Standing on Masada

By | Tagged: Israel

The REALITY Israel Experience is a unique leadership development opportunity for selected Teach For America corps members to spend 10 days exploring Israel’s education and social justice systems, gaining exposure to reality israeltop Israeli leaders and thinkers, and uncovering and recommitting to the values that drive their passion for public service. It is a program of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and the Samberg Family Foundation, in partnership with Teach For America and the ROI Community of young Jewish innovators.

I will admit it: I am not the best Jew. Bacon cheeseburgers are a personal favorite, I love a good New Orleans shrimp po boy, and I hate
. I also messed around a lot in Hebrew school and as a result only remember three things: 3 words of Hebrew, lessons about the Holocaust, and a lesson about Masada.

Masada, in particular, truly gripped me. It was a mystery why people would voluntarily kill themselves–and yet, in such tragedy we find honor and beauty. I could never wrap my mind around it, and when I saw the itinerary for Teach for America’s REALITY program, I became excited when I saw we would be seeing Masada. I was enthusiastic about the opportunity to look for answers and to gain a deeper understanding as to why this tragedy happened and what we could learn about it.

Once on the trip, my thought process changed. Speeding through the West Bank and across the Judean Desert, I began to wonder why we care about such a tragedy. After all, Masada is in the absolute middle of nowhere, and the events

happened almost 2000 years ago. And what separates my caring from anybody else’s–why should it matter to myself or anyone else that I care? It’s not as though Masada is a rallying cry for a movement.

In the past 17 years, the U.S. has been hit by bombings in Oklahoma City, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and several more devastating tornadoes. We see in these events the fragility of life and the beauty of the lives we lead. We need to understand and see the pain of others to fully appreciate our own lives. I do not write this as a pessimist seeing a failing in man, but rather simply see that in tragedy there is beauty and we as humans are complex enough to see the beauty and the darkness simultaneously and intertwined.

Posted on July 20, 2011

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