One summer I found myself sitting with many pilgrims atop Masada, the isolated fortress Herod the Great built in the Judean desert. Our guide told us the grisly history of the 960 Jewish rebels who committed suicide there after holding off the Roman army for three years at the end of the First Roman-Jewish War (66-73 AD). They knew they would die there, and that the Jews would be driven from their homeland once again.
Hillel spoke of his own journey. He had come to Israel in the 1960s, just for a few weeks. Before returning to the U.S. he visited Masada. He noted an inscription left on the rocks by one of those ancient warriors, perhaps in the last hours of his life. It was this inscription, written in 73 AD, that touched Hillel’s heart so much that he resolved to return to Israel and spend his life aiding the survivors of the holocaust in building a Jewish homeland. He invited us to sit quietly on those rocks, letting the desert sun seep into our bones, and ponder which scripture they may have inscribed for an unseen generation―Hillel’s generation― to someday find. Of course, it was Ezekiel 37, today’s first reading:Oh my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel.
For Christians, the fullness of the meaning of Ezekiel’s prophecy is the resurrection of Jesus from his own rock-hewn tomb. For Jews, that resurrection is the modern state of Israel. But the dry bones of exile will never come fully to life until all can live in peace in the land God gave. What promise of resurrection are you giving your life to help fulfill?