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Tags - ein gedi nature reserve
"And here is what I know now...goes like this, my salvation lies in your love, my salvation lies in your love" - Orange Sky (the OC Mix 1)
We woke up at 4:15am, ate some pound cake in a hurry, and walked to Masada. The face of the rock - completely devoid of any softening vegetation - rose up swiftly before us as we began the ascent. Masada, the desert fortress built by Herod the Great was the cite of the last great battle between the Jewish rebels and the Romans in the 70s CE. I was the 5th person up from our group and the first girl, which, modesty aside, made me (and our hyper intense tour guide) pretty proud.
After touring the top, we made our way down to breakfast at the hostel, before heading out to the Ein Gedi nature reserve, where we (gasp of happiness!!) swam in a waterfall!! Especially because it had been so hot in Israel, this was beyond refreshing! After returning to the hostel and getting ourselves cleaned up and packed up, we drove to Tel-Aviv. On the drive, we stopped at a rest stop, where one Mr. James Kimmey and I shocked the rest of the bus by buying chips and beer (of course, James bought some crappy, light beer and I went for a Guinness, as usual, thereby gaining respect points from our hilarious bus driver)! Once in Tel-Aviv we had a couple of hours to spend on the boardwalk, resting, eating, enjoying our last day together as twilight set in. And then, sadly, we made our way to the airport. The goodbyes to Ohad, Yisrael, and Avi were sad - I for one, being my usual sentimental self, had become legitimately close with them...I felt like I was leaving really good old friends.
It's a good thing I will be back here in several months though! I am looking forward to spending more time in actual Tel-Aviv (especially since I have decided to move here in a couple of years), to doing some intense hiking, to seeing Avi and Ohad again, and to seeing Israel when it is not in the middle of its dry season (I want to see her hills covered with green!). In the end, we boarded our airplane at 1am. As we did so, I looked down at a ring I had personalized and ordered in a little shop in Jerusalem...in the sterling silver is inscribed, in Hebrew, "Ahava," meaning "love." I couldn't help but smile even as I was leaving, for I had found a place that touched me greatly and differently than any of my other travels, a place that had renewed me in many ways, a place that challenged and welcomed me at the same time; and that, my friends, that is love.
On that note, I should say that I am separating from newfound friends whose friendship I hope to keep for years to come. (Some of us are already making plans for a reunion). In all honestly, I must also admit that even though I have apparently rubbed off on them with funny hand gestures and Nataliaisms (it's been pretty funny actually), the people on this trip have contributed something much greater to me, for they have injected me with a renewed sense of serenity and a belief that the surprises, the luck, the pure joy in life is always greater than the knocks, hectic stresses, and pains and disappointments we may experience! I consider myself thankful and blessed to have crossed paths with some of the people on this trip.
And so, as they say during Passover Seder, "Next year, in Jerusalem..."