Israel Trip: Dead Sea & Ein Gedi
On Saturday morning, our last day in Israel, we met for breakfast at Judi and Moti's house. She had a huge spread of fruit, yogurt, granola, breads, cheeses, juices and coffee. We needed plenty of fuel for the day!
After breakfast, we loaded into a few cars to make the drive to the Dead Sea. Rosenbergs are leaders. All of them. Too many leaders makes for some chaos before finally making a decision everyone will follow. Ben found this hilarious...especially since the Steed clan is just the opposite. The Steeds are all willing to yield to someone else's plan, resulting in a similar chaos.
Ben and I rode with Judi and Moti so that we could have some extra visiting time with them. We drove through the mountains and desert and saw all kinds of free roaming camels, sheep and goats. There was something awesome about seeing this herd of goats with a kid running behind them, guiding them, in the Israeli desert. Talk about bringing the bible to life!
And here's a sign you don't come across everyday:
We reached a lookout point just above the Dead Sea and stopped to check out the view. The white you see (that looks like waves) are actually salt deposits.
I'm not sure why, but I didn't expect the Dead Sea to be so blue! I think I was expecting a dark green or dirty lake-like water. Not so...look at that beautiful shade of turquoise!
We got back in the cars and headed on to Ein Bokek, a resort and beach area at the Dead Sea, for a swim!
Ben was first in the water!
If you aren't familiar with the Dead Sea, it's at the lowest point in the world, and the salt level in the water is so high that no animals can live in the water.
Even cooler, because of the high salt content, your body floats as if you're on a raft!
It's actually easier to float horizontally in the water than it is to try and stay upright. So we had all kind of fun rolling in the water, doing tricks, and trying to keep it from going into our mouths. Yuck!
I totally salt scrubbed my body--I wasn't about to miss out on a free spa treatment!
Minerals from the Dead Sea are harvested and used for all kinds of skin treatments and cosmetics. The water has an almost oily feeling while you're in it that makes your skin feel really soft. I bought some hand and foot lotion with Dead Sea minerals, and not only does it smell great, it definitely has a softening cocoa butter-like feel to it. Very cool stuff!
This lady was trying out some mud mask minerals on her day at the Dead Sea. I looked for some Dead Sea mud, but that you have to (and can) buy. Might have to give that a try at home!
Some people with psoriasis are even prescribed to sunbathe at the Dead Sea for a few weeks every year as part of their treatment because of the low elevation, making the UV rays from the sun less harsh.
I could have stayed there all day, but we had more to see, so we loaded back in the cars and drove up to Ein Gedi, a national park, to do a little hiking and see some natural spring waterfalls in the middle of a desert mountain.
But first...a picnic lunch, packed by Aunt Judi. Talk about a fancy picnic! Most of the salads and rolls were leftover from Shabbat dinner the night before, but it was a definite upgrade from the PB&J sandwiches we usually pack for our picnics!
After lunch we said goodbye to Yasmin, Harel & Ofek, who headed back home for the day, and then the rest of us headed into the park to hike up the mountain. A little bit of water and her cane, and Grandma was ready to go. :)
By this time in the trip, I was getting pretty tired of holding my camera and taking photos. Thankfully, Uncle Moti has his camera snapping as much as I do, so many of the photos from this day came from his camera.
Plus, Chuck and Ben took over my camera for much of the day too. That's why I tend to be IN more of the pictures this time around...why did it have to be on the day I look like I've been rolling around in dirt?
We started on the trail that started out flat, then had bridges and steps, and eventually became a rocky, uneven, and sometimes slippery climb up the mountain.
We had a little bit of concern about whether it was a good idea for Grandma and Grandpa to keep on climbing, but by the time we considered a turn-around, we were nearly to the top, and the trail was a loop, so going back down the way we came wasn't really a good option either.
Onward and upward.
We assigned Ben and Chuck to keeping near Grandpa and Nadiv and I stayed on either side of Grandma, chasing her up the mountain.
It was a long way up, but the view from the top was pretty spectacular.
They made it...still smiling. :) Not every 89 and 86 year old can accomplish these kinds of feats. I'm pretty sure my grandparents are superhuman and that with their genes, I may live actively and healthfully for a long long long time. Guess I better make the most of it, like they do!
We finally reached the waterfall, called David's Spring.
Ein Gedi is referenced in 1 Samuel 23:29 when David ran and hid from King Saul:
And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi.
We savored some time at the waterfall, in our last few hours of adventure in Israel with all of my family.
I had such a great day visiting with everyone, a great week enjoying Grandma, Grandpa and Chuck's company and wisdom, and an unbelievable time learning more than you could ever absorb from a book or a movie or a class.
