Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Israeli Soldiers, the Dead Sea, and the Bedouins

Today was a little frustrating. I struggle with not judging people-- who doesn’t?- but when a group is supposed to be somewhere at a certain time, and people don’t show up, they hold up the entire group and derail the schedule.

We started out going to the army base this morning, and delivered our care packages. Initially, the soldiers were hesitant, and not necessarily because of the language barrier. We tried to say thank you, give them our packages and some soda and chat, but they were so shy, almost as if they didn’t want to take them… I wonder if they didn’t understand why we were there, or feared they would get in trouble, Slowly as we began to explain why we were there and how much we appreciate all they did for us, they opened up. They were really blown away by our coming and our generosity, which of course made me cry even harder… thank G-d for sunglasses. It really was fantastic. I tried to get a picture of the soldiers, but as I got them together, someone jumped into the shot. Sigh. Then different people kept jumping in, and I never got it. Ergh.

Well, we left and were supposed to go to Ein Gedi and a nature walk, see some waterfalls and have a picnic lunch. Because we stopped for a bathroom break and it took more than 30 minutes (some had to buy water, juice, snacks, gifts, whatever), we ended up not being able to go on the walk. All we did was stop and have lunch. Apparently, the hotel did not read yesterday’s blog entry and thus packed the same lunch. Well, almost. Iron Chef Ilene used the secret ingredient of unflavored yogurt as the mayonnaise to moisten the sparse quantity of tuna salad on the incredibly dry bread. I really think the question should be, “What else are you supposed to do with unflavored yogurt in a box lunch?”

Off to the Dead Sea. It was much smaller than the last time I was here in 1987. As we drove by one of the spas, we saw how it used to come right up to the hotel, but now the shore was almost a half mile away, and that happened in the last 25 years or so. The water was as salty as I remembered. We had been provided with Dead Sea mud which we slathered on each other, and then slowly walked into the water. It was so warm. My cuts and scrapes didn’t hurt at all, but that was really due to the shielding of the mud, a fact which took several minutes to make apparent. Then, I felt every cut, scrape, hangnail, nick and boo-boo. OUCH. The most amazing part of the Dead Sea is the buoyancy. It’s very difficult to stay upright, and a bit unnerving at first when you get lifted off your feet and cannot immediately right yourself.

After we finished, we drove to K’far Nokdim, a Bedouin-style encampment where we were to have camel rides and dinner, and then sleep like the Bedouins. I was to be part of the second round of rides, but then Susie and Alina got sick and I wanted to stay with them. Dinner was not bad, except they ran out of food. Unthinkable, right? How can a Jewish function run out of food? Apparently none of my friends were in charge. We make food for an army, even if only two people are coming.

Right now we are trying to go to sleep in the Bedouin tents. Cooler than I thought, but not nearly as cool as my bedroom. We have been told not to wash off the Dead Sea minerals and salt for the maximum skin benefit. I still have it on. I feel both exhilarated and disgusting at the same time, although right now it’s mostly just exhaustion and dread of getting up at 5 am to climb Masada.


  1. Doc, you missed nothing by skipping the camel ride. We went on one in Eilat and let me tell you, 15 minutes was enough. I got it. It's uncomfortable and my camel, Samira, kept trying to kill me by running under the poisonous thorn tree. We rode for three hours, with a stop for a lunch of yogurt, pita and olives. Not exactly high cuisine.

    So are you on the Atonement Tour? You know, with the salty skin and the 5 a.m. hike? Can't you drive to the top of Masada?

  2. I atoned yesterday. Haven't had time to blog yet, but a shower has never felt SO good. I am human again, and do not plan to be that desperate for a very long time. You cannot drive a personal car to the top. You take a cable car, walk up the snake path, or walk up the Roman ramp.