Friday, March 18, 2011

Birthright Israel Trip - Part VIII - Dead Sea, Camels, & Masada

The following post was originally handwritten in a journal in Israel on a Birthright trip - Jan. 2011, and is now transferred to my blog.

This was the day I was most looking forward to before the trip began. At 8 am, we rode camels! Tslil was like, "You guys know we don't actually ride camels for transportation right? It's just for tourists." Well, yes, we know. Israel is as modern as the USA for the most part. But, riding camels is one of the highlights of a Birthright trip. It's totally funny watching them stand up. You get on the camel while it's seated. Then, they make this dinosaur-like roar (because I totally know exactly how a dinosaur sounds), throw their heads back, showing off their huge and sort of dirty teeth, and they unfold their legs - front 2 then back 2, rocking you so you think you'll fall off. No, I didn't fall. I had like the best 1/2 hour ever riding a camel across the desert outside the Bedouin village. Soooo fun! We also rode donkeys - they're smaller, and mine kept trying to escape. By the way, the tent all 40 of us slept in was literally right next to the camels' tent. I had a great time watching them, after which I unfortunately smelled like a camel.

I was really nervous taking this photo.  I totally thought the camel was going to bite me.
Photo by Elissa.

Next on Tuesday's agenda was hiking up Masada on the Roman Ramp - another Birthright highlight. The scenery was absolutely awesome (photo below).

Masada itself was pretty neat - the site was like 4000 years old. They're drawn a black line on everything. Below the line everything is original, but above the line everything is a restoration. Since Masada is pretty high up, you can see miles of the surrounding desert - sooo beautiful. Look at my pictures on facebook -there are like 4 albums.

At Masada. Photo by Tslil.
After Masada came the moment everyone had been waiting for - time to float in the Dead Sea!!! In Hebrew, it's called the "Sea of Salt." The water was very clear - it's 73% salt. The bottom layer is more white than the top. There are chunks of salt crystals (see photo) on the bottom.  I brought some back.

The water in the Dead Sea tastes BAD and burns cuts. But, floating there was the coolest thing ever. I was hesitant at first to pick up my feet because usually you'd sink by doing that, but I sort of just went for it, rocked back a bit, and ended up floating on the surface. So FUN. It was barely warm enough to swim, but this was 200% worth it. I floated around without putting my feet down for about 45 minutes. At one point, I realized I'd floated out to deeper water and couldn't touch the bottom. Bottom line - the Dead Sea rocks our socks (which would also float!).
Me floating in the Dead Sea. Photo by Arielle R.
We went hiking at Chavarim Creek - as I wrote before. After, we saw a presentation about David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel. Under his leadership, Israel came into existence as a Jewish State (ruled by Jewish laws). He decided to make it so that all Jews would always be welcome and allowed to immigrate to Israel - no restrictions. He also moved to Sde Boker for one year in effort to get people to move to the Negev and start developing the desert.

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