“A voice cries out: In the Wilderness, prepare a way for the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley should be exalted and every mountain and hill should be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.” (Isaiah, Chapter 40: 3-5)
At 4:30 a.m. today, we began our ascent of Masada. It was here in the Judean desert that King Herod the Great erected his luxurious fortress. And it was here that a group of desperate Jews fought the Romans and then committed mass suicide so they could die as free men and women rather than face capture and slavery by their pagan conquerors.
We made the tough climb in the pre-dawn hours and then ascended to a stone platform in the ruins to watch the magic, unforgettable sunrise projecting a haze across the crystal blue waters of the Dead Sea. We talked about whether the story of the Jews atop Masada is one of heroism and what we might have done in their situation.
We then held our morning tefillah together in one of the oldest synagogues in Israel—a long way from the Ulam K’lalee at CDS, but the connection was palpable. We explored ancient cisterns and learned how fresh water was carried to the fortress. We shouted as a class to hear our “Masada Echo” reverberate through the desert valley. Our descent was along the winding and rocky Snake Path, and all of us felt a huge sense of accomplishment after successfully zigzagging our way down from the plateau in the intense heat.
After a tough, but exhilarating morning, we headed for the nearest desert oasis—Ein Gedi nature reserve—to view some wildlife (you can even see some ibex if you look closely at the photos) and to cool off in the beautiful waterfalls.
And then it was off to a nearby resort for a float in the Dead Sea, some fun in the mineral-rich black mud, and a dip in the pool afterward. Tomorrow we head north to visit with IDF soldiers guarding Israel’s and for water adventures—stay tuned!