By Ariel Cohen, Wellesley College, bus 6 Today I stand where I once stood eight years ago when I had my Bat Mitzvah. I stand where Israeli soldiers stand year after year to vow themselves to this country. I stand in the same place where my people took a firm and tragic stance against the Roman Empire two thousand years ago.
This experience is one of profound significance to me. But, as an Israel advocate, I often struggle to explain the significance of such experiences to others. When I try to start a dialogue about Israel, even within the Jewish community, opposition born of ignorance often prevents me from doing so. It is hard to explain an experience to those that have never had it. It is for this reason that the David Project Israel Uncovered trip has solidified my belief in the importance of bringing diverse communities to Israel. If the Jewish people on Masada had the support of non-Jewish allies, perhaps their end would not have been as traumatic.
Many Israel advocacy groups that I work with tend to solely focus on reaching out to Jews. And even if these groups do reach out to non-Jews, they usually focus on religious – especially evangelical Christian – groups. Furthermore, the vast majority of Israel advocacy groups do not allow for, or even encourage, interaction between different cultures. It is this precisely this focus on intersectionality that has made The David Project and Israel Uncovered so successful. The cross-cultural dialogue on this trip has catalyzed a more informed, diverse conversation on Israel.
Speaking to my non-Jewish peers on this trip has helped me to realize how impactful the visit to Masada was for them. Most of them found the experience to be emotional and meaningful. Additionally, many of them remarked upon the awe of the ruins and the history of the fortress. Furthermore, my non-Jewish peers agreed that Masada helped them to understand the Jewish connection to the land and the need for a Jewish state.
The Jewish people and the state of Israel cannot survive without the support of other communities. If anything is to be learned from this experience it is that a diverse, communal dialogue on Israel is not only meaningful and successful, but absolutely necessary. With The David Project, we are taking important steps to ensure that Masada will not fall again.