Massada is the most visited national park in Israel with over 800,000 visitors every year.
It’s location in the heart of the Judean desert, overlooking the dead sea, along with the archeological remains and the history, made it one of a kind!
So many articles were written about Massada and its history, so many theories and so many arguments. It is unquestioningly a place that incite your imagination.
It is a fortress in the heart of the desert built more than 2000 years ago on a mountain that is naturally protected by the cliffs around it. The archeological remains are incredible, mosaics, fresco paintings, parchment biblical scrolls and personal items of the last warriors on the mountain.
Ones you are there you will not be able to stop admiring king Herod’s engineering with the construction of the northern palace that seats on the edge of the cliffs with its 3 platforms. The massive work that needed to be done by the Romans in order to capture the isolated mountain. Days and nights Jewish slaves worked in order to build a ramp that created the access to the mountain. this ramp can still be seen here from far away.
When you visit Massada in the summer, you must plan a visit to the early hours of the morning. After 11:00 temperature can reach up to 45 c and it is not recommended to be touring and certainly not to hike the path up. King Herod the great built this fortress in the desert, as he had many enemies to protect himself from. After this death, a group of Jewish rebels named Sikarians capture the place and held it for several years.
This place became famous, thanks to the events of one night in 73 CE, the last battel of the Sikarians against the Romans. Basically there was no battel, ones the Sikarians understood that they are outnumbered and there is no honorable way out of this situation, they simply killed themselves.
This act of choosing death over fighting and losing the battel became a worldwide myth. Is this the ultimate courage or was it an act of weakness and despair?
In some unites in the Israeli Army there is a tradition of hiking up Massada for graduation ceremony. In this ceremony young Israeli soldier promise that “Massada shall not fall again”. By that they are actually saying, that as the descendants of the Sikarianas, we will never let ourselves get to the situation that we have no other choice but to kill ourselves like them.
What happen on this mountain some 2000 years ago is a red bottom line for the Jewish state, an alarm to what can happen if we will not be careful.
Author: Yariv Hen, licensed tour guide in Israel
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