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  1. #11
    Senior Member BillyBob58's Avatar
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    WOW OH WOW! For me personally, maybe the best thread HF ever! Most of my adult life I have tried to make many trips which have turned out to be very rewarding. Mostly rewarding in terms of being able to enjoy the creation, and the outdoors and in having adventure in the wilds.

    But as I have gotten older, my interests have shifted some what, my ideas of what is really important. Not that I don't still thoroughly enjoy my outdoor adventures. But the trip I took to Israel 4 years ago was hands down the best trip I have ever taken, the most rewarding. And it was a tour bus and hotel rooms! I guess it just relates to things that most interest me now, things that are most important.

    I have taken several fine trips since then, similar tours that were not hiking trips. They have been very enjoyable, but nothing has matched Israel for me. Next we went to Greece. Then we were supposed to go back to Israel, but that fell through so we went to Alaska. We just got back from Italy. All grand in their own way. We hope to go back to Israel next spring, if war is not raging.

    And now here you come with a trip which has my favorite activity- hammock camping- but it is also in Israel! I can't beat that, or even match it!

    "Camping on Tel Azeka, near where David killed Goliath..." really kills me!

    Hey, the very 1st picture in your last post, where a lone hiker (you?) is looking over the desert: that kind of looks like Masada off to the right. Is it, or just a look alike?

    Thanks for sharing this!
    For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us....that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
    Romans 8:18,21-22

  2. #12
    Senior Member jbphilly's Avatar
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    Nah, that's not Masada - this is in Makhtesh Ramon, way down in the heart of the Negev! And it's me in all the pictures.

    This trail is very doable for anybody who's an experienced hiker...the infrastructure is all there and lots of people (including a few foreigners) do the trail every spring. It's pretty expensive to get here from the US, though I did it for $1100 with two one-way tickets on AirBerlin. Living costs here are also quite expensive (on par with the priciest places in Western Europe) though in the West Bank everthing costs half as much or less. I'd encourage anybody to do the trail who's wanted to come and see this part of the world; hiking is a MUCH better way to see a country than the tour bus method. I've been independent travelling all over the place and it's great - hitchhiking around the Galilee and Negev, trekking from one national park to another, riding the Palestinian taxis around the West Bank, exploring the old cities, working on my Hebrew and Arabic, and meeting all kinds of people. Tomorrow, the Samaritans (they still exist) are sacrificing sheep for passover so I'm going to go down to Nablus and watch the ceremony.

    It's a world class trail and definitely worth a look. And aside from the scenery, the landscape is packed with religion, politics and history. You have medieval monasteries and Muslim fortresses, ancient Judean and Canaanite ruins, tons of Roman cities, destroyed Palestinian villages from 1948, and the sites of more Biblical stories than you can shake a stick at.

  3. #13
    Senior Member BillyBob58's Avatar
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    Thanks for clearing that up, kind of looked a bit like it. But then again, there are lots of formations like that in the world's deserts. A truly fascinating place, that Masada. Strictly from a historical perspective, the final end of the war against the Jews by Rome. At the start of the Jewish revolt against Rome, the rebels over came the Roman garrison at Herod the Great's refuge/fortress(Masada) which he had built around 31BC. When the Romans could not over come the rebels locked away in that well supplied fortress, they just left them surrounded- Roman encampments visible to this day. Off the Romans go to destroy the rest of the Roman province of Judea, including Jerusalem in 70AD. After over a million Jews die in the destruction of Jerusalem and burning of the Temple ( war conducted by Roman General Titus, son of Emperor Vespasian), with enough survivors sold into slavery to depress the world wide slave market, the Romans return to Masada. Using Jewish slaves, they build a ramp up the cliffs of Masada. That way, if the defenders killed the ramp builders, they would be killing their own countrymen. When the Romans finally broke through the walls of Masada, they found ( except I think 2 women and 5 children found hiding in a cistern?) every man, woman and child(~1000) had committed suicide rather than be taken as slaves or crucified by Rome. Then no more Jewish province or state until 1948.

