Day 26: Masada, Dead Sea, Qumran, Nazareth, Bet She’an
Today has been such a long day! In fact, I have had to do two posts to describe it all. We started today finishing off our tour in Nazareth by seeing a very large famous church in Nazareth—the Church of Annunciation. What was really cool was how different countries donated different wall decorations for the church (many of which are in my photo album; you have to look them up). My personal favorite was the Japanese mural they donated. The Japanese Mary and baby Jesus really made my day!
Afterwards, we literally stopped by for a few minutes at Bet She’an, an old city that ruled powerfully during the first millennium AD. We walked into the gate, went to the top of the ramp that led down into the city and took pictures. We then turned around and got back on the bus and headed to Qumran, because we were on such a tight schedule.
There were three major places I wanted to visit on this trip: Petra, Masada, and Qumran. Karnak was a close fourth, but I really wanted to see those three. We planned on visiting two of those places today. I was so excited! Little did I know I would be disappointed… twice.
First there was Qumran. While I was totally thrilled visiting there, it was nothing I was expecting. It was just a small complex that was in ruins and a bunch of mountains. From the research I had done on Qumran before, I had painted a totally different picture of what it would look like in my mind. While it was disappointing to look at, I got over it quickly when I found a hiking trail that led up the mountain. Then I was greatly let down again as our professor yelled for us to get back on the bus, causing me to not be able to climb the mountain. Sad day… but I got over it pretty quickly. Small building or not, I still loved Qumran and expect to come back and spend a full day there.
Even more upsetting was Masada. I have had the biggest disappointment of the trip so far. I will try to explain this calmly so I don’t start any more misunderstandings (but this is another tick on my “Israel is disappointing me” tally). We went to Masada with full intention of hiking it. If you are unfamiliar with Masada, it is a series of palaces on top of a plateau that King Herod built and later became a Jewish refugee camp that stayed fortified until the Romans final came in took it over. The Romans besieged it for months trying to get in. This place was the perfect military position because there was virtually no entrance.
Naturally, part of the experience of Masada is climbing up to the top so you can see the difficulty the Romans had at invading the location and why the Jews chose it as a hideout to keep them safe. In fact, the Romans had had enough of the problems and spent three years building a siege ramp to get to the top of Masada.
I was all geared to go to hike this thing when the people of Masada came out and said, “We are concerned for your safety; we don’t want you to get a heat stroke or heat exhaustion, so we closed the trail at eleven this morning. People cannot hike the trail.” WHAT!? I thought. I was furious. You are going to prevent me from doing it because it is too hot? Why not have me sign a waiver and let me go anyway?
It got better. The man then said, “But the gandala is still open. For thirty-five shekels, you can ride to the top.” The lift was the only way up. So, the only way we could see this monumental place was by paying even more money (after paying the money we had already spent to get into the park) to get to the top. In psychology, we call that marketing strategy “lowballing”.
I was furious. That is not cool. You don’t close the only free option of travel, especially if people are willing to risk the heat, and then force them to buy a ticket to see a monument they have already paid to see. The thing was, they didn’t tell us at the gate that we couldn’t walk it. They waited until we got inside before they were like, “Oh… we’re sorry… but…” Then they pretended like it was for our safety (which it may have been, but you don’t then charge people when you take away a free option).
Apparently, that is the new trend across Israel: closing things at certain times, changing touring hours, and then charging more once you get there. We had to cancel other sites because they closed early or changed their touring hours and didn’t tell anyone; they just put a sign on the door.
For some reason, Israel has become sue-conscious. What is with people today? Why do really dumb people sue over really dumb things and then ruin it for everyone! From our knowledge, nobody had sued Masada that we knew of, yet they still implemented a policy to keep themselves safe. Has our world become that corrupt that we have to do things like this to keep ourselves safe? I’m sorry, but if you are dumb enough to climb a mountain in the heat and pass out from it and sue the park because they didn’t warn you, you don’t deserve any money.
However, as a park, you don’t take away people’s free pass and then charge them more to see the site they have already paid for. If you are so worried, get a few lawyers, create a legal document people can sign to climb up the hill anyway, and let them risk it. Don’t lowball them. That’s cruel.
Ok, rant over. Overall, I did have a great day. I did enjoy Masada, despite the setback. I guess I will just have to go there earlier next time and climb it up.
Following His Call,Leviticus 19:15