Today we drove from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea Valley to stand on top of Masada. I have been looking forward to seeing this place for a very long time. The site tells a compelling story about how the Jews committed suicide, deciding it was a better fate than life in slavery to the conquering Romans. It is an inspiring message of how each person is the master of their own destiny.
Snippet from The Masada National Park Website:
“The last bastion of Jewish freedom fighters against the Roman army marks the end of the Kingdom of Judah at the end of the Second Temple period and its violent destruction. On the mountain stage are the remains of splendid palaces from the time of King Herod and silent testimony to the Roman siege and bitter end. The mountain that became a symbol. “
I was also looking forward to hiking up one of the three trails, but no such luck. Because of the logistics of this tour, I had to take the aerial tram up to the top with the rest of the group. It was a pleasant experience, but disappointing since I always hike up everything put in front of me. It was my mistake I did not tell our guide I am a very experienced hiker and mountaineer, and I could have met the group at the top. Oh well.
Here is a video of my ride on the Aerial Tram up to Masada.
Our guide then offered our group the chance to go to an Ahava store down the road from Masada to shop for beauty products made from minerals found in and around the Dead Sea. This location has the lowest prices of any Ahava store in Israel, so I bought a few things. I also checked the prices online when I got back to the hotel and found out they were approx the same price as you would pay in the US, but you save the shipping cost if any, plus we received some bonus goodies on any purchase. I do not think we got ripped off, but if we did… what comes around goes around. midah k’neged midah (measure for measure)
Bet Shean National Park
Here is a little bit of history on this very ancient city. Here is a short narrative on the park taken from the below website:
“Bet She’an has a long and fascinating past. The city made maximum use of the fertile soil and abundance of water in the area, the good climate for agriculture, and the geographic location at an exceptionally important junction of roads.
Human beings made their homes in Bet She’an tel as long ago as the 5th millennium BCE. In the late Canaanite period ( 16th – 12th centuries BCE) the Egyptians ruled the area, and the entire land of Israel.
The Philistines apparently ruled the city for a time. According to the Bible, the Philistines exposed the bodies of King Saul and his son on the walls of Bet She’an, after defeating the armies of Israel in the battle of Gilboa: “They put his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths and fastened his body to the wall of Beth Shan” (I Samuel 31:10). Later, in 732 BCE, the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III destroyed Bet She’an in his campaign of war against the Kingdom of Israel.
During the Hellenistic period (4th century BCE), new settlers established a city-state (polis) in Bet She’an, in accordance with the best tradition of Hellenistic urban culture in the east: streets adorned with columns, temples, theaters, markets, bathhouses, and fountains. The city was called Nysa-Scythopolis in Greek, after the nursemaid of Dionysius, god of wine. According to the local tradition, the nursemaid was buried at Bet She’an. The discovery of a statue of Dionysius in excavations carried out at the site is evidence that the residents did indeed worship him.
In 63 BCE, after a brief period of Hasmonean rule, the city was conquered by the Romans, and became one of the cities of the Decapolis – a group of cities with a Hellenistic-Roman cultural character, most of them in Transjordan. Magnificent public buildings were constructed in the prosperous city.
During the Byzantine period too, when the state religion was Christianity, Bet She’an continued to flourish and in the 5th century CE it was capital of the second district of the Land of Israel (Palaestina Secunda), which included the Galilee valleys and eastern Transjordan. The city covered an area of 1300 dunams, and was home to more than 40,000 residents. It was known as an excellent agricultural area, and noted for the production of good quality linen fabrics. The amora Resh Lakish made his famous statement about Bet She’an: “If the Garden of Eden is in the Land of Israel, then its gate is Bet Shean” (Babylonian Talmud, Eruvin 19a).
After the Arab conquest, in the first half of the 7th century, Bet She’an lost its position to Tiberias, and in 749 the city was completely destroyed by a powerful earthquake. Bet She’an became a rural settlement, and during the Crusader period a fortress was built there, to the east of the ruined amphitheater, making use of many of its building stones. “ https://www.parks.org.il/en/reserve-park/bet-shean-national-park/
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