The Travels of Cypris – The Dead Sea and Its Scrolls
I randomly posted about wanting to make it to the Dead Sea. A friend offered to take me to her favorite kibbutz hotel for a day of salty adventure. The architecture dramatically changes when you leave Jerusalem. The Arab built areas are comprised of huge high rise buildings, clustered very close together, that all look the same. As the altitude declined, we were surrounded by hills that are tended by the Bedouins; a nomadic culture that lives in tents, agricultural gypsies that also guide people through the desert. Road signs along the way show your drop in altitude.
We picked up a couple dutch hitch hikers as we entered the kibbutz, but ended up only driving them a few blocks to the trail they were looking for. The hotel was nestled in a desert oasis. Banyan trees, soft grass, and many familiar tropical plants lined the well kept property. Our room was not ready yet so we headed to the Ein Gedi spa which seemed more like a ski lodge. There was a large room for picnicking, a small snack stand, a gift store with really expensive everything, murky fish tanks used for pedicures, and public rest rooms. The way to the beach was via carts pulled by a tractor. It reminded me of hay rides. As we puttered down the road, the aqua marine sea opened my smile as wide as it could go. The white salt deposits off the shore make it look like waves are lapping. You must wear shoes when entering the sea. The salt looks like white coral and is super sharp. There were a few grass shade structures that were covered in white stalagmites of salt. The sea is harsh, one drop of water in the eye will blind you for a few minutes. I could not resist the urge to float on my back, feeling more then weightless. The water supports you from below, most of your body is above water. I wanted to open my eyes, just a tiny bit to see the sky above. I took care to keep my head back so as to avoid the blindness, but was only mildly successful.
It was hard to find good mud. So many years of use and global warming has diminished the supply. It is grey in color, unlike the black mud you can buy in stores. I always avoided becoming a mud person, but this time i let it go, I was in the dead sea for goodness sakes! After a fifteen minute bake in the sun and a torrential shower, my skin was pristine and soft. The mud lives up to its reputation!
The next day we took a cable car up to Masada the ancient fortification atop a 1,300 foot plateau. The story was dramatically played out in the introduction movie. Masada was home to the last group of Jewish rebels against the Roman conquest. The Romans built an assault ramp up the side of the mountain,then rolled a battering ram up it to breach the city walls. Rather then be taken into slavery, the rebels killed themselves and their families.
The ruins are commanding. It feels like a place of ultimate human survival. To live in the middle of the desert, a top a huge rock formation is mind boggling. They built many storage areas to house supplies for months, supposedly Masada was one of the best equipped residences. We self guided our way through the Mikvah a Jewish ritual bath, Herod’s palace, living quarters, communal areas, guard house, and the synagogue. We talked with Rabbi Lewis, who was behind a sheet of glass as he transcribed the Torah using a quill pen and parchment. He invited us into his sacred space and asked what was my purpose for being in Israel. I told him of my flow aspirations and he gave me much encouragement. He offered to write me a blessing in Hebrew and inquired about my utmost desire. I responded, “Peace of Mind.” He got a little bit of parchment and started skillfully and purposely writing. The blessing he offered translates to, “God gave you a pure heart.” I was overwhelmed with gratitude and took my parchment outside to gaze at the Dead Sea while it dried.
We waited in a her d of children for the cable car ride back. Rabbi Lewis and a French couple were the only people over the age of 10. The doors opened and the kids rushed in. We were in a mosh pit of children, screaming at the top of their lungs. Luckily, we were right by the exit door, so it was a quick step to the side to avoid the stampede.
Upon my return to Jerusalem, I was really antsy. I had been wanting to go to the Israel Museum since i arrived. Google maps was only in Hebrew, so i broke out my tourist information provided map and started on my way. I wound my way down the roads whose name changes a few times, but there are no signs to tell you this. I ended up at a park, my first non-car experience in the woods of Israel. The trees are evergreen and sparsely distributed over the levels of tan rock. Looking at the pine cones brought thoughts of the North West. I popped out of the woods and onto a college campus. Feeling very lost, i started to hitch. A soccer mom picked me up and it turned out i was only a few blocks from the museum.
I only had 2 hours and did not realize how big the place was. My game plan was Dead Sea Scrolls first, Herod next, then the rest of the museum. The scrolls are housed in a white building that replicates the pots they were found in. It looks like a giant boob, with a hard nipple, that is keeping cool from the fountains that cascade over it. You enter the Shrine of the Book and walk down a dark hallway. The center of the room houses a a large reproduction of the Great Isaiah Scroll that you can walk around. Around the edge of the room are the fragments of the actual scrolls. They are preserved in what looks like a waxy substance, that is pressed between glass. I am so grateful to get to see things I have only read about.
I continued my journey through the sculpture garden and into the galleries. There were all of my favorite Impressionists, Post Impressionist, Modern, and Post Modern artists. I kept walking deeper and deeper in the museum and then remembered Herod! I pulled myself away from the art and went seeking the king. I was drawn back to the art post historical experience and almost did not get my bag back because the museum was closing.
I had some left over falafel from lunch and sat on a bench outside noshing down until i figured out what to do next. I wandered around trying to find the right bus back. I ended up getting a free ride back to Sivan’s from a cabby.