What an amazing experience we had this morning. An early morning journey through the desert brought us past the Dead Sea and finally to Masada. Although I climbed Masada when I came to Israel as a 16 year old, a 45 minute walk, today we took the one minute cable car ride to the top.
Throughout our visit, our fabulous tour guide painted a picture of how Masada came to be and how it came to symbolize the strength and resolve of the Jewish people.
Masada was built by King Herod in approximately 25 BCE and the engineering was unbelievable. They built a Roman bath , an Olympic size swimming pool- 1500 feet up in the middle of a desert, and they stored enough food to last for years! We saw original plaster walls , covered with frescoes, mural paintings from almost 2000 years ago!
In 70 CE, Romans overtook Jerusalem and 972 people fled to Masada. Amazingly, the first thing the Jews did was to build a mikvah, a ritual bath, so that they could continue to fulfill the mitzvot (commandments).
The Romans wanted to make an example of these Jews and began a siege, with 10,000 warriors, which lasted somewhere between 3 months and 3 years. Finally, on Passover in the year 73 CE, the Romans completed the walkway they were building up to Masada. The Jews of Masada contemplated their options. If captured, they faced being forced to become slaves and break the laws of the Torah. If they attempted to fight, they would be slaughtered. In order to avoid giving the Romans the satisfaction, they chose to take their own lives.
It was humbling to stand in the footsteps of Jews who had so much pride and resolve, willing to lay down their lives to protect the honor of the Jewish people. Similarly, Israelis today are willing to lay down their lives to protect the state of Israel, which in turn allows the Jewish people a safe place to live as Jews, whatever that may look like. Masada - another one of many experiences that make me proud to be a Jew!