Mysterious Masada & In the Footsteps of the Trailblazers

Bar Tours – Arik Sadan

Tour of the Month (Spring)

Mysterious Masada

Every visitor to Israel must see Jerusalem – the cherry on the cake – but if you have at least one more day, why not see the icing – when you see the salt deposits at the Dead Sea you'll think of whipped cream!

Combining the Dead Sea with Masada and the stunning oases and rock formations of the Judean Desert makes for a thrilling on/off road experience you will not find anywhere else in the world.

I recommend approaching the area from Arad – if you can, why not spend the afternoon in Arad and sleep there? There are many attractions in the area, which we can visit in an afternoon – Tel Arad, the remains of a typical Israelite fortified town, the Yatir Forest and the Yatir Winery (which will guarantee you a good night's sleep!), and for beer and sports lovers, the legendary Muza Pub.

From Arad, we can go directly to Masada, or, time permitting, detour through the refreshing oasis of Ein Gedi, (where King Solomon composed the 'Song of Songs'), with its sulphur springs, waterfalls and nature reserves, which offer us occasional sightings of endangered desert creatures.

Another possible detour can be the famed Caves of Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by accident (you will have seen these in their special wing of the Israel Museum).

Whichever way we get there, we finally make our way to Masada, descending to below sea level (we know exactly when, as the level is marked on the rocks to the side of the road). On the way, the multi-colored Dead Sea beckons to us from the east, Mount Edom reflected in its waters, and the cliffs of the Judean Desert tower to the west.

Most of us know the story of Masada – a palace fortress built by King Herod (to my mind the greatest builder of ancient times in the Middle East – and possibly the world – and quite probably the maddest), with palaces, villas, bath houses, storerooms and a swimming pool! It became a symbol of Jewish resistance and heroism when a group of zealots refused to surrender to the Roman army, survived on the mountain top for 3 years, and finally committed mass suicide rather than become slaves. The story is controversial and the zealots called everything from heroes to fanatics, but the magnificent location and the stories behind the ruins have earned Masada the title of a UNESCO World Heritage Site (one of three in Israel).

Getting to Masada used to involve toiling up the 'snake path' to the summit, and it was a popular site for army swearing-in ceremonies and bar mitzvas, but it has come a long way since then. Now the visitor is greeted by a visitors' center and museum at the foot of the cliff, and whisked up to the summit by an elevator or cable car, which has made Masada accessible to all (including disabled and blind persons).

Once there, the past comes to life when we see the relics of Herod's luxury lifestyle and the rebels' ingenious survival skills. We will spend two or three hours exploring.

From Masada we descend to 400 meters below sea level – the lowest place on earth – the Dead Sea. Famed for millennia for its healing properties (24 minerals!), here the accent is on relaxing and recuperation. You can float on the salty water, smear yourself with healing black mud, book a couple of spa treatments in one of the many hotels or just breathe in the dry air, laden with oxygen, bromide and magnesium.

From the Dead Sea it's up to you – back to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, north through the Firdan Rift to the Galilee and other attractions, or south to the ancient copper mines of Timna and the Red Sea resort of Eilat (or even on to Petra in Jordan!).

I hope you have enjoyed our virtual tour, and that it has given you an appetite for the real thing!


For those of us who want some truly memorable experiences, and who are early risers (and who are willing to pay for it!), we can offer Masada by air – either a 25 – minute flight from the foot of Masada, taking in the breathtaking aerial views, or a 3-hour flight in a hot-air balloon, watching the sun rise over the magnificent sleeping desert.

For those of us who like to explore off the beaten (tourist) track, my limo-jeep can take us off-road (on marked tracks only, as we are nature lovers and want to protect it), into the oases, springs and nature reserves where we may encounter rock hyrax (we call them rock rabbits), ibex, and even the endangered and elusive Israeli leopard. This is a true desert experience, and you never know what you will discover – maybe the next Dead Sea Scrolls!

For sports lovers, a variety of activities are available, including abseiling and rappelling (unfortunately you cannot scuba dive in the Dead Sea as you cannot sink!).


This month we celebrate Passover, the festival of freedom, and then Remembrance Day for our fallen soldiers and Independence Day, so what better time to salute courage, perseverance, hopes and dreams? (And take in all the natural beauties of spring?)

This tour is in the vicinity of Jerusalem, and can take an entire day, half a day or a couple of hours, so it is suitable as a ‘mini-tour’ for those with little time to spare. It gives the visitor an added insight into the fierce battles for the possession of Jerusalem

when it was under siege and cut off from the rest of the country before and during independence.

We start our tour with a visit to the Paratroopers’ Memorial (“Lighter than Eagles, Braver than Lions”) and then visit a nearby moshav to see the biggest collection of cacti in Israel, in their resplendent spring flowering.

We then head east to Hulda Forest, where we can park the car and take a short hike (or ride bicycles if arranged in advance).

Hulda was established in 1905, one of the first lands to be purchased by KKL, and a farm for training workers was founded next to Herzl’s House. (The house of Benjamin Zeev Herzl, who prophesied that there would be a Jewish homeland in Israel, is currently undergoing renovations, and there is an exhibition of artefacts and a movie).

The fighting of 1929 claimed the lives of Efraim Czisik an his sister Sara, and there is a memorial to them and other fallen fighers, created by the sculptress Batya Lishansky. In 1931 a new group of settlers started rebuilding the site, and the farm and forest served as a training base for the Haganah and a base for the fighters in one of the most fierce battles of the period – over the road to Jerusalem. These fighters also managed to lay the beginning of a water line to the besieged city. Hulda was eventually moved to a different site.

The sites in the area are continually being updated, and we can visit several sites from the attempts to break the siege on Jerusalem, such as Bab el Wad (the Gate to the Valley), where the rusted remains of military vehicles of the period were left as a reminder, and Latroun, which was a Jordanian outpost and the scene of several bloody battles.

We then turn east to the ancient Jewish settlement of Kfar Uriah. Founded in 1912, it was destroyed during the War of Independence and resettled only after the war. We can see the yard of the Ben-Zion settlers, among them such mythological figures as A.D. Gordon and and Yitzhak Tabenkin.

And on in a northeasterly direction, to Mitzpe Harel (Rabin Park), the base of the famed Harel Brigade, whose fighters managed to find their way from Jerusalem, which was completely cut off during the 1948 war, past the Jordanian legionnaires and down to the plain and to Hulda. The path they took was later to become the legendary “Burma Way”, through which they managed to smuggle arms and supplies to the beleaguered city.

Stopping for a view of the Latroun monastery and police station (and if you like, a relaxing pause at the Bedouin tent nearby), we make our way by car and on foot in the footsteps of the trailblazers of the Burma Way. Travelling through the shady forest, we stop at the spot where fighters from the Palmah-Harel Brigade met two jeeps travelling towards Jerusalem on the night of the 28 May 1948, the day the way to Jerusalem was forged.

Depending on the time available, we can stop at several observation points: Latroun,

the Burma Way and Bab el Wad observation points, where we can learn more about the battles and heroes of the period. We can then go on to the “Hill of Figs” where the trailblazers toiled to bring up supplies and arms, with the help of jeeps, mules and camels, and also on the backs of hundreds of volunteers. There are several memorials to various military units, including the Mahal – the Overseas Volunteers’ Unit, whose fighters battled alongside their Israeli brothers.

This tour provides some of the modern history of our fascinating country, stories from which have already become legends.


Service details

  • 77 US $ per Hour
  • Available Anytime
  • Duration: 12 Hour(s)
  • From 1 to 6 people

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