ASHKELON , ISRAEL
Ashkelon has a very modern marina with good accommodations for our yachts. We will take a day tour to visit inland to the Dead Sea and Masada (World Heritage Site-2001), the mountaintop fortress and palace of King Herod the Great, where the extremist Jewish Zealots made a desperate last stand against the Romans in 72 – 73 AD. In this conflict 15,000 Roman troops besieged this high mesa-like stronghold for two years against 1000 Zealots, of whom only 7 were left alive after the others killed their families and then slew one another, rather than surrender. The summit is still littered with the stones hurled into the stronghold by the Romans, and those hurled by the Jewish defenders at the Jewish slaves forced to build the assault ramp. The remains of Herod’s palace and fortress give a 360-degree panorama of the desert and Dead Sea area.
You may have an opportunity to “swim” in the Dead Sea, a difficult task because of the very high salinity—you actually float not swim. It is over 400 feet below sea level, which makes it the lowest point on the earth’s surface. The sea has no exit and water is lost only through evaporation. A century ago, it was 12 meters higher than it is now which has caused the length to the sea to decrease from 70 km to 50km. Remember water in the lungs (even a drop) is fatal since the water is so high in chlorides. The nearby showers are necessary after your ‘float.’ The trip will take us through the Negev desert, this stretch being a dry parched desolate area below sea level.
The Garden City of Ashkelon, with its sandy beaches and national parks, is a popular recreational and tourist resort for Israelis. In past ages, it was an important caravan stop between Syria and Egypt and under the Romans, many grand buildings were constructed of which a few remains can be seen today.
Ashkelon Marina provides a very safe place to leave your yachts if you arrange to go to Egypt on another Rally yacht. When the yachts return to Israel at Herzliya, ground transportation (50km) will be provided back to Ashkelon for those who have left their yachts there.