Sightseeing in Israel, part 2: Masada, the Dead Sea and Jerusalem

Panoramic view of Masada

Panoramic view of Masada

Masada and the Dead Sea
My heart skipped a beat and I gasped at Masada when I took in the incredible views from the top of a lookout point. Surrounded by deep canyons as far as the eye could see, I was awestruck.

Inside a cistern at Masada

Inside a cistern at Masada

Home to Herod’s Palace, Masada’s breathtaking beauty is certainly worthy of royalty. Some hike the winding trails to the top but I took a cable car (gondola). I felt like Indiana Jones as I descended the steps that took me into the bottom of one of Herod’s cisterns. The deep reservoir was dry and spacious and once held rainwater for Herod’s kingdom.

Today, bar and bat mizvahs take place at Masada and I don’t think the sweeping landscape setting can be beat.

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea

No trip to Masada is complete without a visit to the Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth (417 m/1440 ft below sea level) that also has the highest water salinity. My fellow food bloggers and I slathered ourselves—and one another—with mud and it was so much fun. Is there a better way to get in touch with the land than to slather wet earth all over yourself? I think not. When it was time to rinse off, we floated in the Dead Sea, giggling as we experienced the water’s incredible buoyancy.

Intricate masonry at The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Intricate masonry at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Last stop: Jerusalem
Jerusalem is a holy city that’s been destroyed, rebuilt, captured and recaptured throughout history. It’s the home of significant spiritual sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Prayers from the faithful at The Western Wall

Prayers from the faithful at the Western Wall

Within the walls of Jerusalem is the Old City, where you’ll find Arab, Jewish, Christian and Armenian quarters. There’s the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, commemorated by Christians as the location of Jesus Christ’s tomb. There’s the Temple Mount and its Western Wall (the Wailing Wall). It’s the holiest of holy places for Jews, and the site of the Foundation Stone where it’s believed the world was created.

While navigating the stone paths in the Old City, there were throngs of tourists milling about the alleyways. It’s easy to lose your way here, so I was especially grateful to be accompanied by our tour guide Avigail, who has an awesome sense of direction.

Nightfall on Mount of Olives

Nightfall on the Mount of Olives

The Mount of Olives
The group and I gathered at a lookout point with a view of the Mount of Olives, the site of the world’s most in-demand cemetery plots. According to Jewish faith, it’s where God will begin to resurrect the dead on the Day of Judgment. There are over 150,000 Jewish graves there. It was a prime preaching location for Jesus Christ and believed to be where he ascended to heaven. And according to Muslim faith, it’s believed to be the place where the righteous and the sinners will be divided.

While touring the holy sites in Jerusalem, I felt an unmistakable intensity from the faithful who gathered to pray. It’s interesting to me that although people may be simultaneously praying in close proximity, each have their own life stories, their own beliefs and their own relationships with their Gods.

I found it settling to see all this spiritual activity happening peacefully before my eyes. Religion can divide and unite people all at once and when it brings us together in compassion, understanding and a sense of community, it’s truly a beautiful thing. See more photos of Masada, the Dead Sea and Jerusalem in the photo gallery below.

With all this talk of sightseeing and friendships, you didn’t think I had forgotten about the food, did you? That’s worthy of whole other post. Get ready to feast your eyes on some of the favorite foods I ate with What and where to eat in Israel.

About Jen Melo

Jennifer Melo is a Toronto-based writer and digital content specialist whose favourite vacation non-activity is lounging in the sun on a beautiful stretch of beach. She’s also a cake-decorating hobbyist and creator of prettybakesblog.com.

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