From Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale

People disappear when they die. Their voices, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living mempry of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continut to exist. We can rediscover them. Their humour, their tone of voice, their moods. Through the written word they can anger you or make you happy. They can comfort you. They can perplex you. They can alter you. All this, even though they are dead. Like flies in amber, like corpses frozen in ice, that which according to the laws of nature should pass away is, by the miracle of ink on paper, preserved. It is a kind of magic.

--Diane Setterfield

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Trip IV

On Tuesday, November 2nd we left for Masada. !!! We drove out toward Jericho and turned and drove along the Dead Sea until we came to a big rock plateau*. There were pilgrims or students or some adventurous people walking up a winding path to the top of the plateau. We didn't. It would have taken us hours to climb, so we took a cable car. The history was fascinating. Herod the Great** build the original structure as a refuge against Jewish revolt. Some of the rooms still had the original plaster and paint!!! on them. It was incredible to see what their building. would have been like. The plaster was about 6-8 inches thick at the thinnest points to make the walls completely straight and they were painted in bold colors. There was so much to see. The main house was at the north end of the plateau and had a breeze. There was a beautiful view of the Dead Sea. The terraces were going down the north side. A small group*** of us climbed down to visit them. There was a great view of the remains of the Roman assault of Masada. We saw the places where the zealots hid / lived and the pigeon coops where they kept birds for food. We sat in the room they turned into a synagogue, and looked out over the breach point where the Roman army built a ramp up to the gates and burned them in****. We went to the cisterns and saw by demonstration how rainwater is caught by the mountains and was drawn into the mountain to the cisterns. One was massive !!! and we walked into it*****. The steps were so steep (we could have played volleyball inside) and the women who lived there had to walk them at least once each day with a bucket on their head to get cooking and or washing water. I'm so glad for plumbing! I think I got my first sunburn (in, like, years) on Masada. We passed Ein Gedi on our way to the Ahava+ Dead Sea factory and store. We ate lunch and browsed the products made from minerals found at the Dead Sea. We went, then, to Qumran and saw dead sea scroll cave. I think there was more to see there.. but I don't remember it. Then we headed out to the Dead Sea and swam / floated the afternoon away. Jim took pictures of us and we got lathered up in sea mud and took more pictures. There was only one instance of sea water-in-the-eye, and it wasn't me. :)


* The Dead Sea was on the left and there were mountains on the right. The plateau stood a little apart from them making it a great defensible ... um... place.

**We learned that Herod the Great was a master builder of things. He was a drastic and paranoid ruler, he killed many of his children and his favorite wife because he was afraid of conspiracies. He was a friend of Mark Anthony^ but not a fan of his wife, Cleopatra. His building style was very exact and beautiful, things from that time period are called Harodian now. He was the Herod of the Bible that had all the male children under the age of two slaughtered. When he died his son Herod Archelas was in power. He was almost a cruel as his father and so Joseph and Mary and Jesus returned from Egypt to Galilee instead of to Bethlehem.

^ He build an entire city in 12 years !!! and named it Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus.

*** Mostly it was the young youthful people, but Duayne also joined us. He was about 70-ish and in great health. Until we found out that he had just had his 80(!) birthday and we all thought he was in spectacular health. He kept up with the youngsters the whole time. We all want to be like him when we get to be 80.

**** The Zealots committed mass suicide before they could be captured and be made slaves. The men killed everyone and then drew lots to kill each other until the last man killed himself.

***** They are dry now because the coverings for the cistern gathering channels are gone and dirt and stone filled up the channels.

+Yup, it's the same Ahava that you may see at kiosks in the mall. The same stuff; all from the Dead Sea.

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