Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined thousands of people who have penned letters in a Torah scroll commissioned by Chabad-Lubavitch of the Dead Sea in an ancient synagogue on Masada.

The synagogue, which dates back 2,000 years, was discovered more than 50 years ago by Yigal Yadin, the well-known Israeli archeologist, politician and second chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces. There, in the course of archeological digs, he found portions of the ancient documents collectively known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, including chapters of Deuteronomy and Ezekiel.

Rabbi Shimon Elharar, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of the Dead Sea, conceived the idea of having a ritual scribe write a Torah scroll at the synagogue. Together with Masada National Park director Eitan Campbell, his dream came to fruition.

The ancient synagogue atop the historic Judean Desert fortress is quite small. The room where the new scroll is being written sits directly over the burial place of the ancient scrolls, where they are now preserved.

Rabbi and scribe Shai Abramovich works in a special, glass-enclosed chamber within the synagogue. It both facilitates climate-controlled protection for the scrolls and offers a ready viewing space for tourists, which number about 1 million a year.

“It’s a little like working in an aquarium,” said Elharar of the scribe. “You need to have a calm nature.”

Netanyahu came to the historic site as part of the filming of a promotional video by the Israel Ministry of Tourism. Accompanied by Elharar and wearing tzitzit ritual fringes, he penned a word.

A few hours later, the prime minister’s office contacted Elharar at Netanyahu’s request to ask about the significance of that word. The rabbi answered that it was “commanded,” from the verse in Exodus 35:10.

“The writing of a letter in the Torah scroll,” explains Elharar, “exemplifies our connection with the Torah and with G‑d, who gave it to us on Mount Sinai. The prime minister, who by writing a word joined the completion of the scroll, also joined generations of Jews who use the Torah to guide their daily lives.”