As our bus draws near, Masada appears more like a rough edge at the stop of a plateau, than a massive fortress built by a paranoid king.
We decide to eat lunch first, and Allan and I head to the McDonalds down below. There are other restaurants, but many in our group have had plenty of felafels and pita bread. I choose McRoyal burgers with a cold drink. You may think we're crazy, but it was fun, a Kosher burger. The chain of restaurants is world wide and subject to local customs. As per the dietary laws, no cheese (no milk products at all) are served with meat.
We view the scale model, and some men opt to climb the hairpin trails up to the top. The rest of us, the not quite insane ones, take the cable car.
The views are stunning, and we can see the Dead Sea, Jordan, the salt flats, the canal that feeds them, and even Jericho. Down the north end of the mountain is Herod's northern palace, a place that caught the cooler north winds, perfect for a hot day. Herod had this fortress built because he believed people were trying to kill him. (probably a distinct possibility.)
Rafe walks us around, explaining it and how the Zealots took over it until the Romans finally captured it in 73 AD, only to find that the Zealots had committed suicide rather than be taken as slaves. We can see the ramp they built, and their encampments around the besieged fortress.
We stop and watch a group of young orthodox men sing and dance in prayer. It's so different than anything done in our church. How refreshing to express your faith in this way.
So high up on a barren plateau, and there is still life, as Tristram's Starlings cheekily wait for handouts.
On our way down, some of us have asked to visit a typical grocery store to purchase some things outside of the tourist traps. Our driver takes us to one in Jerusalem, and two couples opt to find a laundromat.
I bought some wine and dates, and snapped a photo of a Chinese Crested dog, shivering in its coat as it waited for its owner outside the grocery store.
Rafe tells us to dress modestly tomorrow. Yes, we are finally going to the Temple Mount!