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Day 9

Tuesday, 17 January, 2012 - 10:41 am

Our last day began by waking up after a great night’s sleep in the freezing cold Bedouin tents on paper thin mattresses sans pillows. It’s safe to say that none of us have ever been so happy to wake up at the crack of dawn before, but we were especially excited because we were going on a sunrise camel ride in the desert. So nomadic of us. The interesting thing about being in the desert is that during this 15 minute camel trot, the temperature miraculously went from being unbearably cold to comfortably warm.

After our camel ride we had breakfast in the Bedouin dining hall (which seemed kind of advanced for authentic Bedouin hospitality, in my opinion), we packed up our things to head north to Masada. The drive through the desert was incredible in the daylight, which we hadn’t seen on our ride here last night.

We got to Masada and it only took about 15 minutes to hike up, but still most of us were winded. When we got to the top Kuti gave us a long tour of the different parts of Masada. We learned about how the palace was built and destroyed, and about the various historical events and peoples that shaped its history (see Wikipedia or go on Mayanot Birthright for details). The views at the top were truly breathtaking, but one of the highlights was that we got to see a scribe actually writing a Torah inside the synagogue. Also, the scenery offered a major photo op for everyone, especially with the amazing weather we were lucky to have today.

After the tour we hiked back down for lunch. This hike was much longer, and even though it was a descent, it was definitely more difficult than the way up because it was windier, rocky, and had fewer actual paths. At times we found ourselves wondering why we decided to pass up the 3-minute gondola ride in favor of the walk. Whatever, it was a small taste of how the Jews felt wandering through the desert for all those years.

When we got to the bottom we ate lunch outside and had some time to shop in the Ahava store which sells Dead Sea beauty products that are supposedly amazing for your skin. Even though we can easily get these in America, something about buying them here seemed more legit.

After lunch we got back on the bus for a short ride to the Dead Sea, a definite highlight of any trip to Israel. Kuti built us up to expect that the high salt content would make it uncomfortable to swim in, and we were worried it would sting; but everyone had a great time floating and nobody even seemed to mind the fact that it reeked of sulfur. Overall it was an amazing way to end our tour of the Holy Land.

After our short float in the sea (it did start to sting eventually), we got back on the bus to Jerusalem to have our last dinner and watch an Israeli standup comedian; and to get ready to go home bright and early in the morning. We’re all so sad to leave, but it’s safe to say Mayanot 389 went out with a bang.

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