Saturday, May 28, 2016


Two weeks from now I shall start on my long-awaited trip to Lutherland. You may know that next year the Protestant world celebrates the 500th anniversary of the Reformation so it seemed to me wise to visit Wittenberg on the eve of all those religio-cultural activities. However, not only the city where in 1517 Luther "nailed" his 95 Theses on the door of the Schlosskirche demanding reforms of the almighty Catholic Church is worth a blog but other cities in Lutherland like Erfurt, Leipzig, Weimar, and Luther's birthplace Eisleben too.

In the meanwhile I must hurry up to finish my promised two photo blogs of the Holy Land starting here with Masada.

Heading by bus through a desert southeast
to visit Masada, Israel's national shrine.

Approaching the Dead Sea

Willkommen next-to-last at a shopping stop

Outside the shop beautiful blossoms on bushes caught our eye
In the year 73 Fort Masada became the last resort for the Jewish revolt when the uprising against the Roman occupation that had started in 66 was finally quashed in ruins and blood. To clean out the last Jewish stronghold the tenth legion stationed in Jerusalem and reinforced by 6000 auxiliary forces was dispatched to Masada under the command of Flavius Silva.

The high plateau of Masada is on the right, the National Museum on the left
but this was not the correct approach either for us or for the Romans.

German cartographers noted Turm, Kaserne, and  Kirche

A few people walked but most took the cable car

Our guide Johannes showed us: 40.1% relative humidity
 at 30.1 degrees Celsius on the plateau
While the Roman task force approached Masada the Jewish occupants of the plateau were transforming the former palace compounds of King Herod the Great into fortifications.

The remains of Herod's north palace
The only way for the Romans to conquer the high plain was to build a ramp. However, several of their attempts to break into the Jewish fortifications failed but eventually with well-known Roman tenacity they succeeded. They retired for the evening with their final assault scheduled for the following morning.

The remainder of the Roman ramp
When the Jewish commander Elesar Ben-Jair saw that he and the remaining 960 Jews were doomed he convinced his countrymen and -women to die by their own hands rather than to be violated and slaughtered by the infidel Romans. The encircled Jews selected ten men by lot who were to first kill all the other men, women, and children and then themselves. Josephus Flavius writes in his history of the First Jewish-Roman War: Then the ten having unswervingly slaughtered all, ordained the same rule of the lot for one another, that he on whom it fell should first slay the nine and then himself last of all.

The last ten lots bearing the names of the last ten men

Roman mosaic

Ruins of the Byzantine church sketched above

Driving to the bathing area along the Dead Sea.
What you see along the shoreline are no whitecaps but salt deposits.

The moment Red Baron had and possibly you have been waiting for.
The water at the only place where swimming was allowed was dirty and so were my feet after walking on muddy salt crusts while going into deeper water. Once afloat you have to be careful not to get any water into your eyes and mouth. Keeping this in mind it is impossible to stand up. You can get one foot on the ground but not the other. Luckily there are many people around you to help.

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