There's a few things all those tourist sites don't tell you about swimming in the Dead Sea: 1) Don't expect to get many pictures. Between the grime coating your hands, the drudge of mud you have to climb through, and the unbelievably slippery shore, getting out to take photos is almost more trouble than it is worth. 2) If it's a sunny day, then what photos you do get will be so outrageously bright you'd think your camera was having an angelic experience. 3) Floating on the water is one of the most surreal sensations you'll ever come across, so expect to be caught off guard.
Now let me follow all that by saying swimming in the Dead Sea was fabulous and amazing and definitely one of the best parts of my Israel visit. So weird, so different, so fantastically unique.
Though we were staying in Jerusalem, we spent two days touring places outside the city. One day was the Dead Sea, Masada, and En Ghedi; the other featured Caesarea, Tiberias, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, and the River Jordan. Masada was breathtaking, though we were late for our tour bus and literally had to run, snapping pictures like mad. We had a lovely hike through En Ghedi, the wilderness where David hid from Saul, which is now a nature reserve. The brilliant blue waters of Caesarea had me completely transfixed, and having rock-skipping competitions in the Sea of Galilee was way too much fun.
Our last few days in Jerusalem were spent soaking up every bit of it we could. We relaxed at cafes, visited Ben Yehuda Market every chance we got, kept up our daily treks around the city, and ate as much falafel sandwiches, mint lemonade, and sweet potatoes as our stomachs could hold. We visited the house of Caiaphas and went through Hezekiah's Tunnels, which was a personal favourite. Jess opted out of that experience being that she's not particularly a crawl-through-dark-creepy-tunnels kind of person, but the guys and I loved it. We even happened upon this amazing underground road that led all the way across Jerusalem to underneath the Western Wall.
The day before our flight home, we spent the night in Tel Aviv and totally embraced our inner beach bums. I managed to overcome my fear of the ocean enough to splash around in the water. (Trust me, it was difficult. But actually it was fabulous. But also I was just a little bit terrified.) The sunset over the ocean that night was so stunning, it motivated us to wake up at five-thirty the next morning to catch the sunrise. It was pretty much the stuff of dreams; sitting on the Tel Aviv beach, splashing and laughing and taking photos and basking in that glorious sunshine.
None of us were ready to leave that place. I would go again in a heartbeat. Looking back at these photos feels like it was a lifetime ago. I still have trouble believing I actually got to be in Israel and experience everything that rich land has to offer. It was an incredible place, and to shamelessly use the popular cliche, it was definitely the trip of a lifetime.
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