Yes, I am a heathen
The Dead Sea had a kind of viscous, oily texture, and I can´t say that I loved it. I mean, it´s dead, for a start. Plus, there are very few free beaches, lots of entreprenurial chaps have set up nice businesses charging for admittance. In exchange for however many scheckels (I have to admit to not spending a single penny whilst in Israel - my darling boy took care of the finances), you got a sun lounger, a shower, and access to some mud and very salty water. We didn´t shell out, and instead kind of snuck on for about 5 minutes just to test the water. Maybe next time, if it is warmer I will take a dip and feel its redemptive powers, but I wasn´t tempted this time.
The detour to the Dead Sea was on route to Masada, a clifftop structure constructed by King Herod and later used in a siege against the Romans. After walking up the Snake Trail (we declined the easy option of taking the cable car), we reached the summit, which was a remarkably well preserved ancient (2,000+ years) fort-like structure. Parts of it had been rebuilt, which I didn´t agree with, but most of it was "as is". It was an incredible structure, and easy to defend, being on the top of a bitch of a hill. Eventually, the Romans actually built a ramp up to the fort. And to do this, they employed 10,000 Jews. Clever guys those Romans. I have to admit to not really knowing what they were fighting over, but probably that Judaism was bad, and that Romans were good. Still, the Romans eventually won, after years of siege. It was an impressive place, and you could see huge dust/sand storms on the other side of the Dead Sea. There were also plenty of carrion birds, it being the desert. Ori didn´t know that crows poke out baby lambs eyes, so now he doesn´t like them any more. That´s a good thing.
After Masada we drove north past Jericho to the kibbutz where Ori´s grandfather had lived. I have to admit to knowing nothing about kibbutzes, apart from that they were vaguely socialist, and that they weren´t doing so hot. People keep leaving them, because they are restricted by what they can do, since what they do must be for the good of the kibbutz. This means that if the kibbutz needs more cattle-hands, then you can´t go be a computer programmer. Even if you are a wuss and scared of dear old Bessie the cow. Okay, I have probably got that totally wrong, and will feel the wrath of the kibbutzen when they read this, but the basic fact is that they are having a hard time at the moment. Whenever we went there, the first thing that we noticed was being stared at. Like nothing else. This is because outsiders are not common, especially ones who aren´t speaking Hebrew. So eyes followed us as we went to the supermarket, as we wandered around the supermarket, and as we went back to where we were staying. This didn´t really bother me at all, since being blond in Nepal and being a girl in Vietnam has basially left me being immune to large numbers of people staring. The next morning, we wandered around, and the main thing that I noticed was that it was blissfully quiet - such a peaceful place. We went to where Ori played as a kid, and it was such a good playground. Much better than anything I had. A really beautiful place.
The kibbutz was in the north, near the Sea of Galilee, which was our next stop. The Sea of Galilee is notable for being the second lowest place on earth (I´m still holding my breath), and for some religious dude apparently walking on it. It also is home to some seriously vicious currents, and tons of fish. Ori used to swim the length of it (I wish I knew how long it was, but it looked a really long way), and he says parts of it were so shallow that he could see how the standing trick was done. I however went one better, and found a tyre slightly submerged, and stood on that. See, any fool could do it. And this is what two thousand years of Christianity is founded upon? Oh dear. Actually, it was a pretty nice place to hang out at, and on the other side of the sea is Jordan. I love looking over borders. I think it comes from living on an island, and therefore land borders are pretty surreal. It was lunch time then, so time to start driving West.