Bat Mitzvah in Masada- floating in the Dead Sea

Bat Mitzvah in Masada- floating in the Dead Sea
Kinneret, Israel

Kinneret, Israel

Jakki and I are to be given our Hebrew name today on top of Masada. Then I start to think on the bus “I don’t remember anyone telling me they were giving me a name”.Fortunately I have a SIM card, so on the bus I start looking for a Hebrew name for Cecilia my real name, ( also my grand mothers name). I come across several like Orly-Orit-Esther. But the one that speaks to me is Zoharah, which means brightness. We get to Masada fairly early. Masada has an incredible history and an unusual topography. It is a huge plateau sitting on steep cliff sides in the middle of a desert near the Dead Sea. The history breathing on this plateau with the most amazing view is that much more remarkable. The Jews were the first to live on Masada after the Maccabees drove the Greeks out of Israel about 100BC. About 960 Jews were left on top of Masada to fight the massive Roman army – about 15000 men and women. The Jews believed is was God’s will that they are to die. So a mass suicide was conducted. Only 2 women and 5 children survived by hiding in the cisterns. King Herod who ruled Judea, moved onto Masada quickly, he erected 2 palaces, a swimming pool, several bathhouses and most important a giant water system. He was a brutal ruler killing many innocent people. Yet he was a great architect and built beautiful cities. We must understand, all this was done 2000 years ago. These materials all were transported up the mountain. Being that I walked up Masada with 19 other women, we have a better understanding of how many people it must have taken to carry this arterial up a steep, windy, uneven almost 2 miles of uphill path. At least they could stop and enjoy the views as we did! We were grateful our bodies allowed us to climb Masada! To this day remnants of the buildings still remain, like the bathhouses, the storerooms, the water gate, parts of a residence. The last room to visit was the oldest synagogue in the world, where you still see parts of walls, pillars and benches. Now the Hebrew naming starts, they call upon Jakki first and ask her for her Hebrew name- oops she does not have one – they call me to be named and I’m sure glad I took some time to figure this out on the bus. It was a most moving event for me-to think I’m standing in this place with such a tumultuous history- with the wind whistling, the birds perched on the corner wall observing, and all my sisters sharing this moments with me. David recites a most beautiful prayer and the tears were just rolling, I got so emotional. Then Jakki was given a beautiful name Miriam Simcha. We were the only two in the group to be named- it makes sense we were the only two “conversos”. Then all my sisters start singing and dancing with us in a circle. Oh and to top it all, a few of us celebrate our bat mitzvah; this is definitely the much shorter version of the real ceremony! But who knows maybe someday I’ll actually participate in the whole event. Stacey and Staci both spoke so eloquently that there was not a dry eye in the synagogue… The way down was much easier, we took the tram and arrived at the restaurant and gift shop in a few minutes. After feeding ourselves we now get ready to swim in the Dead Sea. By the way the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth. It’s called the Dead Sea because nothing can survive in it, they’re is too much salt. The color is stunning and they’re so many different shapes of salt accumulation; as though you’re staring at different sculptures. We quickly changed into our bathing suits, lathered mud onto our skin and proceeded to float into the sea. Our group had the best swim caps of all. I must say we were colorful! We just couldn’t get enough of the floating. We hadn’t counted in the fact that salt in all the different orifices was not so easy to clean! Our next stop was a camel ride on top of hills overlooking the Jordanian mountains as the sun was setting. We all ride in tandem and had a blast. What a sight. Last but not least we topped the night with a fabulous kosher Mediterranean meal and concert with Tziona. Everyone was singing and dancing.

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