Our Longest Day Yet…

For those of us who either aren’t morning people or who aren’t in peak physical condition, this morning represented our biggest challenge and arguably our greatest payoff yet. We woke up at 4am and started our sunrise hike up Masada, the ancient Jewish fortress, at 4:30. Some of us made it up the snaking path in 30 minutes and some of us took well over an hour but the important part was that all who began the climb eventually go to enjoy one of the most spectacular views that Israel has to offer. We over looked the desert onto the Dead Sea and over into Jordan as we heard the story and learned the history  of the tragic fall of Masada. After spending a few hours at the top and capturing some breathtaking photographs, we climbed down and enjoyed a well earned breakfast before heading to our next destination, the Dead Sea.

The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth but we all know it for the healing and cleansing concoction of water, mud, and minerals as well as the famous ability for people to float effortlessly in the water. Although many of us were uncomfortable with the burning sensation the salt provided us but it eventually subsided and we were left with an amazing and unique beach experience. After a handful of us bought some skin products for ourselves and as gifts for friends and family we are at a shopping center on our way to the Arad to visit the home of one of our Israeli participants.
Oz and his family learned that we were driving past their small town and they insisted that we stop and enjoy some bonus Israeli hospitality. We were honored to oblige. Oz and his father, Eli, welcomed us to Arad and their home with a quick introduction, juice/soft drinks, and a hilarious look through some old pictures of Oz. We won’t forget the warmth we felt here and we’re all eagerly prepared to pay that kindness back. Leaving Arad and heading to the Bedouin tents was bittersweet but we couldn’t help but to be excited to experience a culture that nearly none of us had encountered before, Bedouins.
We arrived and learned that we were sleeping in a 100 person tent divided into 4 (for the men and women of 2 separate buses). If ever there was a time for us to get close with our fellow busmates, this was it! We began by enjoying a great activity that our Israelis prepared for us and then we were served a DELICIOUS dinner, complete with rice, potatoes, chicken shawarma, and various salads and sauces with pita. All of this was eaten by hand and washed down with the sweetest hot tea we’d ever tasted. From dinner we learned about the Bedouin culture from a traditional Bedouin man before we walked outside of the camp and really appreciated being isolated in the desert as we gazed up at the stars without the light pollution of the cities. Most of us are going to sleep around midnight, making today a 20-hour day, by far our longest so far. We’all get some sleep tonight and get excited to ride some camels tomorrow!
Danielle McKinstry, Andrew Max, Wyatt Leach & Aaron Weil

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