Wheelchair-bound Israelis take to new heights at the top of Masada

About 80 people partook in the event, some of whom were seeing the monument for the first time in their lives.

A group of wheelchair-bound Israelis visits Masada, December 2017 (photo credit: COURTESY YAD SARAH)
A group of wheelchair-bound Israelis visits Masada, December 2017
(photo credit: COURTESY YAD SARAH)
Thirty adults in wheelchairs from around the country had the unforgettable experience this week of reaching the top of Masada, thanks to the Yad Sarah and Mangishei Derech organizations. Ten “Nehonit” vans, which are designed to transport wheelchairs, took them one after the other to the entrance of the national site.
Each participant was accompanied by an escort, totaling a team of about 80 people that took part in the trip, which was a complex logistics operation. During the entire experience, the escorts ensured that everything was safe for the travelers, that they rested in the shade and stayed hydrated.
Through its more than 100 branches around the country, Yad Sarah offers many free services to the elderly, lonely, sick and disabled, while Mangishei Derech supplies certified tour guides to Yad Sarah for their monthly organized tours for people in wheelchairs. For most of these participants, it was the first time they had been on Masada overlooking the Dead Sea and the Judean Desert.
Yad Sarah Hanukka trip to Masada (Yad Sarah)
The event was initiated by Kobi Bier and the tour was led by James Elgrod, a member of the tour guide group. For some of the group, it was the first time they had ever seen the ancient and historic fortification – from the ground level or above. “We chose to travel here on Hanukka because the holiday and Masada symbolize Jewish heroism,” said Bier. “And the participants symbolize, each one in their own way, everyday heroism in dealing with the daily hardships they encounter.”
Riding in the cable to the top of the mountain, the participants then held a candle-lighting ceremony.
“I’m 69 years old, sitting in a wheelchair. I came from Romania 43 years ago. I didn’t think I would ever get here,” said Melanie from Bat Yam.
Sharon and Nurit Shalom from Rishon Lezion, wheelchair- bound sisters in their 50s, arrived at the historic site for the first time. “It’s wonderful and amazing. I enjoy it so much,” said Sharon, while her sister added, “I never thought I would make it here.”
“I was here in 1959,” said Esther Sheinfeld of Jerusalem. “It was so different then. I couldn’t imagine such a trip now.”
“I enjoy all the [Yad Sarah] trips and the good atmosphere."
I recommend young people to participate in Yad Sarah tours,” said 28-year-old Uri Schreiber of Ra’anana.
“I’ve brought quite a few groups to Masada, but this time it was something special... It was important to me that people in wheelchairs also experience what any tourist can see. The participants will surely carry this experience with them for the rest of their lives,” said Elgrod.