What I did this weekend

The last few weeks have been very busy and somewhat disorienting and we’re not done yet. The back rooms upstairs are still in disarray and I am waiting for the day when I get up and tell myself that I am ready to start working on them. Today’s not it.

But this past shabbat, we took a real break. One of the big advantages of living in Israel is that you can get into your car and drive two or three hours and be in an entirely different world! On Friday morning, we drove two hours and were in the wilderness of Judea, along the Dead Sea, turning into the parking lot at Masada.

I had been to Masada at least four times before, but this was the first time that I ascended on the snake path. We were with a group of people all of whom were climbing. It was a warm, very windy , very sunny day. The path was long and winding (hence the name “snake path”). Much of the path has been widened and improved to accommodate tourists with steep inclines having been replaced by very steep steps. I am not certain that that constituted an improvement, because from the sound of my breathing, it seemed much harder to climb the steps than to climb the inclines. The walking itself wasn’t difficult– it was the breathing part- which I consider essential for continued good health (stop breathing and you are pretty much out of the game). Several times I stopped and rested and checked my pulse (the pulse was doing fine- registering aerobic activity, but not startling numbers) and drank some water. I had been fairly self-conscious about my heavy breathing (had I brought along a recording device, I am almost certain I could have sold the sound track for use in a stag film), but as I rested, I could hear the approach of people much younger than I as they panted their way up the mountain.

At a certain point, probably less than halfway up, I thought, “the is probably the last time I will be able to do this.” That thought was followed by a second, “I never want to do this again,” which in turn was followed by the pervading feeling “what am I doing here in the first place!”

I tried to tell myself that the view was gorgeous (it was.) I am awed by the desert and by the Dead Sea in the distance. But the truth is, that from the top, easily reached by cable car, one can see the same view without the huffing and puffing sounds.

But the bottom line is that I did it, and in a very short time, I was feeling fine.

The improvements made to the site are stunning! Many of the buildings have been restored, all the time preserving the original areas of the construction and having them marked as such. The explanatory signs in Hebrew and English and sketches of the buildings as they looked originally were very helpful in making this visit unique and memorable.

We returned from our visit to Masada and for shabbat, we stayed at a youth hostel just at the foot of Masada with a group of friends. It was lovely. The building was fairly new and the architecture and planning of the space was beautiful. There was a peace and serenity that was exactly what we needed. It was the most pleasant, relaxing shabbat we’ve had in a very long time.

And just as we approached home, we were blessed with a long awaited rain!

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