Daily Archives: 2015-01-31

Following the Beaten Path: Part 5 – Yodfat instead of Masada

My friend, Israeli writer and public intellectual Yuval Ben-Ami set off to see what it is like to re-examine his country′s main tourist attractions with a critical native eye (all posts here), and I decided to virtually follow his path.  In my blog posts I share my memories on what it was like visiting those places as an expat in Israel. This is how Yuval describes his idea, and here I describe mine (which is also Part 1 of my journey – the Western Wall). I have followed Yuval to the Baha′i Gardens (Yuval′s post and mine) and Nazareth (Yuval′s and mine), and the Sea of Galilee (Yuval′s and mine. Although his journeys have a different sequence, a recent reading made me return to his text about Masada, but this time it wasn′t easy to follow him.

Several people sang praises to the sunrise view of the fortress of Masada and told me it was a must. When I complained that I found it difficult to reach, people said there were buses or that I should look for company on Couchsurfing. In May 2010 it looked like I found company, but in the end the trip was cancelled. I visited Israel two more times and never reached Masada. Oh well. After all, I have seen a desert sunrise on Mount Sinai in Egypt, at Beerot campsite, and in Sde Boker. Yuval suggested that in parallel to his post on opera in Masada I write about hitchhiking in the Negev or something of that sort. I was hesitant. But today another Israeli writer gave me a new idea. I had never given the story of Masada much thought, so I almost skipped what Yuval wrote about Josephus Flavius and the Jewish revolt against the Romans, which, the story goes, ended in a mass suicide. Ellis Shuman, who I exchanged Twitter follows with recently, elaborated on the story and decided to post his old article on Twitter the other day, so I noticed and read it. Yuval writes:

Masada is about imagining. Don’t limit yourselves to one version of the tale or notions of scale and proportion, time and space that are not your own. Make your own Masada. Herod saw a dramatic geological formation and turned it into a palace, the rebels saw a palace and turned it into a fortress. Later came monks who saw a ruined fortress and turned it into a monastery. Finally, Israelis came and turned it into a symbol: a tourist attraction, an excavation site, a McDonald’s, an opera venue.

Ellis Shuman writes:

Josephus modeled much of the Masada legend on his own personal adventures. The story of the mass suicide, of rebels fighting against the Roman Empire and preferring death to enslavement, all were experienced by Josephus at the siege of Yodfat in the Galilee.

I must admit I have read very little about Masada and never been there, but hey, I′ve been to Yodfat! Continue reading