Masada to Jerusalem

Just before 5 a.m. yesterday, we began our ascent up the Roman Path to the ancient citadel 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 free rather than face capture and slavery by their pagan conquerors.

We made the steep climb in the pre-dawn hours, just barely making it in time to a stone platform in the ruins to watch the unforgettable sunrise projecting a haze across the receding blue waters of the Dead Sea. We then held our morning tefillah together with a surprising amount of ruach after a pre-dawn hike. It was a long way from the Ulam K’lalee at CDS, but the connection was palpable; if you missed the Shacharit livestream on Facebook, you can catch the recording here.

We learned how fresh water was carried to the fortress and stored in cisterns, saw mosaic floors from Herodian times, and discussed evidence that the Jews came to Masada to live and practice their Jewish faith, not to die. And we made it down the winding snake path before the very intense heat of the day to enjoy our accomplishment and breakfast at the bottom.

Here is a glimpse at our descent on fast-forward (don’t watch if you are afraid of heights!) …

After a challenging, but exhilarating morning, we headed to the nearby Ein Gedi resort for a float in the Dead Sea, some fun in the mineral-rich black mud, and a refreshing dip in the pool …

We then turned our bus–and hearts and minds–toward Jerusalem. On our first night here, we had a barbecue dinner at the Haas Promenade (the “Tayelet”), walking there with Naomi Shemer’s iconic “Jerusalem of Gold” playing in the background with the full splendor of the city spread out before us in the soft light of the Judean sunset. Those of us who have never been to Israel recited the Shehecheyanu together to commemorate this special occasion, and we begin our Old City exploration today!

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