the night and came back the next morning to completely take the fortress. But by the next morning all the Jewish people had killed themselves (except for two women and a few children). They did not throw themselves off of the top of the fortress as some had said but they killed their companions with swords until there were 10 men left. Then they drew lots as to see who was going to be the last man who would fall on his own sword. So when the Romans came in the next day all the people were dead. The Romans did take the fortress. This was a very, very major event in the history of the Jewish people. Was very interesting: all of the structures that were there and an international group of archaeologists excavating most of the site. very impressive.
But at any rate, after we were done at Masada we went down to Qumran, had lunch and then we went for a short walk out to take a look at the place where the Essenes had lived out in the desert. They had written the scrolls and then placed them in the caves in this region for security. There’s not much to see: the cave entrances into the side of the hills where the scrolls were found.
After Qumran went to the Dead Sea to swim. Very interesting in that you could go into the water and just float. It is difficult to go underwater. The water is very salty and can really sting your eyes. I tried tasting some of it and it was very, very bitter. Or you could just go in and stand up if you wanted in the water over your head and you would just simply float, your shoulders would be above water and just floating there with absolutely no effort whatsoever.
That evening we went to a Palestinian Christian home to eat supper: maqluba which is a very interesting dish: you would you cook the cauliflower perhaps some carrots and tomatoes and put it in the bottom of what looks like a dutch oven and put a bunch of rice that has been cooked with chicken broth and then put it on the stove and cook it. When you are done and ready to eat you have an upside-down dish so you simply put a plate on the top of the Dutch oven and then turn it upside down and there is your meal on the plate. It was it was good. We had a chocolate cake; very simple single layer chocolate cake, no icing that they made. Very good too. The lady whose house we were at was younger, probably in her late twenties thirties. Her husband was with the Ramallah police primarily working in the court system and he was not there as he was in Ramallah for some training. They have two children, one who was six and another child who is about four. Very, very nice people. Also there was her sister who had completed school to a be lawyer. She will complete a couple years of internship and then take the bar exam and then practice law. It was a very interesting evening. Nice to go out and meet these people, very gracious people, good English and that was pretty much it for the day. Once back at the hotel we had to get ourselves ready to go the next day. I got bags and so forth. We do have a full day of sightseeing tomorrow: we will go to the Israeli National Museum, the house of Caiphas, and the Garden Tomb. Then tomorrow evening we will go grab the airplane and head home.