February 7, 2012

Israel–Day Seven

Wednesday had been busy and exhausting – I forgot to mention also going to the Temple Mount and the Christian Quarter and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and King David’s Tomb and the room of the Last Supper. By the end of the day my head was ready to explode and I was full to bursting with the sound of Arie’s voice and all those facts and dates and geographic locations. I was sorely tempted to take a pass on Thursday’s tour and just explore Jerusalem on my own in blissful silence.
Whew, am I glad I didn’t! Thursday was the day we went to Masada which I think was my very favorite part of the tour.
It’s possible I learned about Masada in Sunday School but that was too long ago to even think about, and even if I did I wasn’t interested in history back then (some things don’t change) so I had no memory of it.  

Arie, our guide, told the story with such passion - and truly, he’s an amazing guide – so smart and so knowledgeable, but the amount of information he has is encyclopedic and exhausting and overwhelming. Nine days isn’t enough to hear it all.
Anyway, the tour of Masada was very emotional for me, mainly because of how personal it is for Arie and the obvious pride and admiration he has for what the Jewish people did in the face of such struggle.
Masada is the excavated ruins of a fortress where about a thousand Jews defended themselves against Roman occupation. They were vastly outnumbered and in the end they chose to die rather than be taken into slavery. The women and children were killed by the men (suicide is forbidden by Jewish law), then the last ten men drew lots to see who would kill the last nine and then kill himself.
It’s a story of courage, and of the cost and value of freedom. I had tears rolling down my cheeks as I listened and walked among the ruins.

Later we went to a spa at the Dead Sea where we had a delicious (albeit buffet) lunch and then some people (who’d thought to bring bathing suits – I wasn’t one of them) floated in the Dead Sea. 

For dinner that night my BFFs and I found another wonderful restaurant with great food, where a huge family (20-30 people) celebrated some major event with a singer (accompanied by her computer), while children played games and threw balls next to our table. When we asked the waitress if she could kindly ask someone to control the children she puffed up with purpose and went off happily to do just that. I think she’d been hoping someone would ask her to do that.


On the way back to the hotel we came across a small park with this tribute:

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