If you have any interest whatsoever in any or all of the Abrahamic religions, that is Judaism and those religions that have Judaism as their basis, then Israel is a wonderful place to visit to see how these religions had their genesis; and to discover why the followers of these religions, which have a common God and many similar beliefs, have difficulty fraternising with each other today.
Masada, which is Hebrew for “fortress” sits perched atop a hilltop peninsular overlooking the Dead Sea.
As with many places of interest in this part of the world, Masada has a history of violence. In the case of this particular fortress, it was the home and battleground of a group of Sicarii Jewish rebels who refused to accede to Roman rule, and who, instead of submitting to the Romans, committed mass suicide in 73AD. That was the story that was passed down through history, thanks to its telling by the writer Josephus. Archaeological excavations in recent years have failed to find any evidence of a mass suicide, but don’t let that deter you from visiting Masada.
Whatever its true history, Masada is still an inspiring place to visit.
Located about one hour by road from Jerusalem, and close to the city of Arad, is a very imposing site. Although much of Masada was destroyed, there has been a lot of archaeological activity there since the 1960s, and today it is very visitor friendly.
The cliffs on the east edge of Masada are about 1,300 feet (400 m) high and the cliffs on the west are about 300 feet (91 m) high; the natural approaches to the cliff top are very difficult.
Many people prefer to enhance their Masada experience by walking up the Snake Path, which begins at the Dead Sea Highway, but for those not inclined to make the strenuous trek there is a cable car to the top.
Originally built by King Herod, Masada is a remarkable engineering feat, and is complete with a number of cisterns which drew water from desert wadis.
When the Romans invaded Masada they built a massive embankment which rose up the cliffs western face, and is still in place today.
The fortress contains a synagogue, palaces, bath house, storerooms, houses and even a swimming pool. It is a remarkable testament to humankind’s ability to conquer the land and to stick up for our principles in the face of adversity.