To start our 2016 on new year’s day, we drove to Masada. Masada is an ancient fortification situated on top of an isolated rock plateau, akin to a mesa, on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea 20 kilometres east of Arad. Herod the Great built palaces for himself on the mountain and fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. According to the ancient historian Josephus, the Siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire towards the end of the First Jewish–Roman War ended in the mass suicide of 960 Sicarii rebels and their families hiding there.
Because of the heavy rains over night, part of the highway was flooded, so instead of a quick 25 minute drive to Masada, we had to go up to Arad and around the mountain. The landscape was captivating – rocky and desert. It was worth the wait to get to Masada because of the breathtaking views. There were two positive outcomes as a consequence of the rain. First, it dissuaded tourists from going up to Masada, so we were able to enjoy a crowd-free day of sightseeing. Second, the rain clouds left a wide-arching rainbow over the Judean desert and in front of the Dead Sea. I haven’t seen anything as majestic as a rainbow over a desert before. Truly breathtaking.