Today’s destination was En Gedi, a … hm, it is difficult to define En Gedi.
It’s three entities sharing the same name though not the same space. It’s a kibbutz, it’s a youth hostel and a field school (whatever that is), it’s a beach at the Dead Sea.
So from Tiberias we drove south, and stopped in the town of Bet She’an, which we had passed through on our way from the Jordanian border to Nazareth. It is home to an archeological site which includes parts of a Roman city, but also settlements from earlier periods. We spent an hour or two there and then drove on into the West Bank, along the river Jordan. As I should learn later, Israelis don’t call the area along this route West Bank at all. For them it’s just the Jordan valley. Indeed, there are only very few (Jewish) settlements along the road, the only notable exception being the city of Jericho.
Near Jericho is the site where John the Baptist allegedly baptised Jesus in the river Jordan. It is possible to visit this place from both sides of the border (the river forms the border between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan here). The river Jordan is a tiny stream, maybe 5 meters wide. As a visitor you can walk right down to the river bank and even into the water as part of a baptism ceremony – closely watched by heavily armed border guards from both countries.
We didn’t stop in Jericho – it didn’t look very inviting for some reason – and instead continued right through to En Gedi and took a bath in the Dead Sea there. That’s actually a funny experience. And the water definitely burns in the eyes and on the lips, as I know now. Submerging the head is not recommended, but definitely worth a try if you’re a little pain-resistent. :)
En Gedi is located just across the southern ‘border’ of the West Bank, in Israel proper. Both at the entrance and the exit the Israeli military has check points, though we were waved right through without any checks at all.
PS: Hoping for a two-state solution, I’m also filing this entry under ‘Palestine’.