On February 17, I rolled out of bed at four in the morning prepared to climb Masada (it is important to note that this was by no means voluntarily, and that it ultimately occurred only after a roommate bribed me with coca-cola).
It was dark outside, and we huddled together to eat our genuine Israeli breakfast: hardboiled eggs, cucumber, tomato, bread. Well, as a lover of food, I gladly ate it all, well aware that on the mountain I would be unable to eat.
For those of you who have not learned about Masada, I will include a brief history here. It was initially created by Kind Herod as an escape palace, but was conquered by the Zealots shortly thereafter. It was a dynamic fortress, with a unique water system that relied on flash floods, cisterns, and aqueducts.
When The Romans began their great conquest, Masada was the last place to hold out. However, the people of Masada were destined to lose and ultimately chose suicide over prolonged torture. We had come to Masada to continue our study of Jewish history, traveling around the ruins as we learned more about the Zealots’ history.
We arrived at the mountain at about five, and I admit I immediately fell to the back of the trail line. I am certainly not an athletic person, and I truly did not enjoy the hike up this treacherous mountain. The highlight of this journey was at about the half way point, when the other stragglers and I stopped and screamed (off the side of the mountain, not at each other).
We got to the top as it began to rain, and I saw the poor weather as somewhat of an ill omen. The next few hours were not pleasant. We trudged around, I was hungry (in spite of my aforementioned breakfast), and more than anything wanted to continue on to the Dead Sea, our next destination (I had already spent way too long planning my Dead Sea mud facial).
As we were about to leave, my core teacher, Alan, had us gather at a secluded overlook of the valley below. So, I had a second opportunity to yell as loudly as possible off the side of a mountain. We shouted two things: Am Yisrael Chai, the nation of Israel is alive, and Shni Masada lo Tipul, Masada will not fall again. As we screamed, the mountains echoed in response.
I didn’t realize this immediately, but I was intensely appreciative for the experience I had. I remembered the fun I had with my core group as we tried to hide our food (there is a little man who walks around Masada ready to slap out tickets at the first sign of a crumb). I forgot about the hard hike up (well it was difficult for me but that hardly says much), and I remembered my first glimpse of the sun at the top. The rain was a distant memory, and the only thing I could think about was walking through the homes of people who had lived thousands of years ago.
I went to bed with the words Shni Massada lo Tipul ringing in my head. I know Masada will not fall again, because I look around me and see crowds of people who want nothing more than to learn more about their Jewish heritage. I know that I, with 49 other Milken students, will not let Massada fall again…
Featured photo by Samantha Simon.