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A Story of Determination: I Climbed Masada

Life Lessons Learned Along the Way: A Story of Determination: I Climbed Masada


I have used this space to tell stories about who I am and to introduce you to our group. This one’s about me.

By Harvey R. Heller

Some months ago, when I last wrote in this space I was recovering from extensive foot surgery. I ended up with 4 screws in my left foot, 14 weeks of non-weight-bearing status, and many months of rehab. While I was able to continue with my day-to-day activities as a lawyer, physical activities were very limited. 

Prior to the surgery in April, I had made the decision to join my daughter and her family on a group trip to Israel this past December that was sponsored by Temple Israel here in Michigan. My decision to have the necessary foot surgery done in April was motivated by my desire to take part in this 12 day, very active trip that started in the Negev Desert for four days and proceeded throughout the country. This required, among other things, walking five to six miles each day on sometimes very uneven, rocky, and steep terrain. In addition to very moving visits to one historic site after another, celebrating life-cycle moments, making new friends, and enjoying wonderful local delicacies, there were many activities that required a decent amount of exertion. These included: camel riding, sand boarding, floating in the Dead Sea in 55 degree weather, going deep into underground caves for an archeological dig as well as discovery, rappelling down into a crater (I passed on that!), and my personal goal of climbing Masada.

Masada is an ancient fortification in the Judaean desert overlooking the Dead Sea. There are steep cliffs all around this isolated rock plateau. While one can ascend via cable car, my goal was to walk the roughly 1.7 miles on what is known as the “snake path.” It is a constant ascent up the roughly 1300 feet above the base on uneven ground.

I made it! I wasn’t first to the top amongst my fellow climbers and I wasn’t last. None of that mattered. My family climbed and I was able to join them and achieve a goal I had set before surgery.

When I started the climb, I got a bit breathless, which surprised me given my workout regimen. That quickly subsided and determination took over. Looking straight ahead (and periodically up to see how far I had yet to ascend), I enjoyed the company of my fellow climbers, even though a few of us were concentrating on our breathing patterns!

After about an hour I heard my daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren, who made it much faster than I, calling my name and providing encouraging cheers. This of course provided added energy to lift me to the top (in addition to several encouraging rabbis!).

I had a great medical team last April and tremendous help rehabbing my foot over the summer. In the end, it was up to me to make this happen; just like it’s up to us as lawyers to move the ball forward for our clients and help them achieve a desired result. 

Next adventure: The Canadian Rockies this September!

Our second article this month, Independent Insurance Agents Remain Agents of the Insured Despite Legislative Amendments, was written by Richard Mitchell.