For a little different start to our trip, I decided this year to fit in a visit to Masada and the Dead Sea. This was both for getting over jet lag purposes and because the history and geology of both places are a great frame for the rest of the week. From student Jillian Igl-Dickson, here is a description:
Upon arriving in Israel and getting a few hours of sleep we were off on our first adventure to go see and explore the Dead Sea and Masada. We left our hotel in Jerusalem late in the morning to head toward Masada where we spent the first half of our day. Thankfully, Professor Schneider took pity on our exhausted group and refrained from making us hike to the top of Masada via the Snake Trail (45 min-1 hour hike), but instead let us take the cable car to the top. Given that this was our first real experience in Israel, it was an amazing way to start off our trip. The views from the cable car of Masada and the surrounding landscape were absolutely breathtaking. We were fortunate enough to have lots of time to explore Masada and learn more about the history of the site [and the story of the Roman siege.]
After we had time to explore and learn about Masada, we ventured back down in the cable car and had a chance to shop and eat lunch. Many of us took the opportunity to buy products made with the salt and minerals from the Dead Sea. Once we made it to the Dead Sea, we changed and were off for a floating adventure. It was so neat to share this experience with our group and it set the tone for what would be a once in a lifetime trip.
Another student, Liz O. also reflected on the experience:
By the time we were at the Dead Sea, the sun was setting. This was an odd experience, because it is a place that we’ve heard many times (“lowest point on Earth!” “so much salt you can float in it!”) Once everyone was changed, we all helped each other lather up in Dead Sea mud. It’s supposed to make your skin super smooth and all sorts of other positive things.
Entering the waters of the Dead Sea was absolutely crazy. The bottom of the Sea was practically impossible to navigate because it was mushy mud. I almost slipped four or five times (and so did other people—it was actually pretty hilarious). After a few minutes of wading into the water, people started flop over and sit down in the water as Prof. Schneider directed us to. And lo and behold, the water held us all up! And we just rested in the Dead Sea. Some people went on the stomachs and put their hands under their chins, which was adorable. It was easily one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had.