As we headed back down the mountain, we noticed an Ibex (a type of mountain goat) up on the mountain above us. He was almost completely camoflauged.
As we hiked back to the cars, I was overwhelmed with how well our once-in-a-lifetime (maybe?) trip to Israel turned out - even if it didn't always go as planned.
We made the drive back to the condo, showered, packed our suitcases up and then went out for one last adventure before heading to the airport for our long trip home.
I don't have any photos of this next crazy event, but it's defintely a story worth telling. You'll have to visualize.
We had a little bit of time before we needed to be at the airport in Tel Aviv, and we hadn't yet had a falafel pita sandwich. We could have gotten one at the airport, but since we had time, and the stores would be starting to open again (Shabbat had just ended at about 7:30pm on Saturday evening) we decided to try and fit that one last thing into our trip.
We ended up at the Jerusalem Mall, which is a modern shopping mall near Chuck's condo. As we pulled into the parking garage, both Grandma and Grandpa starting talking about how they had tried to get in there once, but they couldn't ever find a parking space, and how awful the people parked, even in the aisles, and eventually they had just given up and gotten out of there because it was so awful.
Chuck said, "Nah, you just didn't know where to park." I'm paraphrasing...but something along those lines. To support his statement, he turned up onto a mezzanine level of the parking garage, which was nearly empty, pulled into a spot and we were on our way to get a falafel. No big thing. Right?
Well...about 45 minutes later, we left the mall, went back to our car to find that the entire parking garage had been completely filled, and in fact the cars WERE parked in the aisles, cars were driving every which direction, people were yelling, blowing horns, etc.
As we walked to our car, we literally had 4 cars pointed at our spot from all directions, waiting for us to leave, a woman who actually got out of her car and stood in our spot to try and save it for someone, and we could NOT get our car out of the spot. It was CRAZY. Yelling, honking, and absolutely no order of any kind that we could see.
Grandpa got so irritated that he jumped out of the car and started yelling and giving huge arm motions to tell the cars around us to move out of the way so we could get out. It was a bold move...but they listened to the crazy shouting old man, and it's the only thing that allowed us to leave the parking spot! One of the men waiting to take our spot shouted at Grandpa "What? Do you want to be my driving teacher??" and Grandpa yelled back "You need one!" I thought we were about to have a showdown in the mall parking garage. Well, I guess we kinda did.
Still, as we tried to actually LEAVE the parking garage, we kept running into more of these no-rules-apply stand-offs, and couldn't. get. out. Finally, Chuck (who was driving) took a ramp heading down a level (against the shouting advice from Grandma and Grandpa in the backseat, warning him that we'd be stuck in there for hours), which thankfully was just clear enough that we could get out alive and back on the road toward Tel Aviv without being stuck in the garage for what could have been hours.
I have a new phrase for someone who parks like they're the only car on the planet - "Parking like an Israeli". I googled it...and found these photos that TOTALLY support my observations!
What a way to end our trip! But hey, it's a good story, and we got that falafel (it was good!).
The rest of the trip was spent mostly in airports, just traveling home.
As we arrived to check in at the Tel Aviv airport, Ben was pretty heavily questioned, and even had to show a second photo ID (we were glad he had decided to bring his Driver's License in addition to his Passport). I'm telling you...we're pretty sure that he looked Israeli or Arab or something with that beard, and it got him stopped and questioned everywhere we went! Thankfully, we did make it through - with all our luggage, although our honey and olive oil from Yad Mordechai evidentally warranted a suitcase search. Security is intense...but I guess I'm glad it is--because we had a safe and uneventful trip home.
In our last few moments at the airport, Grandma and I both jotted down notes in our journals about the trip. It's no mystery where my writing and "historian" qualities come from.
We flew from Tel Aviv to Newark, breezed through Passport Control in the US, and then flew to Chicago to spend a night at Chief's house to recouperate, and then finally on Monday morning headed back to Birmingham to relieve Noni from her week and a half of duty with the kids!
What a week. What a trip! Thanks for reading along as I re-lived it and recorded it!
I have one more Israel Trip post coming soon to finish out the trip--a mediterannean food wrap up!
Israel Trip Wrap Up:
- Israel Trip: Getting Ready to Go
- Israel Trip: Layover in Chicago
- Israel Trip: Traveling Across the World
- Israel Trip: Jerusalem - The Old City
- Israel Trip: Bethlehem & West Bank
- Israel Trip: Yad Vashem & Ben Yehuda Street
- Israel Trip: An Israeli Wedding
- Israel Trip: Mount of Olives
- Israel Trip: City of David
- Israel Trip: Sea of Galillee
- Israel Trip: Kibbutz, Gaza & Shabbat
- Israel Trip: Dead Sea & Ein Gedi
- Israel Trip: The Food