My family and I took another day trip, this time to the Dead Sea and Masada. Masada (literally meaning “fortress” in Hebrew), is exactly what it means: a giant (ruined) fortress on a top of a mountain overlooking the Dead Sea. Masada was built in 150 BCE by Jonathan Maccabeus, a Jewish High Priest, but was famously expanded by King Herod, who converted it into a giant citadel, complete with two palaces (2, 5), Roman baths (4), villas (16), and cisterns (10). Although Herod never used the fortress, it was kept just in case it was necessary. Near the end of the Jewish Rebellion in 70 CE, the last remaining Jewish Zealot rebels fled to Masada for their last stand. The 967 people held off 15,000 Romans for five months until the Romans engineered walls and ramps up the side of the cliff and eventually took the fortress. Rather than becoming Roman slaves, the Jews killed themselves on top of the fortress and burnt the rest of their wares. Since then Masada has become a symbol of Jewish resistance and the defense of the State of Israel. The IDF’s motto is “Masada shall not fall again.”

We took a cable car to the top of the mountain, which offered amazing views of the Dead Sea (6), the surrounding desert (9), and the remains of the Roman encampment (12). The ruins itself are visually a little underwhelming because of how much hype is given to Masada by Israelis and tour books, but if you stop and think about what it took to engineer such a fortress, on a top of the mountain, it is very impressive.


~ by jonathanmtsai on March 26, 2011.

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