First of all, let me say from the outset that today was a much more relaxed day from a policy perspective than we’d had in the past 4 days. We started day five by leaving Jerusalem and heading easy toward the Dead Sea. Before we spent time at the Dead Sea, we went to Masada, the great fortress mansion of Herod dating back over 2,000 years.
The fortress was amazing. What’s most amazing is how they were able to keep water in the fortress in the middle of the desert. Herod had baths, lavish storehouses of food for his soldiers, and huge palace-like living quarters for his commanders (probably the only way he’d be able to get someone to enjoy living in the sweltering desert!).
From Masada we went to the Dead Sea, which I learned the Jews here call “The Salt Sea.” I opted to try and “float” in the Sea, which is possible because of its 36% mineral content. Trying to just sit down on the bottom of a shallow part of the Dead Sea is nigh impossible. You try and just get pushed over by the buoyancy of the water. It’s really strange. But it was a good experience, and really need to visit the lowest place on Earth.
When you reach down and scrape the bottom of the sea you bring up sand-like crystals of what you soon realize are large chunks of salt. Another interesting thing about the Dead Sea is that because its the lowest place on earth, the UV rays from the Sun have a much harder time reaching down that far, and therefore it is much harder to get a sun burn…go figure!
After the dead sea we headed back toward Jerusalem only to sling shot up toward Tel Aviv, where it was our plan to get dinner with a former member of the Israeli National Security Committee/Cabinet.
When we arrived in Tel Aviv (it took us around 2.5 hours from the Dead Sea), we immediately realized that this city was much different than Jerusalem. I think that from the pictures below you’ll immediately realize what I mean. Tel Aviv is like the NYC of Israel. But in truth, a more accurate description would be to picture the upper west side of Manhattan, add non-violent gang-related graffiti, and an amazing beach and you have Tel Aviv.
Our dinner tonight (it’s 1am here right now), was really interesting. The expert we spoke with gave us the low down on the Iranian nuclear issue, and I learned a lot about the structure of Iran’s government and their geopolitical goals as a nation and religious goals as a people, among many other things. The discussion was really good – the food was probably on par with the discussion!
I’ve mentioned this before, but I really came away from this dinner believing that there really is no diplomatic hope for permanent peace in our time in the Middle East. The agenda of Iran – the Shiite agenda, if you will – is not going to ever stop. Eventually there has to be war for them to achieve their goals (establishment of world wide caliphate). But perhaps that it is a discussion (a much longer one) for another day.
Right now I’m going to hit the hay, and leave you with some pics from the Dead Sea, Masada, and Tel Aviv.