FIELD TRIP: Masada, Israel - June 2014

Even as I type this I still can't believe I went to Israel on a work trip. When I got into this field - libraries and archives - I didn't expect to become a world traveler, but in June I found myself headed to Jerusalem for a 3-day meeting of digital preservation specialists.

Of course, since I was getting an all-expenses-paid trip I added a few days to my stay and was able to spend a day exploring three sites near Jerusalem - Masada, Ein Gedi, and the Dead Sea - with Abraham Tours. This post is about Masada. It will be followed by another post about Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea.

Our tour was really just a ride to these places and entrance to the private beach area at the Dead Sea. It was completely self-guided which was actually nice. The driver mentioned a few places as we passed, but once we got to the sites we could do what we wanted until it was time to leave.

We left Jerusalem at 7 am and went to Masada first, traveling through the Judean desert.

Camels in the Judean desert
Here's where we were:

I have to say, I'd somehow never heard of Masada before I started planning my trip. For those who still aren't sure what it is, here is a description from the UNESCO World Heritage Centre website:

"Masada is a dramatically located site of great natural beauty overlooking the Dead Sea, a rugged natural fortress on which the Judaean king Herod the Great constructed a sumptuous palace complex in classical Roman style. After Judaea became a province of the Roman Empire, it was the refuge of the last survivors of the Jewish revolt, who chose death rather than slavery when the Roman besiegers broke through their defenses. As such it has an emblematic value for the Jewish people.

It is also an archaeological site of great significance. The remains of Herod's palaces are outstanding and very intact examples of this type of architecture, whilst the untouched siegeworks are the finest and most complete anywhere in the Roman world."

Here are some shots of those siegeworks:

Since we had less than 2 hours at Masada we decided to take the tram to the top rather than hiking so we'd have more time to explore.

It was incredible to see how well preserved some of the ruins are. Remember, the palace was built more than 2,000 years ago!

There were quite a few bar mitzvahs happening the day we were there and it was very fitting to hear the singing and prayers as we wandered the site.

These birds were also everywhere. They had such an inquisitive look to them.

Tristram's Starling (Onychognathus tristramii)

Here are a few more photos I took at Masada:

Next, we headed to Ein Gedi for a hike and then the Dead Sea (posts coming soon!).

Check out my Israel Flickr set for more photos from my trip.