I thought I would start an occasional series of posts in which I write about memories of various places in Israel. It will be lovely if you want to some of your own experiences of each place in the comments.
I’ll start with Masada, partly because it was the first landmark of significance I visited in Israel. It was the beginning of September 2006, the Hezbollah war had just ended and I was in Israel for the first time.
The itinerary for our tour had, strangely, scheduled a crack-of-dawn visit to Masada the morning after a late-night, open-air party that included a free bar and a dance-floor. It’s fair to say that I took enthusiastic, thirsty advantage of the free drinks. How lashed did I get? Put it this way, I attempted to dance at one point – always a bad sign.
I was already well lubricated at this point:
When we staggered back to the hotel just after midnight, a tour guide reminded me that she would be knocking on my door around 4am so we could get to Masada before sun-rise. Brimful of drunken optimism, I told her this would not be a problem. I fell asleep the moment my head hit the pillow.
As I became aware of a the sound of someone knocking on my door what felt like just moments later, I cursed to myself and thought: this Masada place had better be good. We took the cable car up to the top. Many of us were so tired and hungover that the significance of the place rather passed us all by. As we stood waiting for the sun to rise over Jordan, one magnificent but exhausted Russian Jewess whispered in my ear: “No wonder they all killed themselves.” That evening over dinner, my friend Justin – a lovely Aussie Israeli – said to me in his best sardonic tone: “I’m, like, totally defeated by this morning.”
I returned to Masada in 2007. This time I arrived at a more sensible hour, and I was entirely bright and healthy. Ali, a wonderful Bedouin tour guide who I’d booked to show Chris and I round the country for a few days, gave us an informative tour of the place. Though it was almost unbearably hot, I felt so moved to be amid such rich Jewish history.
As we drove towards Jerusalem afterwards, Ali and I discussed Masada and the present day politics of Israel. At one point he said to me: “You’re more Israeli than most Israelis, my friend!” It was my birthday and it really felt like it, too.
The third time I went to Masada was in 2010, as part of the Once In A Lifetime trip. During this tour we were taken to one of the corners of the fortress where, if you shout, your voice will echo over and over around the hills nearby. We all chose different things to shout. I shouted: “Oy Va Goy!” I like to think it is still echoing around those sandy hills, mingling with the war cries of the Masada zealots, and entertaining the ibex goats.
Anyway, over to you. What are your memories of and thoughts about Masada? Before I close, here is a photo of some IDF planes flying over Masada, which must never fall again!