After all the hard work in the morning, digging for ancient treasures and climbing through tunnels, we visited Masada (Hebrew: מצדה), Israel’s most popular paid tourist attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Herod the Great built palaces for himself on the mountain and fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. The Siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire towards the end of the First Jewish–Roman War ended in the mass suicide of the 960 Jewish rebels holed up there.
The siege is a controversial event in Jewish history, marking radicalism on the one hand and heroic struggle on the other.
Asaf from the Dig Israel team shared with me how Masada always have a special place in his heart as this was where he was commissioned as an intelligence officer in the Israel army. One thing which was a very easy conversation starter between a Singaporean man and an Israeli is the military service as both countries have a conscripted army.
The first thing that struck me about Masada was how vast and magnificent the area is. Masada is actually just an an isolated rock plateau on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. Due to it’s unique geography, Masada was a natural place for fortification, making it hard to capture for enemy troops. Yet the Roman built a steep, man-made ram and conquered it. Such is the twist and turn of ancient human civilisation.
The story of the siege is tragic on my hand, yet strangely dignified and gallant on the other. It is this kind of stuff that gets people debating, passing it on for generations.
The term “Bedouin” derives from a plural form of the Arabic word badawī, as it is pronounced in colloquial dialects. The Arabic term badawī (بدوي) which means “desert dweller”and derives from the word bādiyah (بَادِية), which means “plain” or “desert”. The term “Bedouin” therefore means, “those in bādiyah” or “those in the desert”.
Kfar Hanokdim is situated in Kana`im valley in the Judean desert, between the city of Arad and ancient Masada. It is a green oasis shaded by palm trees, gardens and Bedouin tents. Obviously, if the location of Kfar Hanokdim is fixed and not nomadic, it is set up more for tourist experience (it says so on their official website too), replicating the Bedouin way of life.
I quite enjoyed lazing in the Bedouin tent with the colourful mats and Arabic roasted coffee. We had a traditional Bedouin dinner at Kfar Hanokdim and the food was pretty delicious.
Dinner consists of Magluba – a rice and vegetable dish served on pita breads; a variety of salads and grilled meats, kebabs.
After dinner, I was so chill lying on the mat that I find it hard to stand up. Great food, new friends, great companionship, all this in the middle of the desert in Israel, far away from my island home Singapore. Surreal.
We still have lots more activities waiting for us though. We spent the night at Leonado Privilege Hotel Dead Sea, beside the Dead Sea which we will get to explore the next day.
By the time our bus reached the hotel from Hanokdim, it was already past nine and I was pretty tired from a long day. While some of the more energetic ones went to check out the Dead Sea, I decided to leave that as a treat for the next morning.
Stay tuned to my next blog post on the Dead Sea and more.
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