In the Path of Abraham: A Jewish, Christian, Muslim Experience of the Holy Land
September 5-11, 2011
We woke up this morning in Jerusalem. After an early breakfast, we drove to a spectacular view of the Mount of Olives. We were not the only ones travelling by tour bus that chose the early morning view. The was a whole herd of buses at the viewpoint and we climbed down joining other tourists. We drove down through the Judean desert to Masada, a mountain top fortress, built by King Herod over 2000 years ago. This was the site of the last stand of a group of Jewish zealots against the Romans. Their only choice was to be enslaved or killed by the Romans. They chose death by suicide as the Roman army approached the fortress after building a hill road to it with Jewish slaves, already captured.
The rocky desert is hauntingly beautiful but it seemed a rather austere place to be. There were huge water caverns dug out of the rock beneath the fortress. What little rain that fell in the desert was funneled by rain gutters cut into the rock so that it would run into these caverns. It was a great feat of engineering.
The heat was daunting. There were a group of tourists there from a cruise ship. One woman decided to wear minimal clothing to improve her tanning potential. She nearly passed out from heat prostration. Another passenger tried to cool her off with cold water bottles under protest from the insensible woman. As I watched others try to look after her, I was grateful for her kind friends watching out for her despite her resistance to their efforts.
We drove back up to Jerusalem in time to welcome the Sabbath at the Western Wall. It was quite a sight to see groups of men, dancing and singing in the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest and renewal with such joyful vigour. The members of our interfaith group were swept into the dancing on both the men's and women's side of the prayer space in front of the wall. Many people told me that this was one of the most moving experiences of the trip.