July 15th – Dead Sea, Masada and Bedouin Tent

This morning we had a great workout at a new Taekwondo gym. The hardest Taekwondo workout we’ll have here because for the next few days we are taking a break from working out. It felt great doing drills across the floor. I felt fast, strong and ready to compete.
Next we took a bus to the Dead Sea. I haven’t been to the Dead Sea in 8 years, so I didn’t really remember the aesthetic details of the sea. As I was looking at the Dead Sea I saw that the sea looked as if it extended forever with no separation from the heavens and the land. It’s a clear color of light blue that is beyond description. It’s magical. Truly is a spellbinding sight.
Nir, our Israeli team member/Olympic alternate, had us go through a specific order of activities to create the proper experience. First, we coated our bodies in Dead Sea mud from head to toe. Then we waited 20 minutes outside in the sun until the mud was baked onto our skin. Took pictures. Then we waded into the Dead Sea water and let the mud slowly soak off of our skin. It felt great floating but after a while we needed to get out. We headed to the sulfur pools and waded in the water. Our muscles relaxed but we all wanted to spend some time in the much colder freshwater pool. That felt incredible.
While in the freshwater pool we spent some time talking to some Maccabiah tennis players from Great Britain. I was honestly curious what they thought of British Rock music like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Turns out they didn’t really care about music. A shame, but they were nice guys. Great accents.
After that we took a bus to Masada. I love Masada. It is one of my favorite stories of our Jewish history because even when faced with death, the Jewish didn’t back down. I’ve always wished that there was a 300-type badass movie made about Masada and the people.
Click here for a video on the story of Masada
During our time at Masada, two of my friends were having a deep conversation. As I was trying to listen to them, we began a 4 hour-long discussion together. It was one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had so far. The discussion started with Nir talking about how everyone in Israel needs to have a united ideology about why Israel. Why not Montana or Uganda (other Theodore Herzl suggestions). Then it got into Judasim, Jewish ethics, philosophy, Israel’s existential threat etc. The difference from the normal American pseudointellectual conversations about philosophy is that it was a personal conversation and we discussed our personal beliefs rather than abstract ones.
We all learned a great deal about each other. One thing  I found quite interesting is that Nir said that Israelis have these kinds of conversations all the time with their neighbors, employees and that it’s not uncommon to argue about these deep issues with people you meet.
After our time at Masada we headed to a Bedouin tent where had an incredible meal, got to see a camel and I spent most of my time discussing various things with my friend Norm.
It was a great experience…except when fellow Jewish athletes wore Keffiyehs without really understanding that that represents solidarity with the Palestinian people.
All in all an incredible day.