Masada: A Must See In Israel

To understand the national psyche of Israel, take a trip to Masada. An easy day trip from your Dead Sea spa hotel (so long as you're on the west side of the sea), the fortress ruins sit atop a naturally occurring plateau with sweeping views of the Dead Sea below. Surrounded by steep cliffs on all sides, the geography creates a natural defensive position while also giving access to cooling breezes for relief from the desert heat. Herod the Great built a palace here to take full advantage of the geography, but it is the story of Jewish loss and sacrifice that makes this site so special to its people. It is a story that has been passed down from generation to generation. A heart wrenching legend of sacrifice and loss. It is the rallying cry of Israel Defense Forces, and represents the national pride that every Israeli carries with them. “Masada will not fall again!”

In the first century a.d., the Jews living in Judea rose up against the ruling Romans for their independence. It did not take long for Rome to crush the rebellion, and the last remaining revolutionists fled to the fortress in the desert: Masada. Nearly 1,000 Jews occupied the hilltop. With no route for escape, the Romans laid siege to Masada over the next 3 years. Employing some 15,000 men, they built an earthen ramp up to the fortress. You can still see this ramp, and the surrounding camp foundations, today. Try to imagine the intensive labor of placing each rock, one by one, in the dry, salty heat of the Dead Sea. 

Realizing their impending capture and slavery, the Jews occupying the hilltop would not submit themselves to life as slaves. Instead, in an act of terrible sacrifice never seen before or since, the men killed their wives and children. 10 men were then chosen by lot to kill the remaining men. Finally, 1 was chosen to kill the other 9, set fire to the fortress, and fall on his sword. You can even view the lots that were cast in the museum at the site. 

This story of incredible loss still impacts the people of Israel today. The tiny country sits between the Mediterranean Sea and groups who denounce Israel as a nation. Effectively “under siege” to this day, the people of Israel recount the stand at Masada with pride, a tear, and a rallying cry, “Masada will not fall again.” Your trip to Israel, and your understanding of its people, is not complete without a visit.