I had a distant cousin who was born in the Holy Land, and grew up with Moshe Dyan, the great Israeli military leader. Both of them were in the underground movement that was responsible for
getting the British out of the area, called Trans-Jordan prior to the formation of the modern State of Israel. My cousin, Chaim, was a leader of the Red Cross in Israel. He and his wife, Ziona, took Nancy and me around the country each of the two times we were there, so we got
a “local insider’s view”.
One day, very early in the morning, we left from our hotel in Jerusalem and headed down toward Masada, the mountain plateau where centuries ago a group of Jewish resistors (Zealots) committed suicide rather than submit to death or slavery at the hands of the advancing Roman Army.
Driving along the road, we passed an area where you can see caves in the distance, and Chaim told us those were the caves near where the Dead Sea Scrolls had been discovered. There is a special museum in Jerusalem, The Shrine of the Book, where the Scrolls are on display. Israelis who know Hebrew can read these ancient manuscripts on sight.
We continued on toward Masada, arriving well before the sun was high and hot in the desert. We got as far as the end of the cable car ride, then had to turn back because the rest of the trip to the top
of the mesa is reachable only by stairway, thus not wheelchair accessible.
To this day, members of the Jewish Defense Forces are inducted into military service in a ceremony performed in the ruins at Masada.
We returned toward Jerusalem using the same road, stopping off at Ein Geddi Kibbutz, which runs the visitor center for those wishing to bathe in the Dead Sea.
Leaving Nancy briefly in the company of several attendants, Chaim and I put on bathing suits, left the dressing area, and began the walk down to the sea. He had neglected to fully prepare
me, and I did not have sandals or slippers to protect my feet from the burning heat of the boardwalk you must take to reach the water.
We stopped by a huge bin full of black mud, and, using a shovel left for this purpose, proceeded to slather mud over one another- a protection from the searing rays of the sun. I would
have traded my left arm for my camera at that point, but alas, I did not have it, so there are no photographs.
Chaim and I entered the water and the feeling of it, of being there, defy description. I am not gifted enough to find the words to tell you what it meant to me to be there. It was the realization of a childhood dream.