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Masada and The Dead Sea… Against the Clock

On Sunday, we were up early to see the Church of the Sepulchre and Temple Mount before heading out of Jerusalem with Dave’s friends from Tel Aviv. We queued at the Church of the Sepulchre, where Jesus was believed to be laid to rest, and after 30 minutes, got a glimpse of the tomb. We them hoofed it over to Temple Mount, but the lines were so long, we had to miss it. We were disappointed but decided to walk down an alleyway to buy a coffee for our walk back to the hostel, and we noticed a door in the distance. We strolled down and talked to a couple of guards, and we found a different entrance to the temple. We weren’t allowed to enter, but we at least got an up close view and a photo opp of this special sight.

We sipped coffee and stumbled upon a pastry cart on the walk back. The city was just waking up, and I realized that I love Old Jerusalem best in the wee hours of the morning or the very late hours of night, when tourists have gone back to their hotels, and it feels like it’s just you and the locals.
We grabbed our bags at the hostel and headed over to a bus station on the main road, the place where Dave had arranged to meet his friends from Tel Aviv. They had graciously agreed to pick us up on their way to Masada and take us back to Tel Aviv that same night. Unfortunately, 2 hours later we were still waiting, so we made our way to Budget Car Rental and hired a Suzuki Splash for the day and made our way out of Jerusalem.
This was quite hilarious as the GPS was stuck on Spanish and suffering from a serious delay. It would have probably worked better if I tossed it out the window. Still, as we approached Arad, we stopped for clearer directions and lucky we did, as we learned that we needed to enter Masada from a specific direction if we wanted to take the tram, and given our time crunch we figured this was the best idea.
We pulled into the gates of Masada at 2:58 and the last tram went up at 3:00. Dave dropped me at the entrance, and I ran in to buy tickets and hold the tram while he parked the car. We made the last tram and breathed a sigh of relief as it climbed to the top of Masada. It would have been such a shame to drive all that way and not have the opportunity to see this historic fort and city. It was a bit of a whirlwind tour, but definitely worth seeing, and in just under one hour, we were making our way back down. We had about 1 hour left of sunlight and it was my last chance for a dip in the Dead Sea.
I made for the public restrooms near the parking lot at Masada and quickly changed, and we got back on the road to drive down to one of the public beaches nearby. We parked at Le Meridien and I walked right onto the beach and into the sea. I didn’t have the chance to lather up in mud, but I was just thankful I hadn’t missed the opportunity altogether.
I got a real kick out of floating and Dave laughed at me from the water’s edge. I’ve heard plenty of stories about this and have seen pictures, but it is so cool to experience. This is something that everyone should do once! I floated for about 20 minutes and gave myself a good salt scrub, then took a quick freshwater shower, did a deck change by the car, and we were back on the road. It had been a whirlwind of a day.
We made our way back to Tel Aviv with a quick stop in Arad for shawarma and by 8:30 we were on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. I was at the wheel and Dave was navigating, which was working for us. We found the hostel with no problem and located a public parking lot nearby, as well as a great market. I felt like I was back at the Amish Market in New York City for a second.
We set our alarms so we could get the rental car back on time the following morning, and I started doing calculations in my head of how many extra kilometers we were going to be charged for… oh well, we had miraculously seen it all and ended up back in Tel Aviv in one piece – that was all that mattered.