Day 7, part 1

Day 7, part 1

We have survived a long, cold night in the Bedouin tents! It was worth it for our morning experience: camel riding. Well, camel and donkey riding. We got up early in the morning, had breakfast, and then saddled up. On the first leg of the trip, I rode a donkey.

In my humble opinion, he was the cutest donkey, but he was also, unfortunately, the tallest donkey, and my 5-foot-2 self had to use a chair to get onto the saddle. After that little mishap, though, we had a 15-minute ride through the desert on donkeyback. The ride went fairly smoothly, and when we turned around, we switched to camel riding.

Liana and I shared a camel (also the cutest camel), which was a significantly…taller experience. It was well worth it, though, for the view; you can see the entire desert from that vantage point. It might seem like the Negev is just sand and rocks, but there’s something incredibly beautiful, and humbling, about seeing it stretch out forever around you, unobstructed.

We also look pretty flippin’ cool on camelback: Donkey riding!

Whoohoo, camels! After our camel ride, we left for Masada, the ancient fortress on top of a cliff. The story of Masada is an interesting one: it was first a fortress for King Herod who built it around 37 BCE, and later it was the last stronghold of a small group of Jews who were fighting the Romans in 66 CE. After they were outnumbered and siege was laid to the fortress, they decided that they would rather burn the fortress and die than be captured.

If you’re interested, you can read the whole story here:

While the tale of Masada is pretty depressing, the hike was spectacular. We took the steep way up; it’s about a 20-minute walk up a steep stair path (but there is a railing). At the top, there is, of course, another breathtaking view. More powerful for me, though, was the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony we had for the students who had not yet had them.

Traditionally a Bar Mitzvah (for guys) and Bat Mitzvah (for girls) takes place at age 13, where the student officially becomes and adult and a member of the Jewish community. A Bar/Bat Mitzvah can happen at any age, though, so about 7 students decided to have theirs today at the old synagogue on top of Masada.

It was a short ceremony (and unfortunately no candy-throwing, a typical Bar/Bat Mitzvah tradition), but it was pretty cool to realize how this trip has affected people: these seven students decided to have this ceremony, traditionally done before close friends and family, with a group of people they didn’t even know seven days ago, in Israel, far away from home.

After the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony, we all received letters from our parents that they had written for us before the trip. My mother’s letter included pictures from when she was at the top of Masada 34 years ago.

I know my mother is reading this, so Hi Mom, thanks for the letter.

In the spirit of family competition, I tried to take a picture in the same place my mother did.

Here’s the result:

And here’s another view from the top:

That’s the path we climbed up.

This post is getting long, so I’ll cut it off here. In part 2, I’ll talk about Ein Geidi and the Dead Sea!