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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.

Agripas St. mural, near the food market in Jerusalem
Agripas St. mural, near the food market in Jerusalem
Jerusalem view
Jerusalem view
Wall of David at old Jerusalem
Wall of David at old Jerusalem
Exterior view of the Church of Holy-Sepulchre
Exterior view of the Church of Holy-Sepulchre
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Holy Sepulchre entrance
Holy Sepulchre entrance
Prayers, tucked into column crevices in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Prayers, tucked into column crevices in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
David's citadel in old Jerusalem
David's citadel in old Jerusalem
Western Wall also known as the Wailing Wall
Western Wall also known as the Wailing Wall
It's graduation day at The Western Wall
It's graduation day at The Western Wall
Twilight at Mount of Olives
Twilight at Mount of Olives
A crescent moon shines over The Western Wall
A crescent moon shines over The Western Wall
Gondola at Masada descends
Gondola at Masada descends
Masada gondola lookout
Masada gondola lookout
Desert hikers at Masada
Desert hikers at Masada
Masada valley view
Masada valley view
That's me, going into a cistern
That's me, going into a cistern
Inside a cistern
Inside a cistern
Cistern ceiling
Cistern ceiling
Magnificent Masada
Magnificent Masada
Masada and The Dead Sea
Masada and The Dead Sea
Masada horizon
Masada horizon
Masada panoramic view
Masada panoramic view
More Masada terrain
More Masada terrain
Byzantine Temple at Masada
Byzantine Temple at Masada
Sandy stony land and blue sky and sea at Masada
Sandy stony land and blue sky and sea at Masada
The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea
A blazing sun heats the pathway to The Dead Sea
A blazing sun heats the pathway to The Dead Sea
Poolside dinner at King David Hotel
Poolside dinner at King David Hotel
Jen Melo

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