Traveling in Israel over a week now discovering the diversity of minds, of landscapes, the mix of cultures and also the clear-cut divisions of them, and of the religious groups too, I was feeling so very high in this Holy Land/Erets Hakodesh. I had learned much in a short span of time and had some of the most incredible experiences thus far. Curious what you missed?
- QU-EEN’s Introduction to Israel and the Middle East
- The unexpected start of my Solo travel which began at Yam ha melah
And it’s these experiences combined that led me to this moment . . . where I finally felt GROUNDED, grounded into the Earth/ERETS and therefore sure of my footing. When you let heart and mind work in harmony and lead your feet in this physical realm where they are meant to go, you create the greatest MAGIC in your present and you allow others in too, to help facilitate or simply exchange in that magic too.
Erets means Earth in Hebrew and yet also land (nation or territory), country, ground and soil. When you practice Yoga, the teacher reminds constantly “ground yourself into the EARTH”, for EARTH is where your body feels most comfortable. Then your body can stretch and contort, flow freely, push itself to the limit, invert, and hold strong. We can use the body as a metaphor for the self, who also needs grounding in the present. Adeline and I were on this journey in which we weren’t completely sure of the next steps, but we were flowing freely and felt completely confident and strong in our decisions. We left Mitzpe Ramon for the most southern tip of Israel, Eilat. Eilat is a city nestled between neighboring countries of Egypt and Jordan, and of course the Red Sea (considered one of the most valuable bodies of water for all these Middle Eastern countries). Since we had our minds and hearts set on reaching this city, Adeline was going to continue her journey into Jordan via Eilat and I was following signs and my intuition to spend another day on this adventure with a new friend, we had to hitch-hike again. We made a little sign in both English and Hebrew that said simply: EILAT and stood out on the main road. Luckily, within 10-15 minutes a really nice guy stopped and offered to take us half the way into the southern Negev desert. We agreed. He drove us about 1 hour of the 2 hour journey. We thanked him sincerely and stood on the road again with our sign and smiles to catch our final ride. As this was a holiday weekend for Israelis, We’d seen many many families out on the road driving South heading for vacation, so we just needed to attract one more ride for the last leg.
A family did pick us up. Two friends and the driver’s son pulled over in a truck and took us the way. The son translated for them to us, as he was the English speaker. They were nice enough, but as my abuela would say, we really had to hold onto our calzones (our underwear) during the drive. At speeds comparable to a high-speed chase without anyone pursuing us, thankfully! Adeline and I just kept laughing and smiling to each other. We simultaneously sent the Universe Let us arrive safely to Eilat thoughts. What should have been an hour drive was cut in half. The highlight of the drive was seeing the purest penetrating reds, maroons and deep purples on the left of us (the mountains of Jordan), and the fortified fencing and military points on our right, which was Egypt. This road we were on was one clearly divided by each nation by natural and artificial means. I was very aware once again that this region is one of conflict in which walls and barbed wire serve to protect.
On the contrary, the most stunning scenery screamed so obviously “We are so Blessed”. When will the day come that ALL humans can enjoy THIS GREAT ERETS, this land, this soil, these mountains and the Red Sea we were nearing? I won’t soon forget that unbelievable ride.
I’ll give my short and sweet take on Eilat now. Looked like the playground of Las Vegas (USA) and felt pretty underwhelming. At least I was in great company. Adeline and I shared some great meals, including breakfast out with an Israeli family, the Red Sea walking distance from our table. We dipped our toes in before our food was even served. We also did a quick Snorkel that afternoon (too quick though). Diving here is world famous, though I’ve heard it’s better in both Jordan and Egypt. For me, Eilat was very expensive and touristy, and the most crowded it could have been because of the Israeli Holiday. If given the chance to go again, I wouldn’t, but would cross into either of the neighboring countries from Eilat, which friends have highly recommended.
Adeline and I said our goodbye at the bus station and I headed north to ARAD, with a transfer bus at Be’er Sheva. If you’ve read some of the previous posts, you know that the course of my travel changed when I met Adeline. She’s a special person, one that I know I’ll meet again on another travel soon, and this trip wouldn’t have been the same without our synchronistic encounter. Arad was back on the table because there was one more site I really wanted to visit to complete this viaje through Israel: MASADA. Google Masada Sunrise and you’ll know why. Arad is a small city about a 30 minute drive from the West Entrance to Masada. So there I went. . . I had booked a night in a hostel with great reviews: Dead Sea Adventure Hostel. Hands down this hostel made everything possible for my final adventures. They lead tours out of the hostel that are reasonably priced, cook homemade vegan meals that you can pay for, and the staff is very friendly and helpful. My bed was also the most comfortable of any hostel I’ve ever slept in of all of my travels. I’d go back there in a heartbeat.
