Pres. Trump Should Not Have Cancelled His Masada Trip

Sarah E. Bond has a nice article in Forbes this week about Donald Trump’s decision to skip Masada during his visit to Israel and the West Bank. In it, my colleague discusses the reasons President Trump should have gone to visit the famed hilltop fortress. While it once served as an opulent southern hideaway for the tyrannical Herod the Great, well-removed from the established Judean capital of Jerusalem, Masada is best remembered for its role in the Great Jewish Revolt against Rome (66-73 CE), and concepts of honor, loyalty, and the Jewish history of perseverance in the face of oppression.

But the president didn’t go.

Mr. Trump cancelled his visit to Masada after he was informed that he wouldn’t be allowed to land his helicopter on the over two-millennia-old archaeological ruins atop the mountain.

Thus, while there are many reasons the president should have visited Masada, there are also plenty of reasons the president should not have cancelled his visit–political reasons, symbolic reasons, and reasons that give us a glimpse into the mindset of our 45th president.

Masada Snake Path

Masada’s Snake Path can be seen below the cables of the Masada cable car, both of which lead to the Visitor Center at the foot of the mountain.

The first reason is simple: it’s Masada. From the Visitor Center, you either walk the Snake Path or take the cable car to the top. For two millennia, Christian and Jewish pilgrims, tourists, and soldiers have made the arduous journey up the mountain to visit this monument to perseverance. Tourists do it. Soldiers do it. Staff members do it. President Trump should do it like everyone else, including Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

However, when President Trump was told he couldn’t land his helicopter on the famed archaeological remains in order to avoid the heat and sweat of the journey, he cancelled the visit. The fact that Donald Trump cancelled says a lot about how he views himself as opposed to literally everyone else on earth, including other U.S. Presidents.

Second, if riding the cable car is too much work for President Trump, then he wouldn’t be able to see the site anyway. The top of the plateau is massive–over 1.6 million sq. ft., or 36.78 acres! Furthermore, many of the key components of Masada lie on the perimeter of the top of the mountain–with some even carved into the side of the mountain–and these are accessible only by lengthy, rather precarious staircases. Any tourist who has visited Masada knows this. Only those in relatively good shape and possessing strong legs and great balance are able to descend into Herod’s hanging palace. You simply cannot experience Herod’s resplendent extravagance if you’re not willing and able to put in the effort. Even via the cable car, visiting the mountaintop Masada fortress requires some sweat and getting dirty–two things the president loathes and typically lets others do for him.

Masada

The mountain of Masada from the east/Dead Sea. Photo by: gaspa, Creative Commons.

Third, the entire ordeal of President Trump’s cancellation of Masada tells us a lot about how he views the relationship between effort and reward. Like many other things in his life, President Trump wanted credit for the difficult journey, but insisted upon a means of getting there not available to everyone else. (And no, the Russians did not build the cableway; it was built by two Swiss companies.)

President Trump wanted credit for reaching the top of the mountain, but needed more help getting there than others who are required to work for their achievements. And when he couldn’t take the easy route, he quit.

Finally, it is quite telling that when the president was told he could not ascend Masada–a monument to resistance–via helicopter, he backed down. This tells us something. When faced with strong resistance, Donald Trump backs down, because taking on the resistance requires discipline, patience, and persistent focus and effort–all clubs the president has repeatedly demonstrated he does not carry in his bag.

President Trump did a great many other things on his trip to Israel. But sometimes it’s the things you don’t do that say the most about you. And our president has shown us repeatedly that while everyone else must work hard for what they achieve, he will take a shortcut whenever he can. And when he is told he must work like everyone else, he quits.

Masada

The top of Masada, looking south. Photo by: Godot13.

Masada is about perseverance, honor, resistance, and hard work. It’s about being willing to die for what you believe in. And in the end, perhaps it is best that President Trump didn’t visit Masada. This mountain has already experienced one paranoid, conspiracy-laden hegemon, who achieved his position with the help of a foreign power and by agreeing to use his government to pursue their interests. Perhaps it’s best we remember Masada for those who have made the effort and the sacrifice, and not for those who fled when they didn’t get their way.

