As our bus rolled south of Jerusalem, we noticed the gradual change in the landscape from green hills to brown desert. Masada is a fortress rising in that desert above the Dead Sea. The fortress was built by Herod the Great about three decades before the birth of Christ and, after the Roman destruction of the Jerusalem’s Second Temple in 70 CE, besieged by the Romans. It took a long time for the Romans to win back Masada but they finally did so, killing in the process about 960 Jews defending it.
The banks of The Dead Sea sit well below sea level, and its high salt content makes it unbelievably easy to float for anyone used to an ordinary lake. (It took one frightened American gentleman about twenty minutes to get up the courage to try floating on his back.) The black mud of the Dead Sea makes it so rich a source of minerals that tourists love to go there for therapeutic treatments.