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Maccabiah USA Athletes Tour Historic Sites Through an Environmental Lens

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Written by Noah Friedman and Lauren Rub

On the fourth day of Israel Connect, Maccabi USA athletes took in two historical sites on Shabbat: the Dead Sea and Masada. 

The history could not be more contrasting. After a 90-minute bus ride to start the morning, the athletes found themselves floating in one of the most unique pools of water. They sat on, not in, the 34-percent saltwater of the Dead Sea. It’s the lowest point on Earth, more than 430 meters – equivalent to 1,412 feet below sea level. As they applied mud to help exfoliate their skin, these athletes looked out into the ranging valley and saw the country of Jordan to the east – less than 10 miles away. 

Despite its beauty, it is important to note the environmental impact that the Dead Sea possesses.

Open Golf participant Ellis Messian of San Diego is in Israel for the first time and understands that there is more to the Dead Sea than mud and relaxation.

“My kids or grandkids or future generations may not be able to see this, so it’s important for us to think of the conservation side,” Messian said.

After the special experience of levitating, the buses made their way south for about 45 miles through the uphill curves of the Judean Desert. The roads painted an epic picture of an aerial Dead Sea and arrived at Masada, a famed fortress. Its history traces back as far as the first century, when Jews and Romans collided in their first war to gain the established plot of land. 

From the top of Masada, one can see the state of the Dead Sea. Competitors thought about just how much the shoreline has receded throughout the years.

Open Golfer Mira Rubin, a native of Delray Beach, Fla., found that her environment is similar to that of the Dead Sea because of its heat and low elevation.

“For me, being under sea level isn’t much different,” Rubin said.  “I think it’s nice to be able to see two different elevations 45 minutes from each other.”

After seeing the sites, the teams returned to their home bases and prepared for a Havdalah service. Havdalah is the transition to a new week. 

And at the end of the day, it was easy to find topics of conversation after seeing such a natural landmark that is so quickly disappearing.

Noah Friedman is a Los Angeles native and graduated from Arizona State University. Follow him on Twitter (@NoahFriedman_), Facebook ( and

Lauren Rub is a Miami native and recent graduate of Syracuse University. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter (@LaurenRub), and

Join us at the 2025 Maccabiah in Israel (July 1-22, 2025)
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