My Masada and Dead Sea adventures are going to have to wait. I really thought I'd have a bit of time to sit down and write them up. Work happened, my landlady called and invited me for Shabbat dinner and sounded so lonely I said yes (and I'm still queazy --sp? I can't spell in any language any more!--because she served chicken and chicken gravy on everything (everything!) and umm I'm a vegetarian. I eshewed the chicken itself but yeeeeuuuucccchhhh). Then I finally extracted myself and got home about 11 and then worked until now.
BUT I'm not going to leave folks completely hanging. In jest the other day I asked my dear friend Katherine if I could steal her write-up like I steal her ulpan notes and she said yes. I was joking then. LOL, now I'm not. So here is Kat's pretty kewl version of what all went down when 3 girls and a tent went way down through the west bank (I promise my own soon uh sometime uh yeah):
Yam Ha Melach and other exciting places
or: We drove through the West Bank and I never even knew!
So Yael and Courtney and I decided we needed a girls weekend away, no boyfriends allowed! while Yael was not particularly fussed either way, and Courtney knew that she could pitch a tent better than Daniel anyway, I was missing Bob for the fact that he always rolls the tent up and gets his hands dirty so I don't have to. So I am now bust, because now I have proven that us girls are capable of going away and camping and fending for ourselves so now next time we go camping with the boys they are not going to give us any leeway! Dammit. I see a lot of dirty hands in my future.
So we were just going for 2 days, driving from Tel Aviv via Jerusalem (45 minutes) then down to the Dead Sea (or Yam ha Melach as they call it here, which means the salty sea), and then camping somewhere in that area, and then going to Massada the next day. My first shock was that by going this route, we were driving through the West Bank. Being geographically challenged as I am, I never took a proper look at the map, and I always thought the West Bank was slightly north of Jerusalem, not also South East of it too. So I was a little confused when we drove out of Jerusalem, and we drove through a checkpoint, which had Palestinian cars queued up to go through to Jerusalem, all waiting for their turn (they have green license plates unlike the Israeli yellow ones), and then we were driving through very deserted areas, literally and figuratively. We only saw a couple of camels (my first real middle eastern camels!), lots of complete desert (makes the Negev look welcoming), a few Bedouin encampments (grubby shacks, some animals, couple of clotheslines, all on the side of a desert hill), and some typical A-rabs on the side of the road as mouse would call them (typical in that they were wearing what we ignorant foreigners would term a dishcloth on their heads, and I believe they call a Keffiya).
Then we got down to the Dead Sea (about 60 km's), and the first place we stopped at to pop in the sea was very derelict and abandoned looking all around, bad roads, and then separate places to swim for men and women, and very many muslim men and women. Curiouser and curiouser. And yes the whole way I never realised a thing, only the next day when Courtney made a throw away comment did I realise that we had been driving through the West Bank all the time. If I had known, I would not have been quite so cavalier with my answers when we got stopped at the checkpoint on the way out - instead of telling them we were going camping, we didn't quite know where, I would probably have tried to assure them that we knew exactly where we were going and please to let us back in! So I now know a few more facts. The west bank comes down very close to Jerusalem, and then extends further south. It borders with the top piece and left side of the Dead Sea, and stops about halfway down the Dead Sea. On the other side of the Dead Sea is Jordan. Had I had the patience I coulda floated across to Jordan for the day.
The Dead sea was much fun. It is completely exhausting - even a little dip in it will make you so sleepy. It's also great because you can be standing in it, and your feet will not touch the bottom. If you are lying, it is possible to lie on your side as if you are on a bed. The first place we stopped at we jumped right in, floated a bit, got out to slather ourselves with mud, and then jumped back in. I wish I had been able to take pictures of us in the mud, but you will all have to imagine them. Most amusing. We looked like frog women!
The Dead Sea itself is actually shrinking at a rapid rate - just less than a metre a year. The north bit is actually almost disconnected from the south bit due to shrinkage, and as a result the south is much saltier, shallower, and floatier. The water in the south you can pretty much lie on it like you are lying on a bed, with your head completely back which is very cool. The only problem is that when you get out you will have straw instead of hair. They have fresh water showers right outside the sea, because if you do not shower right away, you will probably die from all the things that are stinging, like any cuts or scrapes you had, or anything else you have with a mucous membrane. Hint - do not fart in the Dead Sea!
We camped that night at a moshav (communal farming place thingy), and met some very nice Israelis, who laughed at our pathetic attempts with our little gas camping stove, and then invited us to share their dinner - most amusing. So I've decided that while we girls may not quite be as handy as boys, we can still get everything done by looking useless and getting people to help us.
so here are some pictures as reward for reading through all the blather. Here are Yael and Courtney, and as promised I photographed them from the waist up - I think they owe me money now. Yael is from a number of places including New Orleans, New York, and she seems to know quite a few bits of Texas too. Courtney is from Houston, and Austin as well. Thanks to the both of them I am picking up a silly american accent, and they keep on finding themselves saying things like queue, boot, robot, swimming costume and other necessary things.
Ooops ok no pictures yet either and I'm not stealing hers. Hey I do have my limits but as you can see they are pretty low. THANK YOU KAT!