The first time I visited Israel I was shocked by many things. Most disturbing was the narrative of Masada – the story of Jews in the 1st century A.D. who holed up on a mountain top while battling Rome’s Tenth Legion and committed what was essentially mass suicide rather than surrender or compromise their religion. I attended Jewish Day School until the age of eight, and Sunday school until the age of 18, but somehow hadn’t encountered this story before.
In late March, while attending a wonderful three-day J Street conference (titled “Making History”), I heard similar narratives—some just as disturbing. In particular, Deputy Ambassador of Israel Barukh Binah used his time as a guest speaker to not only attack J Street and Zionist writer and journalist Peter Beinart–whose new book is The Crisis of Zionism–but to provide a worldview closely resembling the Masada story.