Saturday, April 02, 2011

Israel Chronicles: Dead Sea is ALIVE!

On Day 2 of our wonderful trip, TP and I got a little adventurous.
We took a state-run bus from the central bus stop (that got bombed a few days later) to a place called Masada. Masada is the site of a fortress where a group of Jews fought literally to their last breath to fend off their attackers. Several army contingents in Israel go by the motto "Masada shall never fall again". The fortress is a glowing example of how a historical site is brought into today's context and woven into the lives of the Jewish people. Again, several military troops and more 'Jewish' lessons.

I almost wept for the opportunities we have in India (and do not 'use') to preserve our history. The (Masada) fortress is splendid, undoubtedly. Situated on the top of a mountain, it has a superb 360 deg view. It has a bathing chamber, a synagogue, several storerooms and cisterns, but well, after traveling to the Daulatabad fortress and the off-beat Chitradurga Fort, it was difficult for me to be impressed (note, I haven't even mentioned Red Fort or Agra Fort). All our forts also have the same features. What is common to these forts and is remarkable is how well they've withstood the ravages of time and what architectural marvels they are.

Interestingly, all tourist points in Israel exit into a Souvenir shop. Carried away by the multi-media presentations, well laid out paths, excellent tour guides and signs, well maintained restrooms and the overwhelming 'Jew' pride, most tourists spend a bomb in here... we had a lovely time walking around of course.

We took a bus from Masada to the lovely Ein Bokek.... DEAD SEA!!!
It is a beautiful spectacle indeed...blues ranging from aquamarine to lapis lazuli all the way to sapphire and a royal blue, several people were playing around. My TP and I quickly changed in (the thoughtfully provided) shower rooms and rushed to the sea. We couldn't wait to test if we'd really float... and float we did! Dead sea has always made it to the list of places I want to visit before I die, and I am so glad I got to float. After gingerly stepping past the salt crystals on the tiny shore, I waded into the water, and could barely walk! The water just thrusts you upward and you just float! It is almost supernatural and a bit eerie, a bit lovely, a bit scary and a bit exciting.

We had tea at this lovely shop where India was given a positively glowing vote by everyone. Apparently most Israelis visit India(because it is cheap and thanks to Bhole baba ka prasad!) and love the hospitality, culture and Indian food(sadly, no mention of Indian women, but after seeing some of the Israeli mothers, understandably too!)

We headed back to Jerusalem and then out to Mamilla mall for a bit of shopping.
With 2 women what do you expect? My TP went into every shop and I did what I like to do best, take pictures and observe the people walking past. Going past the black coats et al, Israelis (especially the Jews) go everywhere with their kids - Malls, Restaurants, Rest rooms... where not?Missed Button for a few seconds then.

With lighter wallets, smiles on our faces and food in our bellies, we headed back to Addar, ready to crash.

Moral of the story: Never miss an occasion to shop, never miss an occasion to announce you are Indian!

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