Masada is one of the most visited places in Israel. It tells a story of perseverance, power, faith, surrender and ambition. It’s a place where many physical and spiritual battles were fought.
Masada sits atop a mountain with steep sides and a flat top,
overlooking the deserts on the west side and the Dead Sea on the east side.
King Herod built Masada in 30 BCE.
Jewish zealots seized control in 68 after the revolt against Rome had begun.
When the Holy Temple was destroyed in 70 AD,
the population significantly increased as Jews fled exile and persecution
in Jerusalem and sought refuge in Masada.
In 73, 960 Jewish zealots living at the top of Masada
committed suicide so they wouldn’t fall into the hands of the Romans.
Their tale is a story of courage, heroism and martyrdom.
The Romans came to conquer the city only to find that all of the Jews had been victims to this mass tragedy.
In some written evidence, it sounds as though the Jews did this because
they believed death was preferable to the life of enslavement and
prostitution that they knew lay before them.
Of all the people who lived on Masada, only two women and five
children survived the suicides and the Roman invasion.
They later told their story to Flavius Josephus, a famous historian.
His telling is the only written account of their story.
They are never mentioned in the Talmud or any other rabbinic writings.
One rumor about the suicides said that because suicide was forbidden in Jewish law,
the men killed their families, and then drew lots to see who would kill each other.
That way, only one person was left to commit suicide.
The site is well-preserved and has been reconstructed over the years to pay homage to the site and its inhabitants.
Masada features King Herod’s northern palace, which sits atop three rock terraces and looks over a gorge.
Nearby visitors can find a Roman-style bathhouse with a mosaic floor and walls covered in murals.
The murals that decorate the walls of the buildings in there were restored by Italian experts,
who were tasked with making sure the murals would be well-preserved for years to come.
Masada is the most complete, and largest, remaining Roman siege camp.
The story of the place history –
combined with the view of the archeological remains,
creates a special and unique atmosphere for the site while preserving its history.
In 2000, the readers of “Traveler Magazine” rated Masada the best tourist site of its type in the entire world.
In 2001, the site was officially declared a World Heritage Site by the people at UNESCO.
Great view of the Dead Sea. It’s been invested with a semi-religious significance because of the people of Israel’s suicides acted as a symbol of resistance.
Visitors can reach it through a steep climb up a winding path or by way of a cable car that takes guests from the tourist center to the top of Masada.
In the tourist center, visitors can find a movie about the history, a scaled model of the site, and an exhibit of findings.