the empty page mocks me

It’s about time I wrote some more about Israel. Here’s some stuff from my journal about a trip we took to a few sites and the Dead Sea.

I rented a car yesterday (Friday). It’s really tricky trying to do any type of transaction herebecause we are working at all the times business are open–they’re close din the early afternoon during our break, and clsoe early Fri. afternoon for Shabbat. So I got the car during breakfast and missed a lot of work. It made for a short day for me, since we stopped work early to take a tour of the site.
We walked up to the top of the ridge which marks the ancient fortifications of Ashkelon. It’s a big site & is apparently watered by some kind of mysterious subsurface spring which keeps it vegetated. We also walked through the Middle Bronze gate. It’s actually 4 successive gates built on top of each other. The gate is arched–I forget what the type of arch is called; but the rows of bricks slope downward around it to create the opening.
After work we headed to the ATM and McDonald’s and then drove to the site of Tel Beersheva. It was cool, I saw the gate that I wrote about in my thesis and an Israelite 4-room house.
Yesterday [Saturday] we went out to Arad, Masada, & the Dead Sea. Arad was very cool. It would be quite a good fortress site. It’s in the middle of a rolling desert & you can see for miles. We checked out its Israelite gate and towers up on the tell, as well as a sanctuary, water system, etc. The Early Bronze area was lower; we saw the horseshoe-shaped towers & courtyard houses that I had to memeorize for exams. Also a large sacred precinct, which is relaly just a large version of the broadroom type of house, with the addition of benches around its walls and a stela in the middle of the floor. It was hot out there. Saw camels standing around & flocks of sheep & goats. Rather quiet and peaceful.
Then we went to Masada where we bought ice cream & watched a somewhat cheesy film about the site before riding the cable car up. Masada’s obvious importance to Israeli nationalism (it’s where a group of Zealots committed suicide rather than become subject to Rome in the first century A.D.) translates into the largest and most lavish visitor’s center of all the sites we visited–most were just little booths. We took the cable car up to the top of the tell rather than braving the Snake Path in the noontime heat. Masada would be quite a dramatic place to live, with a view of the Dead Sea and cliffs; also quite definsible, even though the Romans vastly outnumbered the Zealots it’s amazing they were able to build that ramp and tower, fully in the open and at the mercy of whatever was being hurled down at them. There was a drawing of the tower which looked like the LOTR movie (which had previously come up in conversation when discussing the system of watch fires used at Israelite border fortresses such as Arad and Lachish). We checked out King Herod’s elaborate palace etc., which the Zealots took over and adapted for their own purposes, and some Byzantine remains.
After that we went to the Dead Sea. There are a lot of big, nice hotels there–apparently they still get some tourist trade. It was miserably hot there, though. It was beautiful from a distance, especially the first site of it after driving down a hilly, windy road which descends down below sea level to the Dead Sea. We went to McDonald’s again (we are Americans), then the 3 of us who had swimsuits bobbed around in the water a bit. They said it was very warm, and the water looked fairly disgusting actually.

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