The story of Masada and the Zealots’ battle was one I had been hearing for years and years. In religious school we studied the time period and all of my teachers were sure to share their experiences. My parents constantly commented on the grandeur of the landmark and how important visiting Masada was to them. This being said, climbing Masada and finally being witness to where such a remarkable story occurred was one of the things I was most looking forward to for my first time in Israel. I wanted impact, to feel the pride for the Jewish people who fended off the Romans.
I climbed the ramp in anticipation of this moment, this feeling I seemed to crave so much but I was not prepared for the disappointment that came crashing down on me as I made it to the top. The beauty of the Dead Sea and the sunrise were not completely lost on me but they nearly seemed trivial. I sat with my fellow group 9ers and tried to soak it all in. It may have been the exhaustion from waking up at 3:45 in the morning or the heat that accompanied the rising sun but the impact of Masada seemed unimportant and I tossed aside all previous perceptions.
At the end of the day, I was staring at a bunch of ruins and rocks that had absolutely no meaning to me. I finished the tour halfheartedly and made my way down the snake path upset that I had been so hyped for nothing. That night, I called my mom and shared my distressing news. What had I done wrong, I asked her, so that I was unable to feel anything? It came as a surprise to find that my mom had felt the same way thirty years ago, on her trip to Israel. “Give it time”, she told me, so I hung up unconvinced but ready to think.
I finally realized that what made Masada so special wasn’t the size of the fortress or the preservation of ruins but the fact that such a small group of Jews were so passionate that they chose to fight and end their lives in the name of Judaism. It only seemed appropriate that we made the trek as a group, as a mishpacha, for it allowed me to understand Masada in a way I could not have found possible prior to my trip to Israel.
To each and every person, Masada has a different meaning but I found that the most meaningful and memorable part of the experience was not the fortress or story itself, but the pride we all take in being Jewish and being part of a series of beliefs and traditions that have lasted for centuries. With this realization I opened my eyes to the true beauty of Masada, the beauty that lies beneath the surface.
by Erin Dlott
Group 9 Participant