the last adventure: MASADA.

Friday, April 27, 2012

This trip has consisted of so many different adventures.

Scavenger hunts through rainy Istanbul. Cappadocia caves. Races in Aphrodisias. Navigating bus routes in Istanbul. Multiple Hamam trips. Wadi "Bashing" in the Jordanian desert. Sunrise yoga at Dedetepe. Easter celebratings in Beit Sahour with Palestinian Christians. Bartering our way through the old city of Jerusalem. There have been way too many adventures to count. And this week, we had our last grand adventure...

An hour and a half bus trip out to the archeological site of Masada - the last Jewish stronghold during the Great Revolt of the Jews against the Romans in 66CE, a mere 4 years before the temple was destroyed and the Jews were defeated. A huge cliff off the southern coast of the Dead Sea, it is in pristine condition and brings in a multitude of tourists, Jews, and IDF officers (this is where they are sworn in when their service begins) every year. It was an incredible privilege to visit this site, let alone be able to visit this site the day after Israel celebrated it's independence day.

What makes this site so important? For once, it was housed the last group of rebels in the Jewish community that rebelled against the Romans. But it was how they ended that is important. For when the Romans were on the verge of taking the stronghold, planning the siege for the morning - that evening the 960 members of the Jewish community decided it would be better to take their own lives and the lives of their families than to live in shame and humiliant as Roman slaves.

Long story short, the men killed their women and children, then one another, and the last man fell on his own sword - leaving no one for the Romans to enslave.

"Then, having chosen by lot ten of their number to dispatch the rest, they laid themselves down each beside his prostrate wife and children, and, flinging their arms around them, offered their throats in readiness for the executants of the melancholy office. These, having unswervingly slaughtered all, ordained by the same rule of the lot for one another, that he on whom it fell should slay first the nine and then himself last of all;...They had died in the belief that they had not left a soul of them alive to fall into Roman hands; The Romans advanced to the assault...seeing none of the enemy but on all sides an awful solitude, and flames within and silence, they were at a loss to conjecture what had happened Here encountering the mass of slain, instead of exulting as over enemies, they admired the nobility of their resolve and the contempt of death display by so many in carrying it, unwavering, into execution."
(Josephus Flavius, The War of the Jews, VII, 395-406)

It's easy to see why so many in the Jewish community admired the decision of these people, and why it is such an important site for modern Israelis, who have achieved the dream of an independent state in the Promised Land, a long-shot dream for the community at Masada.

This National Park is home to an incredible amount of sites on top of this cliff, from a synagogue to two palaces, multiple water cisterns and even a Byzantine church. We got the whole afternoon to explore and make our way through the site, which was incredible.

My personal favorite was looking down on the Western side of the site, where you can see the remains of the ramp that the Romans spent two years building to finally break into the city. I stood there wondering what it was like for an individual living at Masada to watch their enemy slowly make their way to the city over the course of two years, wondering what will happen when they arrive and what they would do to their home and their families.

I couldn't have picked a better adventure for our last real outing to somewhere crazy this semester.

No really...that was the last one.

Because the countdown on my dashboard sits at exactly 4 days and 10 hours until I arrive back in California, because our last academic assignment (DEBATES YA'LL) is tomorrow, because we arrive at our final "home away from home" tonight, and because I'm actually beginning to start the transition to "Yeah-you-have-to-go-home-to-America-now."You mean I can't spend the rest of my life doing cool stuff like this anymore? I actually have to sit in a classroom and listen to a lecture as "school" rather than going out to see a sick archeological site and actually get to touch the rocks and walk on the ancient pathways? Where's the fun in that?!?

But alas, life has to go back to normal sometime...and that time begins in 4 short days.

Summer vacation, and all that comes with it, is literally - right around the corner...
America, I'm coming for you.

Respectfully submitted,