Every tour has a necessary travel day. In this case we left Petra about 7:50 and drove to the Arava Border crossing to return to Israel. The drive was uneventful and we did not even make a rest stop. I think everyone was looking forward to swimming in the Red Sea,
The passage through the Jordanian is quick and easy (you pay the money they let you through). But the Israeli side involved a lengthy bag inspection. Several members of our group had to open their bags and the search was thorough. It might be frustrating but I appreciate the extreme care for safety and security, as well as the generally friendly people digging through our filthy clothes to check out water bottles filled with Sea of Galilee water.
The only event on the agenda today was a swim in the Red Sea at Coral Beach. This is on the National Park Pass so entrance was already paid. Snorkeling gear cost about $10 to rent. Some of the group snorkeled, the rest waded into the water in the one or two open swim areas. Several sat in the shade and read a book (my favors option at the beach). Despite a steady breeze it was very hot.
I usually stay with the group’s bags while they enjoy the Red Sea swim (and eat ice cream). This allowed me to have several conversations about the location of the Red Sea in the book of Exodus. The place we were at is not the Red Sea, it is the Gulf of Aqaba, which connects to the Red Sea. But the Hebrew Bible does not say Israel crossed the Red Sea, but rather then Sea of Reeds, only three days after being allowed to leave Egypt. It is not possible for the Red Sea on modern maps to be the Reed Sea from Exodus (and there are several possible locations for the Reed Sea in Egypt).
After a stop at Yotvata (the one with the cows) for lunch and a few supplies (I bought a package of dried figs), we drove straight to En Gedi. The En Gedi Kibbutz Hotel is a beautiful kibbutz turned hotel. The location is right next to the En Gedi Nature Park and the grounds of the hotel are a wild garden of plants and trees. Many in our group enjoyed the pool, and dinner was exceptional, and our second night they had a live jazz concert.
Tomorrow we will will visit several Negev desert sites, including at Masada and Arad, along with the traditional swim in the Dead Sea