Saturday, July 21, 2012


A tree grows             My partner agreed that we had to explore the Masada. While in Israel, we did.

“I’ve been here before,” I told her, as we stood atop the ramparts that faced the Dead Sea. “There’s Jordan,” I said, as I pointed to mountains on the other side of the narrow sea.

She and I studied the living quarters, the storage bins, the trail Roman soldiers and their Jewish slaves had etched on the side of the mountain when they sought to retake the fortress. Built by Herod almost 100 years before Jewish rebels overtook Romans stationed there,  the Masada stands as a symbol of defiance of oppressors.

Only a few of the approximately 1000 Jews who took refuge at Masada survived. Rather than become slaves to the Romans, they chose death. According to Masada: Desert Fortress Overlooking the Dead Sea Masada (Hebrew for fortress),

The defenders – almost one thousand men, women and children – led by Eleazar ben Ya’ir, decided to burn the fortress and end their own lives, rather than be taken alive...The Zealots cast lots to choose 10 men to kill the remainder. They then chose among themselves the one man who would kill the survivors. That last Jew then killed himself.
At the site, my partner and I paused to consider the men and women time had buried there. Then, pointing at the Dead Sea, I told my partner I had gone for a swim after my first tour of the high and dry Masada. “There’s a public entrance, a place to swim and shower. You have to get the Dead Sea salt and mud off of your skin,” I told her.
“I was about to do that,” I continued, “when I decided to return to the sea to grab a few small rocks for keepsakes.” I paused, staring at the clear blue sky, then lowering my gaze in an attempt to see the spot.
“Collected four stones,” I told her, “similar sized, small. I took them with me into the shower, then dried off and drove away. That’s when I noticed that one of the stones had a Hebrew letter on it.” I tried to remember. “Either a ‘g’ or a ‘y’.”
Quietly, I told her that the last group of men may have written their names on rocks like those. “Mine may have been one of them,” I said, as if talking about a piece of something sacred. Then we left.

The Jewish Virtual Library site [ibid] describes the final act of Jewish leaders on Masada this way:

In the area in front of the northern palace, eleven small ostraca were uncovered, each bearing a single name. One reads "ben Yai’r" and could be short for Eleazar ben Ya’ir, the commander of the fortress. It has been suggested that the other ten names are those of the men chosen by lot to kill the others and then themselves, as recounted by Josephus. [one of the few survivors!]

Would I return a third time? I feel drawn to do that, especially now, after the bus bombing in Bulgaria that Iran’s Ahmadinijad took pride in boasting about. I think about that sick man often, what he represents.

Then I think about Israel and our Jewish heritage, our remarkable resilience. That’s why the article below made me want to cheer. I may do just that on my third visit to Masada.

FRIDAY, JULY 20, 2012
(Video) A Two Thousand Year Old Baby Palm Tree: Yishai Up Close and Personal

Yishai Fleisher..
Eye on Zion..
20 July '12..

Yishai Fleisher heads south to visit the Arava Institute and the date palm they are growing from a 2,000 year old seed. The growth of this ancient seed against all odds surprised the scientists who nurtured it. Arava's Dr. Elaine Solowey describes the miraculous process of bringing the ancient seed back to life and growing it into a young tree.
Published on Jul 20, 2012 by ‪EyeOnZionTV

                              B. Koplen 7/21/12

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