6 Kislev 5759

Gardens at Ein Gedi kibbutz

(Tuesday night, November 24, 1998) – Ein Gedi kibbutz

Every day is a new fingerprint on my life, unique and unmistakable.

There have been so many things “scheduled” over the last week that I woke up this morning thinking I needed to hurry. When I realized that nothing, but nothing, was urgent, I went back to sleep and didn’t eat breakfast until a little before 9.

Judean desert as seen from Masada

I made it to Masada around 9:40. It was already hot, and I wasn’t feeling extra chipper, so I cheated and took the cable car up. I didn’t see one single person on the Snake Path, which made me feel better.

I spent almost two hours roaming the site. I’d expected it to be much smaller – but it’s huge. Every time I would think I had seen it all, there would be one more section.

Before today, I’d not realized that Masada was actually built by Herod. And I still cannot comprehend why the Romans wasted so much time and energy on 967 people in the desert. You’d think they would have been content to contain them.

As I drove away, I spied the Cantors’ van, so I made the traffic circle and followed them back up the hill. They joked that I had made their driver very nervous. I loved feeling open arms and bear hugs in this desert. It was as if I hadn’t seen them for two weeks instead of a mere two days. I doubt our paths will ever cross again, but they enriched my life and will always be part of my Israel memories.

They had counted on having five ‘unplanned’ days on the Dead Sea, but evidently their hosts feel obligated to keep them entertained. They said they haven’t even been in the Dead Sea yet, two days into their stay. And that was the whole point of including it on their itinerary.

Even after hugs and what-have-you-been-doings, Aunt Miriam still could not place me. She had only met me that one day during Shabbat lunch, and then I’d been all dressed up, wearing my Estee Lauder face. But today in jeans, no makeup? Melvin saw the blank look on her face and repeated her teasingly insulting words to me. After he picked himself up off the ground (just kidding!), Aunt Miriam’s face lit up and I got a bear hug from her too.

I returned to the kibbutz, rested for an hour or two, then went to the “spa” aka the Dead Sea. I went expecting nothing more than a big body of salt water surrounded by desert, and found much more than that. Its colors bedazzle and enchant, pinks and blues and tans intersecting and running together like a muted West Texas sunset. Haze and steam and dust and sun vie for one’s attention, looking nothing like haze and steam and dust and sun. You could have told me I was on Venus or Mars, and I would have believed you.

It’s no secret that the Dead Sea is salty. But I did not think it would be oily too. And chilly! Especially in this heat. My reflex, whether swimming in pool, lake, or ocean, is to get acclimated to the water by splashing it all over myself. Including on my face. Well, I followed that reflex and burned my eyes badly. I had to stumble to a fresh water shower and rinse my eyes with water until the stinging subsided a bit.

Once that lesson was well learned, I went back in and floated to my heart’s content. Properly slimed, I rested on the shore, where I met a young Israeli couple with family in Michigan.

Never have I had such an incentive to take a thorough shower! The salt (and sulphur) burned the tiniest open pore. And it’s sticky, like tar. I was glad the kibbutz didn’t have a quota on the amount of time one could shower. I’m sure I used more than my fair share getting squeaky clean.

I took the night easy, and will turn in early.


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