I woke up at 3:00 a.m. this morning and met our group at 3:30 a.m. We went to Masada and climbed up the Roman Ramp path in order to be on the mountain for the sunrise. It was quite an amazing site seeing the sun come up over the desert, the Dead Sea, and the mountain. We walked around the mountain, saw the ~2000 year old remains, and discussed the history of Masada. We then walked down the snake path. Going up took 10 minutes; coming down it took 40 minutes. I don't think I've ever been so hot at 6:00 a.m. or any time after that.
After Masada, we went to Ein Gedi, a desert oasis. There, we hiked into the nature reserve park and saw the desert and the oasis. We had the opportunity to get into the water and walked along the waterfall's path.
After Ein Gedi, we went to the Dead Sea. Our location on the Dead Sea was not the usual tourist area, but rather a less crowded spot near Ein Gedi (use of the bathrooms or changing areas still cost 2 shekels though). I have visited the Dead Sea once previoisly when I came to Israel in the Summer of 2005 with USY, the Conservative Youth Group, however, last time I was unable to really get into the water and did not float. Floating in the Dead Sea was a lot of fun and yes, I found several cuts or wounds that I did not know that I had. It was strange floating on water that was only a few inches deep where I started. I was also offered a little bit of Dead Sea mud that I put on. The whole experience at the Dead Sea was greasy and strange with my skin not feeling clean until I took a rather long shower upon returning to Be'er Sheva.
Getting up at 3:00 a.m. makes for a long day. I'll post pictures from today shortly.
Tonight though, myself and some friends are getting together for a sort of potluck Shabbat dinner. It should be fun.