Tonight we have dust from Masada on our shoes, and salt from the Dead Sea in our hair. We are a model for the reverse of the trekking we did today, and we feel it.
We woke early for departure to Masada, which holds a wealth of meaning for various Jewish and Zionist camps. Settlers moved up to Masada to engage with the farsimon trade, a depilatory and perfume agent that was very rare and grew in nearby Ein Gedi. Herod built up there to engage in the trade and made it the huge fortress that would shield the zealots years later. Usually we hear only the story of the zealots, and how they gave their lives so that the Romans would not take them as slaves. It has become a symbol for Israeli pride, the underdogs that would give their lives rather than fail in their mission. It used to be that units of the Israeli Army would climb Masada to hold their Bible in one hand and their gun in the other to be sworn in as soldier of Tzahal, but today they have changed that view. Today they go to places where their commanders have had successes, because today the Israeli army has known many successes and should go to a place that means victory rather than sacrifice.
While we were up on Masada, we took a moment for blessing a very special couple. Two days earlier, Larry and Sandra Serota celebrated their 35th anniversary, so up on Masada we took a moment for them to renew their vows. It was a beautiful moment, hearing the words each of them had written for each other on top of a beautiful mountain in a space that itself is a celebration of the past and a way to look forward toward a wonderful future.
After Masada, we make our way to Ein Gedi, the amazing nature preserve where David hid from Saul when Saul wanted to kill him (I Sam 23-24). We hiked up to the waterfalls and took a moment to refresh in this oasis in the desert before we went to the lowest place on earth.
At the Dead Sea, we relaxed in the thick water, and let the warmth and the minerals soothe us as we floated effortlessly in the super-salty sea. We rubbed mud on our skin, let the healing seep in, and marveled at how easy it is to float.
Today we had gone from one of the heights of Israel (Jerusalem), to a physical high point in Israel's history that is a spiritual low point considering how we feel about sacrifice, to the lowest point on earth that is a physical high point. It was a day filled with irony and wonder, and a long day that led to us hitting our mattresses hard that night.