Our cruise ship made its next stop in the precarious and intriguing city of Ashdod, Israel—a place known for its turbulent history, including suicide bombings and its role as a major military cargo port connected to the rocket-battered Gaza strip. However, Ashdod is also a city with ancient roots, mentioned in the Bible and bearing remnants of Canaanite and Philistine civilizations. It was in this remarkable city that my friend Ashley and I embarked on a journey to the world-famous Dead Sea, seeking the healing powers of its mud and the legendary buoyancy of its waters.

Descending towards the Dead Sea, we felt the pressure in our ears, much like the sensation during a plane’s descent. It was a unique experience, a literal descent to the lowest point on Earth. The Dead Sea, renowned for its high salt content, is a natural health spa devoid of marine life. Face-down swimming or splashing is strictly prohibited due to the potential harm it can cause to the eyes. As I cautiously entered the water, I immediately discovered the surreal sensation of effortlessly floating while resistance seemed nonexistent, and sinking was nearly impossible.

Immersing ourselves in the mineral-rich mud, we indulged in the therapeutic properties of the Dead Sea for hours, basking in the sun and allowing the natural elements to rejuvenate our bodies. After our invigorating experience, we showered and changed, then sought refuge at the lowest bar/restaurant in the world, where we savored the warmth of the Middle Eastern weather and reflected on our unique encounter with the Dead Sea.

Our ship would stay docked until the next day, and once back onboard after darkness fell, our curiosity led us to venture out again, this time opting for a local bus journey to Tel Aviv. Navigating the unfamiliar territory proved challenging, as English signage was scarce, and relying on nighttime public transportation added an element of adventure to our excursion. Eventually, we arrived in Tel Aviv, strolling through the city and eventually finding ourselves at SuraMare, a rooftop bar offering breathtaking views of the Tel Aviv skyline. Throughout our journey, English was rarely spoken, and the absence of familiarity heightened the sense of exploration. We encountered locals carrying rifles on their backs, a reminder of the complexities of the region. The city grew increasingly enigmatic as the night progressed, adding a touch of intensity to our experience. When we returned to the ship late at night or rather early in the morning, the dock and ship guards seemed surprised to see us out and about. Yet, despite the challenges, we agreed that the excitement and adventure were well worth it, and we were grateful to have embarked on this memorable trip.

Israel is a country of contrasts, where history and modernity intertwine, offering travelers a plethora of unique experiences. From the fascinating city of Ashdod, filled with ancient tales, to the otherworldly serenity of the Dead Sea, and the vibrant energy of Tel Aviv, this captivating destination captivates visitors with its rich heritage and natural wonders.

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