Israel · Travel

John Deere in Massada

We went to Massada this weekend, a small happy carload of us, with two of the guys playing the Grumpy Smurf-Papa Smurf routine (“are we there yet?” “not yet, another 30 k’s”). The Dead Sea was interesting. A Communal syrupy very busy swimming area…I didn’t get to enjoy it as much because there were so many people.
But Massada was breathtaking. The history was so moving, so tragic and well recorded by Flavius that you could feel it in the walls, and in the Synagogue, in the gigantic water cistern…

Massada was the last holdout of Jewish zealots who were resisting bondage to and occupation by the Romans. 967 of them (men, women and children) held out in Massada, a steep plateau overlooking the Dead Sea and the location of Herod’s second Temple. They resisted the onslaught of the Romans, subsisting on large reserves of water in the huge cistern, years of corn supply and pigeon eggs for a few months, until the Romans burned down the main gate of Massada. They then drew lots and ten men were chosen to slay everyone. So the men, women and children lay next to one another and the ten slayers performed their duty, until one of the ten was elected to kill the remaining nine and take his own life.

Archeologists actually found the ten lots, shards of clay with the names of the ten men written in Hebrew…can you imagine? I took a photograph of the reproduction of the clay pieces in the spot they were found, and I was imagining how moving it must have been for the Israeli archeologists to find scrolls and inscriptions written in the same script that we now use in Israel…can you imagine your past speaking to you? I always thought of archeologists as discovering non-personal inscriptions, like hieroglyphics, the Rosetta Stone, things that don’t speak to you and once you find them you have to decipher them. But the main archeologist still had tears in his eyes, remember discovering a scroll that he could read, right there, from 73 AD…

On a more mundane note, we rode up the cable car and the driver flipped out when he saw my John Deere cap (gift from Steve Wheeler, as a joke because Beth and I had to mow the lawn diagonally with the John Deere tractor). He flipped and said ‘I noticed you walking in with your John Deere cap! I saw you! It is so great! John Deere!!!” And he kept repeating to everyone (mostly Philippinos on pilgrimage and a load of American tourists, and my two embarrassed friends) “John Deere! John Deere!!” raising his arms dramatically. It’s a nice cap, really, brushed cotton, with a nice sturdy visor, a frosted forest green and a classy white embroidered logo on the front, discreet but cool, you know. As we were arriving to the stop, he leans over and says “I’ll give you anything for it…well…I’ll give you any hat from the store, and anything else, and even a free ride down the mountain too if you want, but I would love your cap!”

I have a rule that if someone loves something I have much more than I do, (within reason of course) then I always try to give it to them and he was so enthusiastic for something I’ve worn twice in my life, that I decided to take him up on his offer. So i chose this really pretty orange and kakhi hat, and two postcards and the three of us got a free ride down the mountain. And then “Michel” and I took a photo together! It’s a really funny photo, him with John Deere and me with my little non-descript hat, both of us laughing hysterically. haha. I am still smiling thinking about it!

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