Three months after their rescue in October from the very bowels of the Earth, more than two dozen Chilean miners received an energy boost at the top of a mountain located in the lowest place on the planet.
Arriving midday at the top of the windswept Judean desert fortress of Masada, they were greeted by park director Eitan Campbell and Chabad-Lubavitch of the Dead Sea director Rabbi Shimon Elharar and his assistant, Rabbi Tzachi Francis.
The stop, one of more than a dozen planned for the miners by Israel’s Tourism Ministry, proved to be one of the most emotional moments on their week-long tour, for everyone involved.
“What a privilege, to see this walking miracle before our very eyes,” commented Elharar, who serves as rabbi to this national park in Israel’s Negev Desert. “The entire world knows their story, how they were buried for weeks. They had absolutely zero chance of coming out alive, and yet here they are.”
The men were honored at a special ceremony in which Elharar chanted a verse from Psalm 113: “He raises up the poor out of the dust, and lifts up the needy out of the dunghill.”
Israel’s Ministry of Tourism sponsored the miners’ tour, which began Feb. 23 and is expected to extend to March 2.
In order to avoid triggering any trauma connected with having spent more than two months underground, none of the tour sites on the itinerary included tunnels or caves.
The men were trapped after an August 5, 2010 cave-in at the San Jose copper-gold mine buried them beneath 700 meters of rock for 69 days.
The rabbi presented Raul Bustos, leader of the group, with a special memento of the occasion, one of the quills with which ritual scribe Rabbi Shai Abramovich has been writing a Torah scroll in a special chamber in the mountaintop’s ancient synagogue.
“Throughout the generations, the People of Israel have always lived in mortal danger,” Elharar explained. “The thing that kept us alive was our holy book, the Torah. It was of this that I was reminded when I saw their story on the news; hence my decision to present them with the quill used for writing the scroll.
“The Torah contains the seven basic commandments for the entire world, and therefore also carries great significance for non-Jews,” he added. “It is my hope that this gift will give the miners strength to continue on in this world.”
One of the miners threw his arms around the rabbi, hugging him in thanks for the gift. The miners said the item would be displayed in a special exhibit of their visit to the Holy Land, in a new museum currently being built to commemorate their ordeal underground.