Hebrew for “fortress”, Masada has become one of the most popular sites to visit within the Holy Land. Being widely associated as the “refuge” palace for Herod the Great and his family, the complex has weathered the centuries and is very well preserved to this day. Located on top of an isolated plateau that is surrounded by nothing but gorges, visitors from around the world will take the Snake Path to sit atop this magnificent feat of ancient innovation, especially early in the morning to witness the majesty of the sunrise.
Archaeological evidence dates certain findings to a few centuries BCE. However, the only written evidence comes from Josephus Flavius after the Jewish Revolt. Josephus states that the site was first fortified by Alexander Jannaeus prior to Herod capturing and completing his refuge between 37 and 31 BCE. After Herod’s death in 4 CE, the Romans took control of the plateau until the Jewish Revolt in 66 CE. The rebels leading the revolt held the complex for a few years until the Romans, accompanied by the Tenth Legion, stormed the fortress, and re-gained control of its entirety.
During this specific conquest, history states that it was decided that the surviving rebels, about 960 men, women, and children, should commit suicide as opposed to being taken captive by the Romans. Led by their leader, Elazar ben Yair, they ensured that their water houses were fully supplied with water and that their food storage houses were abundantly filled, before burning down the fortress. They cast lots in order to choose a group of ten men that would kill the others. The ten then cast lots again, choosing one man who would kill the other nine.
Today, the fortress stands as a beautiful symbol of the determination of the Jewish people to be free from oppression within the lands of their ancestors, a mission they have fought to protect for thousands of years. From King Herod’s residential refuge, to the Storehouse Complex, all the way to the Western Palace, the plateau hosts a staggering amount of archaeological finds left behind by hundreds of people from thousands of years ago. No matter in which season of life you presently walk, this monumental site will hold you captive as you walk away speechless.