Friday, November 01, 2002

Surprise, surprise: Unlike the World Bank, UNESCO has Israel on it’s map.
Yesterday Masada was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.

Reuters, as usual, managed to emphasize the downside: "If UNESCO is endorsing places where hundreds of fanatics killed themselves, then why not go to Jonestown as well?" said Nachman Ben-Yehuda of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, referring to a 1978 mass suicide by a doomsday cult in Guyana.

I think this bitter Ben-Yehuda person completely misses the point of Masada. The lesson of Masada, as I see it, is what NOT to do. It doesn’t elevate suicide, quite the contrary. It teaches Jews, coming from a world of pogroms and Holocaust, that there is another way. That it is possible for us Jews to stand up for ourselves and take hold of our destiny.

But I understand where he’s coming from, although I don’t accept where he’s taken it. This woman, interviewed on Masada yesterday, reflects the complex and paradoxical nature of the “Masada will not fall again” ethos: “If challenged, Israel will not commit suicide but will fight to the death”, said Avia Oann, 55, standing among the pillars. (the emphasis is mine).

The suicide story aside, Masada is an impressive place, well worth the trip. When I was young, it was regarded a matter of honor to climb up by foot, and we watched those old fogeys on the cable car with derision. I think I’ll be an old fogey next time I go, thank you very much.