Inscribing the Jewish future on Masada

“By writing a Torah on Masada, we are continuing what the Romans wanted to stop 2,000 years ago,” said Rabbi Shimshon Israeli.

By ALAN ROSENBAUM
June 21, 2019 15:53
4 minute read.
Inscribing the Jewish future on Masada

CEO Russell F. Robinson and JNF Chief Israel Officer Eric Michaelson join Rabbi Eli Adler and students from the Gaza Envelope community of Halutza in welcoming the new Torah scroll dedicated to the nearby Kibbutz Kerem Shalom. . (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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It was nearly 2,000 years ago, high atop Masada, that a pivotal moment in Jewish history – one of perseverance,bravery, and commitment took place as the Jewish people fought against the might of the Roman army.


Today, Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF) has embarked on an electrifying, inspirational project to ensure an unbreakable link to
the past with the launch of its Be Inscribed initiative. With Be Inscribed, anyone in the world can now participate in the sacred
act of writing in a Torah scroll atop Masada and send a unique gift to a loved one – a beautiful certificate – signifying the Jewish
people’s connection to a thousands-year-old legacy.
The best part is you can participate in this initiative from the comfort of your own home!

 




Located on the exact site that once housed Masada’s Torah scrolls, a trained scribe commutes daily to Masada to write the
304,805 Hebrew letters that make up a Torah scroll. All standards are meticulously met, from the use of a quill with specially prepared ink to inscribing the text on parchment made from the skin of a kosher animal.

“By writing a Torah on Masada, we are continuing what the Romans wanted to stop 2,000 years ago,” said Rabbi Shimshon
Israeli, the scribe who works each day in the renovated synagogue housing the scrolls. “The Romans are no longer here, but we continue to write the Torah.”


JNF’s Be Inscribed initiative is an inclusive opportunity for everyone to participate in the writing of a Torah scroll. “Be Inscribed
enables everyone to take part in keeping the values of the Jewish people and the values on which the land of Israel was created alive and eternal,” said JNF Projects Coordinator Yoel Rosby. “On Masada, where it was thought the Jewish people was coming to an end, today we sit and scribe Torah scrolls that are literally the words with which we guide our people and ourselves throughout our lives.”
 
Completed scrolls are dedicated and donated to communities in Israel that need them most. Lisa Shakun, a member of JNF’s Gaza
Envelope Task Force, was in attendance when a Torah was completed at Masada, and presented and dedicated at Kerem Shalom, a kibbutz located near the border with Egypt and Gaza. In a festive and joyful atmosphere, hundreds attended the event singing and
dancing as they ushered the Torah into its new home.
 
“Kerem Shalom is located on the Gaza border and has been hit hard by rockets, so it was very powerful to see the excitement and joy during the dedication,” said JNF’s National Community Campaign co-Chair James Riola, who was at the dedication ceremony. “I
looked around the kibbutz and within 100 feet of where we were standing was a 30-foot wall. It struck me that on the other side of
the wall there was such violence, but on this side of the wall where. we had the Torah, everyone was so happy and excited.”
 
DURING THE Great Revolt in Jerusalem, the last of the Jews, rebelling against the Romans, fled to Masada, barricaded themselves, and made their desperate war of survival a symbol of the struggle for freedom.
 
In the year 73 CE, a long, bloody battle erupted between the Jewish people and the mighty Roman Empire who wanted to capture
them, convert them, and sell them into slavery. After a year of intense perseverance by the group of Jews on the cliff’s top, the Roman army breached the walls of the fortress. According to the historian Flavius Josephus, when the Roman troops entered
the fortress, they discovered that its defendants – 960 men, women, and children – had set all the buildings on fire, killing themselves rather than submitting to their enemies and a life of slavery.
 
In 1963, almost 2,000 years later, archaeologist Yigael Yadin and hundreds of volunteers from around the world conducted a full-scale excavation on top of Masada, uncovering and restoring many of the buildings as well as fragments of the Torah scrolls
which were buried by the Masada residents before they perished.


Masada became a symbol of courage for the young modern Jewish state as it too struggled for survival. Today, Masada, a UNESCO
World Heritage Site, is Israel’s second most visited tourist site with more than 1 million people - tourists and Israelis – visiting
annually.
 
In 2004, the Geniza, the room attached to the synagogue that once housed the Torah scrolls, was rebuilt. A Torah was placed in
the ark of the Geniza making the profound statement: “We are back.” In 2008, the Geniza was reconditioned so as to comfortably house a scribe behind a glass wall affording all visitors to Masada the opportunity to watch him at work. Today that scribe is
writing Torahs for Jewish National Fund’s Be Inscribed project. Torahs written in the exact same spot as was used thousands
of years ago.

Be Inscribed is an ideal gift for Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, engagement and wedding gifts, or to honor or commemorate a loved one.


Recipients receive an attractive certificate with the phrase that has been dedicated in their honor, along with a congratulatory message. “It is the holiest symbol of Judaism; you are giving someone an incredible gift,” said Shakun.
 
Be Inscribed prices begin at as little as $36 a letter and go on to $90 for a word, $360 for a verse, $540 for a paragraph, $1,800 for a
chapter, $3,600 for a weekly portion, $18,000 for a book, and $100,000 for a full Torah (taking nine months to complete).

For more information and to place an order, visit jnf.org/beinscribed or call 800-542-8733 (in the US). 


This article was written in cooperation with Jewish National Fund-USA.

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