    The history of this land is overwhelming! It would be wild to spend the night camped under the stars at a place like Masada or very near it, maybe in the ruins of one of the surrounding Roman camps.

    When I was in the Roman Forum ruins in Italy a few weeks ago, I saw Titus' arch. One of the few surviving arches from this period (~ 70AD), and the oldest surviving arch in the forum, it is a celebration of Rome's complete destruction of their enemies, the Jews. It depicts the victory parade of Titus, as he brought some of the surviving Jews back to Rome as a sacrifice to either Jupiter or Saturn, not sure which. Depicted being carried above their heads is the loot from the now destroyed Jewish temple, including a large Menorah.




    For any one with any interest in history, this land is hard to beat! It would be so great to sleep out in a hammock in such a place! I also saw a few places in Italy I wouldn't mind hanging a hammock!
    Last edited by BillyBob58; 04-16-2011 at 12:15.
    For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us....that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
    Romans 8:18,21-22

  4. #14
    Senior Member jbphilly's Avatar
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    I've heard the Masada suicide story is of questionable veracity, an interesting story in itself...Josephus was a Jewish guy who adopted Hellenized/Roman customs and citizenship, and the sole source for the Masada story (also for non-Biblical mentions of Jesus IIRC). The idea of committing suicide rather than face slavery, the line of argument went, is very badass and admirable by Roman standards, but the idea of committing suicide at all would have been abhorrent by Jewish values. However, Josephus was writing for a Roman audience and wanted to impress them with how hardcore and awesome his people were. Given that in those times, standards for writing history were somewhat different and not what would be called rigorous by today's standards, its very possible that he could have made the story up.

    Of course, it could be true - just the fact that suicide for any reason is so un-Jewish led some to believe it could be made up to impress Romans.

    Anyway, it's neither here nor there. The historical interest is unbelievable. Like I mentioned, tomorrow I'm going to see the Samaritans - the last surviving group of non-Jewish Israelites. They didn't believe in the temple in Jerusalem and had a temple of their own near modern-day Nablus. They still have priests, who they trace back to Aaron (on a chart one of the priests has) and sacrifice sheep for Passover. Where else can you find this stuff.

    I also saw the troops depicted carrying the menorah on the Arch of Titus. Italy's another place I'd like to go trekking for the scenery and history...

  5. #15
    Senior Member BillyBob58's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbphilly View Post
    I've heard the Masada suicide story is of questionable veracity, an interesting story in itself...Josephus was a Jewish guy who adopted Hellenized/Roman customs and citizenship, and the sole source for the Masada story (also for non-Biblical mentions of Jesus IIRC). The idea of committing suicide rather than face slavery, the line of argument went, is very badass and admirable by Roman standards, but the idea of committing suicide at all would have been abhorrent by Jewish values. However, Josephus was writing for a Roman audience and wanted to impress them with how hardcore and awesome his people were. Given that in those times, standards for writing history were somewhat different and not what would be called rigorous by today's standards, its very possible that he could have made the story up.
    No doubt, as with all historians, all you have is their word for it. And I guess he might have been wanting to impress his (now) fellow Romans( Flavius Josephus) with how much valor his people had. Then again, his people did not exist any more. They had not really been a sovereign nation for 600 years (since Nebuchadnezzar), but now they were not even a Roman province. I believe it was about this time that Rome renamed Judea Palestine, after the Jew's ancient enemies the Philistines, as a final insult. So, I guess, what would be the point? Also, Josephus was not exactly complimentary about his people's behavior during the siege of Jerusalem. What with mothers eating their own children, for one example. But who knows, he could have made it all up. He is really the only source we have.

    Of course, it could be true - just the fact that suicide for any reason is so un-Jewish led some to believe it could be made up to impress Romans.
    Agree. But then again, wouldn't the Romans know whether or not this happened? the Roman governor of Iudaea Lucius Flavius Silva headed the Roman legion X Fretensis and laid siege to Masada. That seems like a lot of people who would, maybe many still living 30 years later, who would know exactly what happened and be able to call him on it. But maybe most of them would have never read his account, so again, who knows?