 

 

 

 

Robert Cargill to lecture at UCLA on The Cities that Built the Bible

Cover of The Cities that Built the Bible by Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.I’ll be lecturing at UCLA on Thursday evening, April 14, 2016 on my new book, THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE (HarperOne).

The lecture is sponsored by the UCLA Center for the Study of Religion, and co-sponsored by the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies and UCLA Dept. of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures.

Information on the lecture is here:

TITLE: “Cities that Built the Bible”
LECTURER: Robert R. Cargill, University of Iowa
DATE: Thursday, April 14, 2016
LOCATION: Royce Hall, RM 314, UCLA Campus
TIME: 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
DESCRIPTION: The Cities That Built the Bible is a magnificent tour through fourteen cities: the cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos, Ugarit, Nineveh, Babylon, Megiddo, Athens, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Qumran, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Rome. Along the way, Cargill includes photos of artifacts, dig sites, ruins, and relics, taking readers on a far-reaching journey from the Grotto of the Nativity to the battlegrounds of Megiddo, from the towering Acropolis of Athens to the caves near Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.

RSVP: Email: csr@humnet.ucla.edu
UCLA Center for the Study of Religion
376B Humanities Building | Los Angeles, CA 90095-1511
Phone: 310-206-8799

Robert R. Cargill to speak at UCLA on THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE, April 14, 2016.

 

Personal reflection on Palestinians from THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE

In my new book, THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE, I not only tell the story of how we got the Bible we have today by telling the story of key cities that contributed to its formation, but I also offer many personal stories, discoveries, and reflections on my travels to these important cities.

Here is my reflection on the Palestinian people following a rather eventful dinner in Bethlehem.

“I then realized something profound: contrary to everything I had heard in the news about Palestinians, this Palestinian family was exactly like my family. We weren’t rich, we worked hard, we took pride in our family, we tried to stay away from hostile people and keep our kids out of gangs, we believed what we believed, we liked to eat, tell jokes, laugh, criticize the government, and enjoy the beauty we found around us. It was in Bethleḥem that I discovered the beauty of the Palestinian people.”
– Robert R. Cargill, pgs. 215-16

"I then realized something profound: contrary to everything I had heard in the news about Palestinians, this Palestinian family was exactly like my family. We weren’t rich, we worked hard, we took pride in our family, we tried to stay away from hostile people and keep our kids out of gangs, we believed what we believed, we liked to eat, tell jokes, laugh, criticize the government, and enjoy the beauty we found around us. It was in Bethlehem that I discovered the beauty of the Palestinian people." - Robert R. Cargill, pgs. 215-16

If you’d like to read more, pick up a copy of THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE wherever books are sold.

THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE is on sale today!

Cover of The Cities that Built the Bible by Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.Today is the day. The long-awaited arrival of THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE has come and the book is on sale today in fine bookstores everywhere.

PREORDERED BOOK DELIVERY
For those of you who preordered the book, your copy should arrive today.

READ A FREE PREVIEW
A free preview is available to read online here.

(RE-)TWEETING THE BOOK
You are welcome to tweet pictures of you with your copy of THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE to @xkv8r and I’ll retweet them.

FREE VIRTUAL TOURS
You can also download the free Google Earth virtual tours of the cities discussed in the book as well as other ancient cites pertaining to the Bible at the book’s digital page. The virtual tours are absolutely free, whether you buy the book or not.

BOOK TOUR
I’ll be lecturing about the book, reading selections from it, and signing copies around the country over the next few months. My schedule of events is available at bobcargill.com.

THANK YOU
Again, thank you for buying the book. In it, I tell the story of how we got the Bible we have today by telling the stories of the cities that contributed directly and indirectly to its composition and canonization. And the stories of these cities are woven into stories of my sometimes humorous and sometimes highly emotional adventures in the Holy Land.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT CITIES
You can read what people are saying about CITIES at the book’s website.

DIGITAL MEDIA
You can find more select quotes from the book like those below at the media site or at the CITIES Pinterest site.

 

So pick up your copy of THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE at a bookstore near you. And thank you again!

