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Dig Israel Day 2 – Massada and Kfar Hanokdim

Dig Israel Day 2 – Massada and Kfar Hanokdim

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.

Picture of me in Masada

Picture of me in Masada

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.

My first glimpse of the plateau

My first glimpse of the plateau

Setting off

Setting off

Entering Masada National Park

Entering Masada National Park

We will be climbing up this plateau

We will be climbing up this plateau

Looks daunting isn't it? It's actually quite manageable if you walk slowly

Looks daunting isn’t it? It’s actually quite manageable if you walk slowly

And so we made our up, slowly

And so we made our up, slowly

Scenery on the way up

Scenery on the way up…

Looks mostly the same

Looks mostly the same

It gets steeper and narrower near the top

It gets steeper and narrower near the top

I managed to catch up and leave some others behind to get a picture of them

I managed to catch up and leave some others behind to get a picture of them

Just a bit more to the top

Just a bit more to the top

At the top of the Masada fort, we were greeted by our guide

At the top of the Masada fort, we were greeted by our guide

A model of how the fort looks like originally

A model of how the fort looks like originally

Walls of the Western Palace

Walls of the Western Palace

Anything below the blue line are original while those above are restoration

Anything below the blue line are original while those above are restoration

A majestic view

A majestic view

Herod's palace

Model of Herod’s palace

This should be where Herod's throne room was

This should be where Herod’s throne room was

The actual throne room

The actual throne room

Connected bathroom

Connected bathroom

Other rooms near the throne room

Other rooms near the throne room

Stairs leading down

Stairs leading down

More walls

More walls

Matan and Idan

Matan and Idan

Moving on to the next site

Moving on to the next site

You can see the Dead Sea

You can see the Dead Sea

Magnificent view that makes us realise how small we all are in this world

Magnificent view that makes us realise how small we all are in this world

A flying flag

A flying flag

The remnants of a Byzantine church dating from the 5th and 6th centuries

The remnants of a Byzantine church dating from the 5th and 6th centuries

Church wall and interior

Church wall and interior

Close-up of the wall motif

Close-up of the wall motif

The motif was created with small stones stuck into the wall

The motif was created with small stones stuck into the wall

All that left of the church

All that left of the church

Small intricate tiles on the floor of the church

Small intricate tiles on the floor of the church

A lone building in the distant

A lone building in the distant

This lone dude looks really cool sitting there fiddling with his mobile phone

This lone dude looks really cool sitting there fiddling with his mobile phone

Nice puffy clouds

Nice puffy clouds

The Commandant's Residence

The Commandant’s Residence

Remnants of painted wall

Remnants of painted wall

The commandant area

The commandant area

The sun is almost gone

The sun is almost gone

Our guide sharing on the history of Masada as we move along

Our guide sharing on the history of Masada as we move along

Pillar ring

Pillar ring

Willowy tree

Willowy tree

Amazing view of the Red Sea

Amazing view of the Red Sea

Wandering around

Wandering around

Me at the top of Masada fort

Me at the top of Masada fort

This view makes me feel so small!

This view makes me feel so small!

Yes, we are this small in this wide world.

Yes, we are this small in this wide world.

Looking down

Looking down

The place where the Jews defended themselves against the Roman

The place where the Jews defended themselves against the Roman

Lots of rocks

Lots of rocks

Scale model of King Herod's palace

Scale model of King Herod’s palace

A common little bird in Masada, forgot the name...

A common little bird in Masada, forgot the name…

Walking between rock walls

Walking between rock walls

Stairs

Stairs

A look-out point

A look-out point

The Breaching Point where the Jewish soldiers knew they lost the battle during the Siege of Masada

The Breaching Point where the Jewish soldiers knew they lost the battle during the Siege of Masada

Heading down the Roman ramp... was so much easier than climbing up

Heading down the Roman ramp… was so much easier than climbing up

It's still a pretty long walk though

It’s still a pretty long walk though

The route we took

The route we took

The sky was turning dark as we made our way down

The sky was turning dark as we made our way down

After Masada, we visited Kfar Hanokdim to learn more about the nomadic Bedouin, part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arabian ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes, or clans.

Entrance to Kfar Hanokdim

Entrance to Kfar Hanokdim

Two musicians performing as we walked in

Two musicians performing as we walked in

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.

Interior of a colourful Bedouin tent

Interior of a colourful Bedouin tent

Charcoal fire roasted Bedourin coffee and tea

Charcoal fire roasted Bedouin coffee and tea

Areas to hang around

Areas to hang around

Inside a large tent shed

Inside a large tent shed

We were served with thirst quenching juice upon arrival

We were served with thirst quenching juice upon arrival

Palm trees

Palm trees

Colourful mats

Colourful mats

A Bedourin man came to share with us about his culture

A Bedouin man came to share with us about his culture

Bedourin coffee on the left and tea on the right

Bedourin coffee on the left and tea on the right

The others in my group enjoying their beverages

The others in my group enjoying their beverages

Showing us how to grind the coffee beans

Showing us how to grind the coffee beans

More resting areas

More resting areas

Water cooler

Water cooler

The place where we will be having our dinner

The place where we will be having our dinner

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.

Dinner is served

Dinner is served

A variety of salads

A variety of salads

Pita bread

Pita bread

Me with the group I was seated with for dinner

Me with the group I was seated with for dinner

Mugluba

Mugluba

Tucking in

Tucking in

Someone brought a guitar for after dinner entertainment

Someone brought a guitar for after dinner entertainment

Group photo

Group photo

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.

The lobby of Leonado Privilege Hotel Dead Sea

The lobby of Leonado Privilege Hotel Dead Sea

The shower! Just what I need after a long, hot, sticky day!

The shower! Just what I need after a long, hot, sticky day!

My cosy room... I fell asleep early

My cosy room… I fell asleep early

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. 🙂

For all my posts on Dig Israel, CLICK HERE.

About The Author

alvinology

Alvin is a marketer by day and blogger by night. He is a 100% geek who spends too much time surfing the web.

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