Seeking peace? Want tranquility? It’s about a twenty minute walk to the Moav Lookout from the hostel. I went forth. . . making my way through the winding roads of the YEHUDA (Judaean) DESERT, listening to the natural sounds here and to a content heart in my solitude. When I arrived, I claimed a space on the rocks away from tourists (the few that were here). **Tip** You don’t have to go to the end of the lookout to get those killer views of this Desert and Yam ha melah (Dead Sea) in the distance. The winds picked up too, making my Soula Time in nature powerful. Wind moves energy. Wind transforms both Erets and us. Powerful ERETS; it’s ever changing, like the Yehuda Desert that has been here for millennia and yet isn’t the same today as once before, nor is the most famous Sea in the world, Yam ha melah.
We have to appreciate these gifts today, show gratitude, humble ourselves as Spirits passing through and experiencing the wonders; tomorrow is not promised. Taking care of this Earth is key, loving every minute that we breathe air and live life. Israel allowed me all these things, a true gift.
So after meditation in the Desert and consuming a deliciously prepared Vegan dinner at the hostel, I went to sleep knowing shortly I’d be waking for our sunrise hike. We left at 4:30AM sharp. Our tour drove us to the Western Entrance, which has a shorter hike than the Eastern’s Snake Trail. **Sidenote** the Eastern entrance is accessible from the highway along the Dead Sea and offers a Cable Car Ride for a fee for those that can’t walk up, though it doesn’t operate for sunrise. I confess that before sunrise hour going up from the Western Entrance is still a steep and fast climb in the dark that gets your blood flowing. There is a small entrance fee to this National Park. **Tip**Bring a student card if you’ve got one, it’s a cheaper fee. We were the second group to enter the park that morning; it pays off to get there early so you can have first choice of where to watch the sunrise. And so the climb began. I was racing up at a good and fast pace. I huffed and puffed too though. Wow it was steep. Take water, you’ll surely need it. Maybe it was a combo of the adrenaline and the Virgo in me wanting to ensure we’d beat the sun, but when I had reached the top I felt accomplished and relieved, ready to await glorious SUN!
“…Death before Slavery”
As you can probably tell, Masada was a highlight of the trip. I cannot believe I didn’t know the history behind the site before going, but in a way, it allowed me to have my own experience independent of what transpired here in the 1st Century. A short history account: Jews escaping the devastating Roman invasion and conquest came here to escape subjugation. Masada had been a strategic piece of land since before the 1st century, which led King Herod of Judea to seek refuge here on this plateau 450 meters above the level of the Dead Sea. It was a stronghold/fortress with a lavish palace equipped with food and water and walled off to deter invaders. Herod died in 4 CE, the Romans annexed Judea in 6 CE, and it wasn’t until 73 or 74 CE that the Romans decided to deal with the remaining Jews at Masada. Nearly 1000 Jews were living atop Masada. The Roman soldiers, the effort of 8,000 men, took months planning the attack, building a ramp (which is now the same Western entrance point naturally on the slope of Masada) and finally attacking and setting fire to Masada. What the Romans didn’t know was that the Jews here had already committed mass suicide, preferring death over the violation of their women and enslavement to the Romans. The historian Josephus Flavius recorded the story centuries later. The Jews picked lots in order to assign 10 people the task of killing those in their community. When only the 10 remained, they chose at random again so that one man killed nine and then himself.
I found myself following these birds on the site, who were so joyful, melodic and friendly. I’m always impressed with birds, who represent Freedom and Flight to me. Maybe in some way they serve as a metaphor for the Jews, now free. Clearly my new friend roams freely atop all of Israel in one of the most special places in the Holy land, here at Masada.
All photos taken APRIL 2017- ARIANA DEL RÍO
Next I’ll take you to the heart of the YEHUDA DESERT, WHERE I FOUND MY FIRE!! LOVE AND LIGHT TO YOU BEAUTIFUL AND FREE SPIRITS!!! Love sharing with you.