Travelogue – Masada

Remember Masada!  Most trips to Masada begin in the dark.  And for good reason.  The temperature in the Judaen Deserts goes from tolerable in August to intolerable (over 100 degrees).  We left Tel Aviv by the main road to Jerusalem, following the route suggested to us by Israelis.  But our GPS navigator get steering me to the South.  I ignored it for while, but then remembered the caution of our hosts to steer clear of the “West Bank”.  After several repeated corrections I realized my GPS was recognizing the “political boundary” and steering me around the West Bank, through Ber Sheva, across the Judaen desert and then back up the west shore of the Dead Sea to Masada.  The route was a bit longer since I ended up backtracking once I viewed the route on the map.

We were rewarded with a tour of the heartland of Israel and the northern Negev desert.  The former was lush farmland.  The later, while barren was spotted with oases of green vegetation. We saw the contrast between the Yishuv kibbutz and moshav (Jewish settlements).  For years the Jewish immigrants to Palestine transformed the heartland through hard labor.  They cleared the rocks, broke up the soil. In places they “washed” the soil to remove the salts that had accumulated and made the soil infertile.  They brought in irrigation.  Here you have steady sun, cooling winds, and flat ground.  With good clean soil and water, you have a veritable garden of eden.  With arid soil and no irrigation you have a desert wasteland.  Before the Jews sent thousands of emigres to work, you had the barren land that no-one wanted.

We passed into the Northern Negev.  This was a land of hills and wadis (valleys cut by the fear desert storms that would come a few times a year tearing deep ruts in the landscape.  We came Bedouin settlements (tents and temporary aluminum structures).