Robert Cargill to speak at Smithsonian tonight

I shall be lecturing on the “Cities of the Bible” for the Smithsonian Associates in Washington, DC on Wednesday, March 9, 2016 at 6:45 p.m. There will be a book signing to follow.

Speaker: Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D., University of Iowa Dept. of Classics and Religious Studies
Lecture: “Cities of the Bible”
Location: S. Dillon Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Dr SW, Washington DC (Metro: Smithsonian – Mall exit) Enter in the copper domed kiosk on Jefferson Drive between the “Castle” and the Freer Gallery of Art.
Date: Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Time: 6:45 pm
Cover of The Cities that Built the Bible by Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.Lecture Description:

From Athens to Jerusalem to Babylon, understanding the Bible means understanding the cities and cultures that produced it. The story of these centers—their history, their archaeology, their mysteries, and the people who inhabited and later excavated them—is also the story of the Bible itself.

Weaving together biblical archaeology, history, and personal experience, Robert Cargill, assistant professor of classics and religious studies at the University of Iowa, shares a host of surprising facts. For example there is no archaeological evidence for the biblical Exodus or the existence of Jesus—and no authentic literary evidence from the first century outside of the Bible that mentions Jesus.

Cargill leads a fascinating tour through cities in the Holy Land and beyond, including Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Qumran, Babylon, Athens, Alexandria, and Rome to reveal how their stories shed new light on the Bible. Cargill’s book The Cities that Built the Bible (HarperOne) is available for sale and signing.

If you are in the Washington, DC area, you can find ticket and lecture information here.

And be sure to preorder my book, The Cities that Built the Bible, today.

UPDATE: Apparently the event has sold out, but you can still contact (202) 633-3030 to get on the Wait List. Additional tickets may become available.

 

Read a chapter of “The Cities that Built the Bible” for free

Robert Cargill with Yuval Peleg (ז״ל) at Qumran in July, 2013.

Robert Cargill with Yuval Peleg (ז״ל) at Qumran in July, 2013.

My new book, The Cities that Built the Bible, won’t be released until March 15, 2016, but you can read an excerpt for free online today. In fact, you can read the complete text of Chapter 9: Qumran, including the end notes.

Click here to read part of the Introduction and Chapter 9: Qumran.

The book argues that we wouldn’t have the Bible we have today without these cities, which I explore in the book, and that a knowledge of the history and archaeology of these cities helps us better understand the text of the Bible.

Chapter 9 specifically looks at Khirbet Qumran, a city that is important because of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls–a discovery that sent shock waves through the academic and religious communities. I’ll explain what impact this discovery had, and along the way, highlight the fascinating backstory including the multiple legends, outlandish stories, eccentric characters, and a first-person account of the unbelievable cybercrime legal saga surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls.

So help yourself to a free excerpt of The Cities that Built the Bible. And remember that you can preorder the book today at citiesthatbuiltthebible.com.

Cover of The Cities that Built the Bible by Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.

Why I Wrote ‘The Cities that Built the Bible’

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum

On March 15, 2016, HarperCollins will be releasing my latest book, The Cities that Built the Bible. You can read more about the book and preorder your copy today at http://citiesthatbuiltthebible.com.

In a nutshell, I wrote the book because Nicole Kidman once asked me where the Bible came from, and I didn’t have a ready answer. So I spent the next decade researching the question. But instead of asking who wrote it, or how it became the holy word of God to believers, I wanted to demonstrate how various ancient political entities and international events–each represented by a particular city–contributed to the composition of the Bible.

I also wanted to look at the Israelite, Judahite, Jewish, and Christian responses to these events, as these reflections upon the successes and tragedies experienced by those who believed in the Hebrew God became some of the very texts preserved in the Bible.

Cover of The Cities that Built the Bible by Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.So join me as we travel through these ancient cities and we’ll explore their history, their archaeology, and how each of them drove the building of the Bible.

For both the religious and the non-religious, understanding the forces that shaped this most influential of books is possible on a guided tour through The Cities that Built the Bible.

Preorder today at http://citiesthatbuiltthebible.com.

 

 

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