Saturday, July 10, 2010


Masada is located on a plateau at the eastern edge of the Judean Desert and overlooks the Dead Sea. 
Herod the Great had this mountaintop palace built around 35 B.C. as a refuge for himself in case of a revolt.  The natural approaches to Masada are very difficult and the walls and gates around the city created an ideal barrier.  We took a cable car all the way up the mountain (see above) If we had walked up the windy path, it would have at least taken 2 hours in over 100 degree temperatures!  We did have to walk down the path, but it only took 15 minutes. 

Herod died around 4 BC and the Jews rebelled against Rome in AD 66.  By AD 70, the Romans had destroyed the Jewish revolt in Jerusalem and 2 years later, the last Jewish group took refuge at Masada.  960 Israelite men, women, and children lived on this mountain, protected by the cliffs and sustained by the fantastic water systems and storehouses.  The Romans determined to end the rebellion and slowly built an assault ramp on Masada's western side.  It is said that the Romans used enslaved Jews to build the ramp, so that the Jewish people in Masada would not want to stop the building of the ramp by killing their own people.  Josephus, first century historian, wrote the only record of events that took place during this siege.  Supposedly, a few survivors, who hid and did not commit suicide with the other Jews, later shared the story with Josephus. 

Josephus writes that the night before the Romans reached the walls, the leader Elazar Ben-Yair gave a powerful speech, reminding his community that they had resolved "neither to serve the Romans nor any other save God."  The Jews came to the decision to commit suicide instead of becoming Roman slaves.  Since, the Jewish people held such strong views against suicide, they drew lots to choose ten men who would kill the others.  Then the final one would kill the nine, and then himself.  When the Romans broke through the walls, they found hundreds of corpses, making for a hollow Roman victory.  Josephus described Masada quite accurately, and even some pottery shards have been found that could be the lots used to decide the ten. 
Above, You can see one of the ancient Roman camps built around the mountain while building the ramp up to Masada.
Masada has ingenious water systems, beautiful wall frescoes, mosaic floors, bathhouses, fresh-water swimming pool and even a sauna!
Below is one of the Bathhouses.  This building had cold and lukewarm baths, a sauna, frescoes, and tile work.  Later the Jewish rebels incorporated a ritual bath.  This is a great demonstration of Herods grandiosity:
Below is the ramp the Romans built to breach Masada's defenses:
This is some of the wood that the Romans used to create the ramp:
A little shop was waiting for us as we walked down the mountain.  Seriously, the best frappuccino ever!

Masada was one of my favorite sites.  I know there is not any biblical history or significance, but the beauty and intricate detail inside the walls of Masada is amazing, not to mention the view from the mountain.   

1 comment

  1. Beautiful photos again. It makes me want to return and catch all the things that you saw through your camera lens that I missed! Thanks for sharing.