The Dead Sea is located between Israel and Jordan, about 25 kilometers east of Jerusalem. The Dead Sea, at over 417 m below normal zero, it is the lowest point on the earth's surface. The Dead Sea is fed by the Jordan, but its waters are not enough to compensate the evaporation. The 1,400 m high Judean Mountains prevented the precipitation of the Mediterranean to reach the salt lake. Thus, the Dead Sea continues to dry out and the salt content continues to rise. The salt content of 32% causes people can not go under and float like an air mattress on the sea. Due to the retreat of the water, the coastline is porous. In many places along the coast sinkholes appear, some of which are filled with water (photo). These arise sinkholes arise because the salt that was previously deposited under the sea is washed out by rain. That is why it is dangerous to walk on these surfaces. You only get to the shore of the Dead Sea at a few places that are considered to be safe. Over the past 40 years, the Dead Sea's water level has dropped by about 30 meters.
En Gedi is a kibbutz on the Dead Sea, which was built at a spring. The rare water made En Gedi to an oasis in the desert, with palm trees, flowers and cacti. En Gedi means "spring of the little goat". The Kibbutz En Gedi was built in 1953 directly at the ceasefire line of 1949, today about 550 people live here. According to the legend, David was declared here to succeed King Saul. The En Gedi Nature Reserve is ideal for hiking in the two fertile gorges Wadi Arugot and Wadi David. In En Gedi there is a botanical garden with many exotic plants from Madagascar. Between the Kibbutz and Wadi David are the ruins of the Old Synagogue, a Byzantine ruin with a remarkable mosaic. Dates and pomelos grown in the kibbutz, there are restaurants, a spa and several hotels.
The Dead Sea moved already over one kilometer away from En Gedi Beach Resort. A tourist train drives the tourists to the water. En Gedi Beach is one of the few places where you can even swim in the Dead Sea. There is also the famous black mud that should be good for your skin. Because of sinkholes En Gedi beach is closed sometimes. You should inform yourself before the visit over the current situation.
The mountain fortress Masada is the symbol of the resistance of the Jewish people against slavery and oppression. Masada was ironically built by Herod (73-4 B.C.), the Roman vassal king of Judea who oppressed the jewish people. Herodes feared an uprising and built Masada between 40-30 B.C. as a refuge. He built cisterns and two palaces on the summit. Herod was lucky, the uprising of the Jews did not come until the year 66 AD. The former palace of Herod was used then as a Roman garrison and was conquered by the rebellious Jews. Titus destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, Masada remained the last resistance in Judea. There 960 people entrenched themselves and built synagogues and houses. The small Jewish town on the plateau was besieged by Rome in 73 AD. The Romans built forts around Masada and a ramp from which they attacked the fortress in 74 AD. The Jewish rebels would rather die than be enslaved by the Romans. The rebels of Masada would have been eaten by lions in the Colosseum or beaten to the cross. Suicide was the better option for them. Since they were not allowed to kill themselves because of their faith, some men were chosen as executors to kill the others. When the Romans conquered Masada, the rebels were already dead, only a few women and children had hidden in a well and could report of the events.
Since then, Masada is a symbol of the resistance to rather die than being oppressed by foreign powers.
Masada is a ruined city, only a few buildings are still visible. Chalkboard explain the individual areas with illustrations. The best preserved are the areas of the Western Palace and the Northern Palace. The rest of the plateau is stony desert. From Masada you can see the Dead Sea, Jordan and the layout of the Roman castles.
How to get to the top?
There are 3 ways to get to the plateau. The Snake Path meanders 400 meters to the summit on the side of the Dead Sea. The ascent takes about 45 minutes. Temperatures of 35-40 °C are not suitable for everyone. There is no shadow and no kiosk on the top. You should take enough water with you.
The Ramp Path follows the Roman siege ramp on the west side of Masada. To the parking lot where the Ramp Path begins, you come across the highway from Arad. The ascent is much shorter, the ascent takes about 15 minutes. Many tours from Tel-Aviv take this route.
The fastest and easiest way to get there is by taking the Massada cable car from the Dead Sea. For 74 NIS around 18-19 € (prices 2018) you are on the summit in a few minutes.
Buses to Masada (Dead Sea): 444 and 486 from / to Jerusalem, 834 and 853 from / to Tel-Aviv and connections to other cities in Israel.
En Boqeq is a Dead Sea resort with large hotel complexes, restaurants and shops. The place is spacious and has zero charm but you can walk to the beach. From En Boqeq you can take the shared taxi (about 25 NIS / person (in 2018) to Masada 15 kilometers away, intercity buses from En Boqeq to Jerusalem and Eilat. We left at 9:00 am in Jerusalem and arrived in En Boqeq at 11:15 am.
The big advantage of En Boqeq is the beach, which is not far from the city, because it is a salt water basin, which has an almost constant water level. This is the difference to En Gedi where you have an ever further path to the water, when the bath is open. In En Boqeq you have a beautiful sandy beach of orange desert sand, showers and changing rooms.
About 5 kilometers south of En Bokek is the seaside resort Neve Zohar, also directly on the Dead Sea. But Neve Zohar is significantly smaller and there are only a few restaurants and shops. Neve Zohar is the southernmost Dead Sea spa on the Israeli side. Those who drive further south will pass the Dead Sea Works, a huge factory that produces items made from the mud and minerals of the Dead Sea.