This last week was Israeli Memorial Day and Independence Day. What this means to us, basically, is that Kip didn’t work Thursday and only worked a half day on Wednesday. (Friday’s are always off because they are the Israeli Saturday.) So, we decided to do something fun with our 3 1/2 day weekend. We made a reservation at a resort hotel on the banks of the Dead Sea. Kip got home Wednesday afternoon and we headed off. It was a nice drive. William slept for the first 2 hours. When he woke, we stopped at a rest-stop McDonald’s. It was our first McDonald’s stop since leaving the states so I didn’t feel so bad about it. And it was nice because they had a McDonald’s on one side of the store and a kabob sandwich shop on the other. Kip went for the sandwich and I went for a kid’s meal for William and figured I’d fill up on whatever the boys didn’t finish. William wasn’t really interested in the food at all. He only wanted to watch the lights on the cheap toy vending machines. He especially liked the ones that sold little plastic balls with assorted junk inside. I bought him one with a tiny Thomas the Train inside, but he lost interest in it pretty fast. Eventually, he settled down and ate some fries with ketchup (his favorite food – ketchup), but not until having spent about an hour dancing in front of the vending machines.
We got to the Dead Sea about 7:00 and checked in to our hotel. We had had to stop at a rocky overlook on the way so William could collect some rocks. He really loves rocks.
On Thursday the 12th we went to Massada. This is a fortress on the top of a plateau overlooking the Dead Sea. Herod built a massive palace there to summer in (summer in the desert?!) and to retreat to in ‘hard times.’ When the Romans attacked the Jews in 77(ish) AD, a group of rebel Jews held out there. The Romans seiged the plateau and built a ramp up to break down the walls. When it was clear that they would be overtaken, the Jewish men killed their wives and children and then each other until the last one committed suicide. It’s a pretty miserable story. We weren’t sure how William would like the ruins. It’s just basically the remains of stone buildings on an almost completely barren mountaintop. There’s not even grass, just an occasional shrub clinging tenuously to the dusty stone. I wasn’t sure how I would like it either, for that matter. I mean, it’s not a very comfortable place (or cheerful for that matter). But, it turned out really interesting. We all enjoyed the ride up the mountain in the cable car. And then William was in heaven. Rocks, rocks everywhere! He wanted to stop and touch each one. He would find piles of gravel and just sift them through his hands or make a pile on his legs. I would find places to sit in the shade (if there was any) and enjoy the cool breeze. It was sunny but the breeze kept it from being too hot. And some of the rooms that hadn’t collapsed were wonderfully cool and shadey inside. We spent a couple of hours following William around and trying to lead him to the things we wanted to see, then dragged him back to the cable car and down.
That afternoon we all rested in the room. Unfortunately, the people in the room next door (that happened to have a door to ours that didn’t completely separate them) decided to spend the afternoon smoking in there. I got a miserable headache and finally went to the front desk to beg for mercy. They were very kind and moved us down one level to a room with no adjoining room and supposedly on the non-smoking floor. We asked them to move the crib we’d gotten for William down to the new room, but it never showed up, so we eventually requested another one. The one they brought was TINY! I don't think it would hold a newborn Killpack! We decided to take out its mattress (using the term loosely) and let him sleep on the floor but even that was too small for him to fit on. So, we took the pillows off the sofa to make a mat for him and we discovered that the sofa was a fold-out bed! Hooray! Even better than the bigger crib we had hoped for! We made up the bed and William was thrilled to have such a big place to sleep.
On Friday (the 13th) we decided to go to Ein Gedi. Although this sounds like something out of a Star Wars movie, it actually is the site where David hid from King Saul when Saul was out to kill him. It’s a sort of oasis, a stream and some trees in a valley surrounded by the bleak landscape of the Dead Sea valley. (Did we mention the fact that there is practically NO vegitation in this huge valley, not just on the plateau of Massada?) You have to pay 26 shekels to hike up the David’s stream trail, but they’ve done some nice things for the tourists. They’ve put stone stairs on a lot of the steep areas (well, practically the whole hike) and divided the hikers so climbers go up one side of the stream and descenders go down the other side. That’s nice -- you don’t have to struggle to get around people going the opposite direction. They say it’s a 30 minute hike one way. It took us about 30 minutes to get from the entrance to the base of the stream. William had to stop at each rock and ask what it was and then attempt to pick it up. Did we mention that there isn’t really much in the way of vegitation? This means, there are a LOT of rocks. He was again in heaven. But we were a little frustrated. It was HOT and I really wanted to get out of the sun. Finally, Kip carried him on his shoulders. That worked for a while, until we came to the stream. Then, Kip and William joined the other hikers in refreshing themselves in the cool water. They just hopped in tennis shoes and all. Everyone else knew this was a water hike and wore Tevas and swimsuits under or as their clothes. Well, we’re Americans. We don’t even know what they were saying. How would we know to wear water gear to hike in the desert? So, the hike was a lot like hiking in Utah. There was very little cover and the one thing that made it bearable was the cool water of the stream. But Kip and William had a blast in the water and I enjoyed watching them.
On Saturday we tried to take William swimming in the Dead Sea before checking out and heading home. Unfortunately, he seems to prefer streams to seas. Plus, the beach of the Dead Sea is not nice for walking or playing on. Instead of soft grains of sand, it is made up of pebbles. Sharp hot pokey pebbles. And it doesn’t get better in the water. Again, who knew we needed those Tevas? Plus, when we dragged him into the water to see if he would get used to it and calm down, a hotel attendant yelled at us to get him back out. Apparently, the super salty content of the water raises blood pressure and children shouldn’t be subjected to it. Of course, the public beaches were full of kids playing in the water, so how would we have guessed. The hotel guy said even adults shouldn’t spend more than 20 minutes in the water at a time. Wow. I wonder if people really follow that advice? Of course, the water is kind of slimy, so maybe people don’t like being in it too long.
We took William back to the hotel and put him in the bath. He played in the tub for about an hour and finally had to be dragged out kicking and screaming. I guess he likes warm clean bath water with a smooth-bottomed tub better than salty, slimy Dead Sea water with rocks underfoot and the hot sun glaring down. Who can blame him?
So, now we’re back. The Bowden’s have been out of town, leaving me and William home all day with no car. We’ve done a lot of watching our “Thomas the Train” DVD. William can’t get enough. Mommy has had enough. But there’s no park nearby and the only places to walk in this neighborhood involve a ton of stairs. We’ll try another outing today, but last time we went out William didn’t make it far down the stairs before demanding that I carry him back home up five flights of stairs.