Best Day Trips from Jerusalem Israel

Jerusalem is certainly fascinating, but Israel's compact size makes it convenient to take day trips to explore history, and nature outside of the Holy City

Masada

We took the cable car up and down to Masada National Park. This UNESCO world heritage site is where Jewish rebels are believed to have made their final attempt to resist Roman invaders (around the year 74) before committing mass suicide.

Masada also has fascinating archaeological remains including the ruins of King Herod's mountaintop desert fortress, portions of mosaic floors and even a synagogue. Masada was built as a winter retreat for King Herod and as a defense bulwark against invaders. Predawn hikes to watch the sunrise are possible, but it takes at least 45 minutes of steep walking to climb the long snake path on the east side. On the west side, the ramp path is less grueling. Some of the excavations have raised doubts about the extent of the suicides because the remains of few bodies were uncovered.

In addition, Masada has extraordinary views overlooking the western shore of the Dead Sea and the Judean Desert. Masada is about 100 (about 62 miles) kilometers southeast of Jerusalem.

Dead Sea

The lowest place on earth is about 33 kilometers (about 20 miles) southeast of Jerusalem. The basin is 1412 feet below sea level. From this site, the views of the Judean and Negev desert and landscape (in Israel and Jordan) are breathtaking! Floating in the water like a boat is very cool! Due to the high salt content, it is important to shower right after leaving the water. The sea floor has a rough, rocky surface so many bathers wear water shoes. We chose not to cover ourselves in the Dead Sea mud which is said to have healing properties.

The water for the sea is supplied by the Jordan River. The water is so salty because there is no way of flowing out of the sea. No fish live in the sea due to the salt content of 32 percent. Sadly, we learned that the Dead Sea is evaporating due to lack of rainfall and human activity.

Ayalon Institute

In the city of Rehovot on David Fikes Street, the secret Ayalon ammunition factory produced millions of 9 millimeter bullets for Jewish forces fighting for the Jewish state. Forty-five young men and women were recruited for this effort. The factory operated from 1945 to 1948 during period of British rule over Palestine and during the war for independence. The factory was hidden underground beneath the laundry rooms of a kibbutz. The institute is now a museum located about 55 kilometers (34 miles) west of Jerusalem. In addition to a video, the English language tours and displays were very descriptive.

Beit Gurvin Caves

These caves are part of Beit Gurvin National Park, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Jerusalem. On this site, there are ruins of a city called Maresha with roman public baths, a roman amphitheater and a Byzantine church. To get in touch with the land and history of Israel, we took part in an archaeological dig. There are about 800 caves located in this area. During the dig, after sifting through the cave floor, we uncovered pieces of pottery from the Hellenistic period, about 2300 years ago. These caves are a UNESCO world heritage site. Our dig was done in conjunction with Archaeological Seminars Institute, the organization involved in the Maresha excavations.

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Saul Schwartz lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with his wife Fern. He loves to travel throughout the world and share his experiences through stories and pictures. Saul has published many articles, but most focus upon his passion to travel.



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