Masada National Park-the site of the last bastion of Jewish freedom fighters against the Romans;
its fall signaled the violent destruction
of the kingdom of Judah at the end
of the Second Temple period.
The tragic events of the last days of the rebels at Masada transformed it into both a Jewish cultural icon
and a symbol of humanity's continuous struggle
for freedom from oppression.
The size of the land mass makes it challenging
to get a perspective of just how big
this flat-topped mountain is in the landscape.
One way to the top of the summit is the foot path
up the side of Masada.
The other way up is the cable cars-
glad that we were headed up this way.
Part of the fortress was believed to be originally built by the Hasmonean King- Alexander Janaeus- 103-76 BC.
Herod who ruled form 37 BC to 4 BC was well aware of the strategic advantages of Masada. He chose the site as a refuge against his enemies and as a winter palace. Luxurious palaces were built in addition to well-stocked storerooms, cisterns and a casemate wall. After his death, the Romans stationed a garrison there.
Remnants of the Byzantine Church
The historian Josephus Falvius tells the story
of the Great Revolt of the Jews.
A group called the Sicarii took Masada and was joined
by Eleazar Ben Yair who fled from Jerusalem in 66 AD
and became commander of the rebel community.
The group probably included both Essenes and Samaritans.
The last of the rebels feld to Masada
after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
The rebels constructed a synogogue (above) and
mikvehs- Jewish ritual baths- (below)
This is a model of what the buildings looked like on Masada
at the time of the siege. In 73 AD, the Roman
Tenth Legion led by Flavius Silva laid siege to the mountain.
The legion had more than 8000 troops and they built eight camps around the base, a siege wall and a ramp made of earth and wooden supports on a natural slope to the west.
Captive Jews brought food and water - probably from En Gedi.
After a few months, the Romans brought a tower to batter the wall. Though the rebels had built an inner wall, it was set ablaze.
As hope dwindled, Eleazar Ben Yair convinced the leaders of the 960 rebels that it would be better to take their own lives and their families, rather than to live in shame as Romans slaves.
When the Romans mounted the breach,
a quiet settled over Masada.
The story was told later by the 2 women and 5 children
who had hid in the cisterns, escaping the death sentence.
Some of the original excavations-
anything above a black line as been rebuilt.
The view of the Dead Sea from the top of Masada.
Our group listening to Yossi- telling a bit more of the facts
What makes it so stirring to hear the Masada story?
If you are headed to Israel and visiting Masada -
make sure you watch the
miniseries DVD from 1981.
Your time there will certainly be more meaningful.