We began our day visiting the national memorial of Ammunition Hill. After Israel had declared their independence, the city of Jerusalem still remained a divided city with a large wall separating the people. Families were divided across the wall and the space between East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem was a no-man’s land of unrest and danger. Israeli leaders were determined to take back Jerusalem and reunite the city. On June 6, 1967 the Six Day War began. Israel decided against an aerial attack because of the close proximity of civilians, so instead they focused on defending the hill and gathered forces of paratroopers and on the ground soldiers. Groups of young soldiers made their way through the streets towards the old city. All the houses were boarded up as people barricaded themselves against the war outside but the soldiers were knocking on doors trying to get directions to the Western Wall that they had never seen before because of the divide. As the Israel military claimed the victory of the war, these soldiers made their way to the top of the Western Wall and flew the flag of Israel in the wind. The wall dividing the city was torn down, Israel had reclaimed the city of Jerusalem. In honor of the Six Day war and the reunification of the city, Ammunition Hill became a national memorial site and visitors can now visit the interactive museum and learn more about the war and the brave soldiers who brought a city back together.
After that we loaded in the bus and made our way north towards the Dead Sea once again. We stopped at the site of the biblical tale of the Good Samaritan where a traveler was stripped, beaten, and left for dead on the side of the road. Many faithful people passed him without stopping to offer help until a Samaritan man came and saved the traveler taking him to a nearby inn and paying for his care. In place of an inn, there is now a building that houses beautiful mosaics excavated from churches and synagogues and are displayed for visitors to marvel at the incredible workmanship of these lasting pieces of art.
Our next stop was in the land of Genesis. We were taken back in time with the story of Abraham and his journey that led him here to these deserts. And there is no better way to traverse the desert of Genesis than by riding a camel. We maneuvered our way onto the camel’s back and made our way down to a large tent where we were served a delicious meal. Then we were back on the camels making our way back up the slope. My camel’s name was Honey and she liked to sing on the trail and stop to munch on the brush by her feet. I couldn’t have asked for a better companion on the desert trail.
We stopped at Qumran National Park where was once a settlement around 104 BCE. But in 1947 a couple of shepherds were searching one of the many caves and discovered the first of the Dead Sea scrolls. Excavations have continued since then and over 900 of the scrolls have been found. The scrolls have been studied and preserved and are now on display at the Israel Museum.
The day ended with a swim in the Dead Sea. Because the sea is so dense with salt, visitors can happily bob along in the water with the wonderful buoyancy of the salt. It is a little tricky to swim or make your way through the water but the sensation is so surreal and highly recommended. Because I’ve swam in the Great Salt Lake a number of times, I was curious to see if it would be a similar experience. But what I learned is that the Dead Sea is much denser than that of Salt Lake. There’s no better way to end a day in the desert than with a swim in the Dead Sea.