I feel like I have so much to write about. We’ve done so much in the past day and a half.
After leaving the Dead Sea we traveled to the Masada, ancient ruins located in the Judean Desert. An ancient palace was once located on the plateau that overlooks the Dead Sea. A siege by the Romans led to the mass suicide of the Sicarli rebels during the first Jewish-Roman War. The rebels preferred death to surrendering. The movie, “Masada,” was released in 1981 about this place. Maybe I’m getting redundant and being too obvious by writing this, but it’s really hot in the desert. We were not just glistening with sweat while we were walking through the Masada. We were dripping large puddles of sweat from every pore of our bodies. It was hot!
After cooling off with popsicles and cold water, we drove to the Bedouin village. They greeted us with a tray of delicious watermelon then instructed us to mount our camels. I didn’t even have time to prepare myself! The Bedouins brought the camels over in a line, all tied together, which was actually neat. Then the camels started making these scary mooing sounds as they sat on the ground. Everyone quickly climbed on their camels backs and my heart started to race. A lot of the students kept saying, “Oh, they’re so cute,” but I couldn’t see it.
Beth asked me to ride with her and I was happy someone actually wanted to ride with me since I was obviously filled with fear. I climbed on the front, which was silly. It was too scary. The camel was mooing loudly and when it stood up I felt like I was going to fall off. We went on a slow walk near the village, which, I admit, wasn’t that bad. It was actually kind of fun. I was shaking the whole time and scared that a camel would spit on me or lick me or get too close to me, but it was fun. (I do have video evidence to prove that I rode on the camel.)
By the way, when we’re on the bus either Maha or Raed, our tour guide, always say, “Camels to the right” or “Camels to the left” whenever there is a camel sighting. I prefer to see them from the bus.
The Bedouins then welcomed us into their village with juice, water and watermelon. We then went into a tent where one of the Bedouins talked to us about their lifestyle. It was really fascinating. He said there are 230,000 Bedouins and half of them live in tents and the other half live in houses. Historically, the Bedouins lived more nomadic lives with few modern technologies. But for the past 2o years the Bedouins haven’t been living like their ancestors did. Today they have cell phones and laptops and internet access.
They have all kinds of traditions they follow. When they enter a tent that has openings on all sides they can only enter from the north. When they enter they have to cough three times. Guests are always given coffee and the coffee must be made in front of the guest. They prepared coffee in front of us by roasted the coffee beans over a flame and grinding the beans. They also served us this sweet hot tea drink that was delicious. Guests are given three cups of coffee. The first is for respect, the second is to show that they are under the Bedouins protection and the third is for fun. Also, if a guest is served coffee that is filled to the rim it means he is unwanted.
Bedouins wear long sleeves, gowns and heavy clothes that protect them from the weather. They are polygamists and often have up to four wives. Each wife has her own tent or home. The men are supposed to be fair with all of them and give them and give them a respectful life (because that makes polygamy better, ha).
Historically, Bedouins moved wherever they wanted but today they live in certain areas chosen by the government. The Bedouin we spoke with got very defensive when asked about this. It sounds like they feel like their land was taken away from them and they want it back.
Now the most important part of the visit, the food. The meal they served us was delicious! I was so delighted. They served the traditional Israeli salads to start, hummus, cabbage, tomatoes, pitas, etc. Then they brought out these huge platters of rice with potatoes, tomatoes, onions, chickpeas, chicken thighs and meatballs. I didn’t eat the meat, but everything else was so good. They also served fresh fruit after the meal and they had bananas! Bananas are my favorite food and I haven’t eaten one since I got here. I was in heaven.
I didn’t post last night because I had a headache from the heat so I’m sorry this is a little late. We also had a full day today, but I’m going to expand on what we learned later. We left the Dead Sea this morning and traveled to Ein Gedi. Raed called it “an oasis in the desert.” We started out hiking a little bit and all of us were reminded of the intense heat at the Masada the day before. There were a few complaints, but when we arrived at the waterfall it was all worth it. The waterfall was so beautiful right in the middle of the desert.
We then traveled to Jerusalem and went to the Mount of Olives, visited Hadassah Hospital and the American Embassy. I’ll expand on that later. Tomorrow will be an intense day. We will go to the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, and learn more about human trafficking and prostitution. No desert though!
I hope you’re all enjoying the blog. Shalom!