The Essenes were an ascetic group of religious Jews that were believed to have stemmed from the Zadokite priests in 2nd century BCE. They were a minority in comparison to the Sadducees and the Pharisees, and lived a life of celibacy and poverty, dedicated to freeing themselves of earthly desires. However, if they did in fact live near the Dead Sea, then it could be argued that this ancient group of mystics had the creamiest, softest skin, of any sect of Jews in history. Just imagine the exfoliation, taking daily mud baths and facials in the hyper saline waters.
While in the past the Dead Sea has served as a refuge to King David, a health spa to Herod the Great, and as an essential ingredient to the incense of the second Temple, today it is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Israel. There are three unspoken obligations anyone who makes pilgrimage there must fulfill:
1. Take a large amount of mud. Rub the mud all over oneself. Find others who are doing the same. Take a picture. (After washing the mud off, it is custom for some to touch themselves exclaiming in disbelief how absolutely smooth they are).
2. Find a friend or likable stranger. Make a joke warning of the dangers of urination/ defecating into the body of water in question. Laugh at your cleverness.
3. Get a periodical of some sort. Lay back in the water while simultaneously looking at the periodical and maintaining a look of both comfort and nonchalance despite any back or neck support. Take a picture.
Indeed, the novelty of bathing in what is often referred to as ‘The Salt Sea’ ranks highly on the list of common pictures you might see from someone who went to Israel including: ‘Riding a camel’,‘Eating falafel’,‘Riding a camel while eating falafel’,‘Closing your eyes in silent devotion in front of the Western Wall’,‘Taking a picture with an Israeli soldier or someone with a rifle’,‘Hanging out and/or smoking hooka at an Israeli discotheque’ and finally ‘A picture with you and some other people wearing a hat and sunglasses in some part of the Israeli wilderness because most Birthright/USY/BBYO/NIFTY/Hadassah trips love taking you on hikes’.
If I forgot any, let me know in the comments below! And happy Israeli Independence Day to everyone!