    Anyway, it's neither here nor there. The historical interest is unbelievable. Like I mentioned, tomorrow I'm going to see the Samaritans - the last surviving group of non-Jewish Israelites. They didn't believe in the temple in Jerusalem and had a temple of their own near modern-day Nablus. They still have priests, who they trace back to Aaron (on a chart one of the priests has) and sacrifice sheep for Passover. Where else can you find this stuff.
    Exactly! Where you gonna find this sort of stuff to this degree? AMAZING! I really hope I get to do another trip to Israel one of these days. Though I'll probably never be blessed enough to get to walk through the land while hammock camping.
    I also saw the troops depicted carrying the menorah on the Arch of Titus. Italy's another place I'd like to go trekking for the scenery and history...
    We crossed the Appian Way a few times. How would that be to trek on that, if it is allowed? Also, how strange would it be to be allowed to sleep in or near the ruins of Pompeii? But FOR ME, Israel beats them all, and for so many different reasons. Reasons other than just history. Thanks again for posting this thread!
    For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us....that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
    Romans 8:18,21-22

  6. #16
    Senior Member Cannibal's Avatar
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    Let's stay on topic about the hike. The history is fantastic, but very debatable and dangerous territory.

    I visited those lands in the late 70s and early 80s. I bet hiking it is an amazingly better way to see the area. But so many nights on the ground? Think I'll live vicariously thru your pictures.

    Cannibal; aka: Moshe
    Trust nobody!

  7. #17
    Senior Member jbphilly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cannibal View Post
    Let's stay on topic about the hike. The history is fantastic, but very debatable and dangerous territory.
    Tell me about it - all that intense stuff is an inevitable part of this trail, which is good for people to know. Everything is political here, everything! That's part of the reason I could never live here. The other reason is the summer heat - DO NOT come in summer. Best not to come except between December and April. Late February to early April is the best time for the hike by far, really the only time.

    I visited those lands in the late 70s and early 80s. I bet hiking it is an amazingly better way to see the area. But so many nights on the ground? Think I'll live vicariously thru your pictures.

    Cannibal; aka: Moshe
    I was actually quite fine on the ground, though I'm still much happier now that I'm hanging. Part of it was that the desert days are so long and exhausting that you fall asleep instantly whereever you're lying - you have to reach the night camp or town where water is available, so you HAVE to push on, and most of the days include multiple extremely grueling climbs. It's easier in the north, and the luxury of hammocking is even better.

  8. #18
    Senior Member jbphilly's Avatar
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    An update - just finished the trail. In the non-desert sections, I was able to hammock all but a handful of nights (of those we didn't sleep in beds provided by hospitable people) and the ones I couldn't, I could have if I had a halfway decent suspension (that'll be the first thing to switch out before my next hike).

    Can't recommend this trail more. Give it some thought - you'll love it.

  9. #19
    Senior Member lazy river road's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbphilly View Post
    An update - just finished the trail. In the non-desert sections, I was able to hammock all but a handful of nights (of those we didn't sleep in beds provided by hospitable people) and the ones I couldn't, I could have if I had a halfway decent suspension (that'll be the first thing to switch out before my next hike).

    Can't recommend this trail more. Give it some thought - you'll love it.
    Man what a great trip this sounds like...I cant wait to see some pics
    Sometimes I like to hike and think, And sometimes I just like to hike.

    Hiking is'ent about waiting for the storm to pass its about learning to hike in the rain.

  10. #20
    Doctari's Avatar
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    D**N!!!! Yet another thing to add to my bucket list.




    Oh well, I'll have to live to be 150 just to hike the trails I want to do, so one more really won't matter that much.

    Nice pictures & great report!!
    When you have a backpack on, no matter where you are, you’re home.
    PAIN is INEVITABLE. MISERY is OPTIONAL.

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