Wednesday, June 6. Well, we did not get to hike up to Masada at sunrise. In fact we did not hike up Masada at all, because by the time we got there the hiking trail was closed for being too hot. But we did take a tram up to Masada, and what a place that is! The story of Masada is very much like the story of the Alamo in the United States. A small band of people (in this case about 1000 Jews around 73 A.D.) fighting for their rights and what they believe in, are faced with an invading army much greater than they (in this case about 9000 Roman Empire soldiers), end up knowing they’re going to be killed, and what are they going to do? It’s an amazing thing to put oneself in the shoes of the people who have to decide what to do. In this case, they have a fortress perched high up on a Mesa overlooking the Dead Sea, and the Roman soldiers with their Jewish prisoners are slowly building a ramp up to the fortress so they can breach the walls and they are getting closer and closer. Here, they made the decision to commit mass suicide, committed by the sword by drawing lots so their own people killed them rather than be taken prisoner and made to be slaves. When the Roman soldiers finally arrived they found 960 dead. Incredible story! Almost as incredible are the ruins of the fortress itself. What they accomplished, especially with how they managed to get water up to this totally isolated and dry place, and how they used the water in a continuous system so good it even allowed them to have flourishing public baths, is a wonder to behold. It’s definitely worth the visit. After we had lunch up there, and it was really hot, we went down to the Dead Sea, which is absolutely incredible in its own right. The Dead Sea is a beautiful body of water, with Jordan on the other side. Big hotel resorts have probably unfortunately been built on one portion of the shore. That’s where we could go in. I had been in the Great Salt Lake in Utah and in the salt pools on Sal of the Cape Verde Islands, but floating in the Dead Sea blew them all away. There is something eerily beautiful about the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth below sea level, beautiful blue color, the water incredibly warm, with salt content so thick it is impossible to sink. I couldn’t even do a breaststroke without the water flipping me over onto my back. So I just floated there, eyes closed (because if you get water in your eyes, as both Raizel and I did, it really stings), and at the end I simply floated on my back for the longest time without knowing where I was, kind of in a meditative trance. It was so peaceful! And just as I started wondering how long one could be in this position with eyes closed not knowing where one is before having to open one’s eyes to look, suddenly I got beached; I felt sand on my back. I had floated all the way in to the shore and hadn’t even noticed. The sand was so hot it burned the feet, but we had to get over it as fast as possible to get under the cool outdoor shower. I had a great time with Raizel today, and I thank her so much for renting a car and bringing me there. On the way out of the Dead Sea area we picked up a nice couple hitchhiking and brought them all the way into Jerusalem. They were very grateful. A truly wonderful day. At night I stayed in packing up my things, taking a much-needed real shower and cooling out. It is my last day in Chana’s apartment. Talk about grateful!