Our next day started early with a trip to Masada, a site outside of Jerusalem where Jewish rebels attacked the Romans before committing mass suicide rather than be taken prisoner. According to Doron, this story grew in popularity after the Holocaust when Jews were looking to dispel the stereotype that they were passive and soft. Most of us took a cable car to get to the top of the hill where most of the scenery was, but Doron, Rabbi Spilker, Batya, and Reine opted to climb the long path in triple-digit heat, a decision that I later overheard her call “one of the worst of my entire life.”
As a group we were able to walk through the ancient barracks and get of an idea of how they initially tried to defend themselves against the Roman siege. Beyond the story, the scenery itself was breathtaking, although the heat began to wear on most members of the group as the tour went on. Doron led us to the edge of a canyon that had the clearest echo I’ve ever heard, so as a group we opted to shout “L’Chaim,” “Shalom,” and of course “Mt. Zion Rocks” which was then broadcast back to us in a way that was somewhat spooky.
From there, we went to one of the most anticipated attactions: the dead sea. Of course, I’ve heard all the stories about the dead sea and how people float in it, but I had always received them with a bit of skepticism, figuring that you sort of float if you try really hard to. In reality, once you get in deep enough, the water yanks you and gives you no choice but to float. At the dead sea, they also offered mud which apparently would help soothe skin, so some members of the group covered themselves from head to toe in the stuff.
After that, we took the bus back to the hotel where most of us met with Rabbi Ron Kronish, director of the interreligious coordinating council. I was wiped out from the day so I missed the meeting, but hopefully someone can comment to fill us all in.