First of all, a shout-out to Gidon Ariel, the Maale Adumim English-language spokesman and candidate for city council. This is not a political endorsement, but I would like to thank Mr. Ariel for his comment and to note that he is the very first candidate/official-type person to have posted a comment on my blog.
A first and last foray into electrical things: Last night, I needed to charge something. The appliance in need of charging was an American appliance. No problem, thought I, I will simply plug it into a converter and then into the wall, and voila, I will have power. It is pretty simple, unless you mistake an adapter for a converter. So instead of converting the electricity from 110 to 220, I basically plugged in a 110 charger into a 220 outlet, blowing up my charger in the process. Like I said, first and last foray into electrical things.
On to the Dead Sea. We left the house at half past nine, in two straight lines. We brought our snacks, water, suntan lotion, hats, and sunglasses. We were READY, man! We drove down to the Dead Sea. We saw camels, desert, mountains, desert mountains, Bedouins, and more camels. The kids enjoyed seeing the camels, and the drive down Route 90 was beautiful. There are a few different places to stop along the route. The first place we stopped was at the "braychot,"before the Dead Sea. As we pulled in to pay, they made sure we understood that there was no entrance to the Dead Sea itself. However, this place had been recommended by Uncle David as a nice place for the kids to run around and throw rocks. So we forged ahead. After paying 60 NIS and parking, we got out to begin the hike. It was HOT down there! But we are real men, so that did not stop us. We walked around a path until we came to the first of the braychot, which are pools. We then realized that the point of the braychot was to braycha - swim. And I had not brought any of our swim gear. The kids of course were begging to go in, although when I got closer I saw a lot of sweaty men and naked children, so I was kind of glad I had forgotten the swim stuff. We walked around for a while, but as I said, it was very hot, and Yaakov's rock-throwing was half-hearted. We stopped for a snack of dried fruits and nuts and then headed back to the car. It seemed that the area which David had recommended was closed off and we couldn't walk there. But we are Adventurers, so we set off looking for the next adventure.
We then drove into the Dead Sea proper. Well not into the sea exactly, although Ariella would have enjoyed experimenting to see if our car would float. Yaakov had fallen asleep in the car and was very cranky upon awakening, so Donny carried him down to the sea. This was my second time at the Dead Sea, and I have to say, it's kind of boring and a little bit gross. I mean, I was glad we went, and it was cool to show the kids the lowest point on earth, and all that. Donny, Ariella, and I put our hands in a little and Donny was in pain because his hand had gotten a little cut from opening all the pistachio nuts. Yaakov has eczema all over his hands, so I was happy he didn't even want to attempt to touch the water. Ariella touched it but didn't like the slimy/grimy feel it left on her hands. We had fun and at the same time were slightly grossed out by the people diving into the sea and slathering their bodies with mud. Ariella couldn't believe there were people who chose to put mud all over themselves. So we didn't stay very long. We hiked back up, got ice cream, swatted flies, and then back to the car for the next adventure.
We drove further down to Ein Gedi. This was the highlight of our trip. We had to pay an entrance fee, but it was worth it. First of all, it was really funny because a good 50% of the people there were English-speakers. We started the hike around 2:30, so the sun was already going down and it wasn't too hot. We stopped at the lower falls first, because the kids wanted to see some water, darn it. We had a true OI (Only in Israel; pronounced "oy") moment. As we descended, we saw an Israeli family had parked themselves next to the falls. They had their picnic lunch and a guitar, and they were staging an impromptu singalong. It was so nice! They were singing all these Sukkot songs, and people were humming and clapping along. The kids had a chance to play with rocks and get their hands wet, although Ariella told me in no uncertain terms that next time we'd better bring bathing suits. They amused themselves for a while, and then we went back up to the path. At this point, Yaakov decided he'd had enough hiking, so he and Donny headed back to the car. Ariella and I carried on, because Ariella loves to hike. She was a trooper - there was a fair amount of climbing involved, but she loved it! We made it all the way to the upper falls. At one point, I thought we needed to cross this stream, and the only way to do it was to have a nice random English-speaker help Ariella jump across, and I had no choice but to submerge my sneaker-clad foot in the stream. In turns out we didn't actually need to cross the stream, but I realized that too late, and I had to walk back to the car with that "squish
squish" thing going on. But Ariella was raving about Ein Gedi and can't wait to go back. Plus, we saw some cool animals. One was something that I identified as a "not squirrel." The other was an ayala - I think an ibex. There was actually a whole family of ibexes (ibexi? ibexen?) on the ledge
above us. They were really close to us and just stood calmly above the trail and stared at us. ("Look, Mom, humans! Cool! Do you see the little one with the mommy? It's so cute!"
"Just stay very still, you don't want to scare them.")
After returning to the car, we began the long drive back to Modi'in, passing the camels, desert, Bedouins, mountains, camels, etc. When we arrived back home, everyone showered or bathed and then we headed out in search of a restaurant with a sukkah. (There is a definite advantage to this whole "not having a sukkah" thing.) We found this amazing restaurant in the middle of nowhere. See, Modi'in is full of little shopping centers, or "senters" in Hebrew. One thing we were actually very impressed with in Maale Adumim is that their mall has all of the things you would need conveniently located in one mall. In Modi'in, they're dispersed throughout the city. So we've become pretty familiar with Merlaz, Malibu, Yishpru, and so on, but this restaurant was located in "Ligad Center" which we had never heard of before. It turns out that you basically leave Modi'in, drive down a spooky, dark road, and you end up at this center. The restaurant was called "Alberto's" (or "Albatraoss" if you're reading it in Hebrew really fast.) The sukkah was beautiful and pretty empty. Before we even ordered, they brought us a pitcher of fresh lemonade and these unbelievable, warm lafahs with about 10 different salads. We ordered steaks, hamburgers, and hot dogs, and the food came with rice, Israeli salad, and french fries. The food was amazing and we had a great time. We highly recommend this restaurant to anyone who can find it.
So ends our Chol HaMoed Adventures. The next excitement: Simchat Torah! Stay tuned...