Over a thousand years before Patrick Henry said "Give me liberty, or give me death," to the Virginia Convention, a stronghold of Jewish rebels were actually making this decision on a mountain top in the Judean Desert. While visiting Israel we had the opportunity to visit Masada, the location where these rebels decided they would rather die for their identity than serve as slaves to the Romans. Masada, the name of the location, was actually built as retreat for Herod the Great. This fortified area was built on top of a mountain and was an engineering marvel with a system of trenches to collect the rainwater for the Jewish people living there. Once the Romans had destroyed much of Israel they fought to destroy Masada. After a long battle, in which the Jewish rebels knew they would not win, they decided to choose death instead of slavery. Each man killed his own children and wife, and then a few remaining had their name written on a "lot," a broken piece of poetry, to decide which man would die last. This man was responsible for killing himself. Thousand of years later they discovered many of these "lots," with the names of the men written in Hebrew (see the picture of the lots that were found). They made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the identity of the Jewish people.
Today the nation of Israel considers this one of the bravest and most important acts in Jewish history. After riding the cable car up the mountain we immediately felt the importance of what happened in this location. We are constantly seeing movies and hearing tells and stories like what happened on that mountain top, but to be standing in the room where these men wrote their names on the lots, was incredible. It's unreal to be standing in the remains of a building over a thousand years old, especially one that contains such meaningful history.
After leaving Masada we spent the afternoon floating in the dead sea. Our tour guide told us we couldn't stand more than 15 minutes in the sea, we didn't believe him. After we had floated around and covered ourselves in the rejuvenating mud, our skin started to burn and we needed to get out! Much to our surprise (not to our guide's) we had spent about 15 minutes in the sea.
So far this trip has been everything we expected and so much more. We are experiencing things we never dreamed of experiencing, and learning more than textbooks can ever teach us! We are learning more than then history of archeological sites, but what they mean to people and a nation. As our guide said "Let the ruins speak to you." I think we're starting to hear them loud and clear.