Israel Trip 2017 – Day 9

Mifgash 2017   
Day 9
Sunrise on Masada

Finally, déjà vu all over again – at least it would have been, if we were looking at blue sky and not stars – but that is what you have at 4:30 a.m. in the desert. So we had many, many tired and grumpy children this morning. They were equal parts "out of sorts" with the early wake-up as with some of their peers, who would not let them sleep. I sure appreciate them giving me something to do – I hadn’t had to use the HOS badge much on this trip.
Even so, we were still all aboard the fleet by 5:00 a.m. and we headed to Masada in the cool desert air. I forgot to introduce you to our guide for the final three days of our trip – Or.  Or was with our group last year, so she has learned the peculiar ways of the Canadians (remember the second "a" is as in "hat"), you know, saying "excuse me" and "thank you." Arriving at Masada by 5:30 a.m., we had a to wait a few minutes for the gate to open, as we were climbing from the former Roman encampments, which shortens the trek considerably from the main gate. After organizing everyone, making sure we had hats, water, and closed-toe shoes, we were off – most of us dressed in sweatshirts and shorts. I love the outline of Masada in the morning light prior to the sunrise – it juts out like a knife-edge against the cold black night sky. About 60 of us headed up the trail for the 20-minute hike to the summit (we also have a medic/security person with us, Genia. He is young, tall, strong, apparently handsome – I think you can tell how I feel about him – and he is nice, too!).
We waited about 30 minutes for the spectacular sunrise as the sky lightened, and then suddenly the top of the sun appeared over the mountains against a clear blue sky. Kids are delightfully funny – there were those that thought that this was the greatest thing, and others who were more interested in their phones (I am still pretty committed to hating cell phones). A few others told me they had done it before or would soon again, so it was not so special – oh, to be young and think you have endless time and opportunities. If only we could insert a little wisdom, but sadly that has to be gained/earned.

Or, our guide, shares the story of Masada
Awe-inspiring sunrise over, Or told us the story of Masada in three parts as we visited three different locations. It is quite a place, and a must-see in Israel. Even after it has been explained to me numerous times, I still do not understand how they managed to store and get water to the top of Masada (maybe I should look it up on my phone?). After a couple of hours, we all walked down the Snake Path. This winding trail takes 40 – 60 minutes to hike down and is very steep in parts, and slippery as well. It is a real knee-killer, and I imagine my quadriceps will talk to me tomorrow. 

Masada, just before heading down

At the base of Masada, we had breakfast in the cafeteria. Most of us were pretty hungry, which definitely helped the food taste better. There was no pudding, but there was Israeli salad. Thankfully there was coffee, which I hear is very good for hydration after old people exercise (my other favourite hydration drink was nowhere to be found). From there, it was back on the bus for the 25-minute drive to the Dead Sea.
We managed to arrive at the very lovely-sounding Ein Gedi Dead Sea Spa by 
10:30 a.m. First order of business was to celebrate by singing "Happy Birthday" for the second and third birthdays on the trip – Jasi and Indy Layton  (you weren’t expecting twins, and yes, that is the correct order). Then it was time to have fun! Students were given lockers and towels and most headed down to the Dead Sea – which is reached by a tram, as the sea has receded so far from its original location. This was a gorgeous time for the kids – the water was lovely, and of course there is something about not being able to sink that is both odd and delightful. We did warn the kids that getting water in the eyes or in cuts was not pleasant, and I can report that we did indeed have that confirmed (no lasting damage). The nice pool area was also open, which is a great follow-up to a dip in the Dead Sea, especially on such a warm sunny day.

Testing the waters of the Dead Sea

 After a couple hours of frolicking it was lunch time. The spa has a lunch spot and most of us dined on schnitzel – though Mr. Aron Rosenberg, who I have discovered on this trip eats as if he is two adolescent boys, had both turkey and schnitzel (of this ability I really am jealous!). Finally Aron finished eating, and it was time to go (in actuality he doesn’t finish eating so much as he runs out of time).
A group picture prior to reciting the Shehecheyanu on Mount Scopus 
So by 1:15 p.m we were on the road to Jerusalem – and in less time that you can spell Jerusalem, most people were asleep, as if getting up at 4:30 a.m. and hiking up and down Masada is tiring or something. Or woke up everyone who was still sleeping so that they could see the first glimpse of Jerusalem as we entered through a tunnel. I never tire of seeing that first glimpse of Yerushalyim as it opens up before you. We stopped to exit the bus at Mount Scopus, where the view is magnificent, and we took a breath to appreciate the moment. Here we said the Shehecheyanu as we experienced this new and special moment together.
So it is with a twinge of fear that I tell you about our next stop, which we arrived at around 4:10 p.m. Don’t judge. We are in magnificent Jerusalem, so why not go to a mall? Awesome idea! Well it is not as bad as you might think, with 52 exhausted teenagers (and I had an Aroma iced coffee with the added nutritional supplement, so I was happy). Malcha mall is contained, secure, and hopping with Israeli culture – from shops to cuisine (and the aforementioned coffee – very important). This time, having been here many times, I beat most of the students to Aroma, but many eventually found it and surrendered some of their money too.

Finally, around 4:30 p.m., we went to our hotel, the Jerusalem Gardens.  By the time we had everyone checked in (small lobby, and slow, teenie elevators – can you say "balagan"?) it was almost 5:30 p.m. We gave our exhausted bunch of students a couple of hours to "chill out". Some did, and some went to the pool – I have no idea where these kids get their energy. Speaking of which, the occasional person asks how we chaperones survive. Let me put it this way: I think, technically, that to be a zombie you have to be dead – but I think we are all honourary zombies.
So in that vein, I am done for the night (my quads are so going to hurt tomorrow). I am heading down to dinner – going to say hi to everyone as we get ready for our last day tomorrow. We have a 6:00 a.m. wake-up time, and we start the day off with dessert – a trip to the Kotel. For that, I cannot wait (and that is our last day, did I mention that?).
Tonight pray for us; tomorrow we will pray for all of you.

The stunning knife edge as we walked up Masada before sunrise
King David High School, 5718 Willow Street, Vancouver, British Columbia V5Z4S9 Canada

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