Defiance Travel Journal Day 7: Thursday, Jan. 3 2013, Masada, the Dead Sea, Jerusalem

Defiance Travel Journal Day 7: Thursday, Jan. 3 2013, Masada, the Dead Sea, Jerusalem

We woke up in the Bedouin tent at the crack of dawn to begin our longest day of activities. We hiked up the famous mountain of Masada, which is located in the desert along the Dead Sea. The story of Masada is extremely inspiring: the plateau of the mountain had been developed into a town and palace for King Herod, but when the Romans conquered Israel the Jews all of the country were forced into slavery or killed. The residents of Masada held their ground in their beautiful city and managed to outsmart the Roman soldiers. Finally, after years, the Romans built a ramp up the mountain to conquer Masada. The night before the Romans completed the ramp, the Jews of Masada decided to take their own lives instead of become subjected to the horrors of the Roman empire. The ruins of this legendary city are still intact and reveal so much about the Israeli, Jewish, and human spirits.

From Masada we headed to the nearby Dead Sea where we floated in the salty waters and exfoliated with the nutrient sand. The Dead Sea is the point of lowest elevation in the world, which is one of the reasons why the water is so salty. It is salty enough to cause you to float when you are in it, and it gets its name because no living creatures can live in such salty water. After our float we took our salty selves to Jerusalem, my favorite city in the world.

Jerusalem truly is the City of Gold. There is so much rich history and culture in this incredible place, and we finally arrived! Our first glimpse of the city was at  beautiful square overlooking the entire Jerusalem area right as the sun was setting. We were greeted by a group of native drummers and an amazing candle lighting celebration on top of the city to honor our presence in Jerusalem. Even though this welcome was incredible and I had been to Jerusalem before, in that moment overlooking the city I had a great sense of anticipation. I had been so excited to arrive in Jerusalem, but also felt humbled and the need to find honor in this city.

In that moment overlooking Jerusalem I realized that the true source of my connection to Israel and to Jerusalem extended far beyond my identity as a Jew. Steve, my father’s best friend who was killed in a car accident, is buried in Jerusalem. My namesake. The man whose name I carry, who I have heard about my entire life, whose existence I honor with my very own, is buried in Jerusalem. It was then that I felt a true sense of commitment not only to my Jewish community at large, but to his memory and his legacy. Knowing that I would be experiencing Steve’s city, the streets he walked on and the sites he saw, was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences I’ve had in my entire life.