When planning the trip we figured to hike up to Masada in the pre-dawn light along the hiking trail called the Snake Path and watch the sunrise from atop the legendary fortress It is said the that during the First Jewish-Roman War the Jewish defenders commited mass suicide rather than be captured by the Romans. Our plans were dashed when we learned that in order to be there that early, we would either need to stay near Masada overnight (expensive), join a special sunrise tour (expensive), or drive three hours along highway 90 in early morning (considered unsafe due to poor visibility and complete lack of lighting). Our alternative plan is to rent a car for a day, driving to Masada and see Dead Sea on the way.
We were not sure of Bethlehem during the planning. It is just 8 km outside Jerusalem within the Palestinian controlled West Bank area. Most tourists would take local tours because of security concerns. Have doubled checked with tourist office, we were convinced that we could make our own way there.
Temple Mount, the legendary platform built to support the Second Temple, now where Dome of the Rock mosque stands, has very restricted opening time for non-Muslims everyday except Fridays and Saturdays. Arrive early in the morning, we accessed the ground via the elevated walkway next to Western Wall Plaza. It was such a stark view shift. A moment ago we were watching Jewish people, some of them now wearing a Tallit (Jewish prayer shawl) praying in front of the Western Wall, the next second we have the imposing domed mosque arise from the horizon.
At the confluence of three most influential religions: Christian, Islam and Judaism, Israel is a fascinating destination. Easily and relatively inexpensively accessible from Europe, though it’s onward connections to the Middle East and Asia are pricey due to the lack of budget airlines serving the country.