Thrill to the story of Masada – where a small group of Jewish zealots stood up the attack of the Roman legion and emerged victorious even in defeat. In 2001, Masada was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tour the remnants of the palace fortress, complete with Roman style bathhouses built by King Herod, as well as storehouses, ritual baths and synagogue built by the Jews. Stand on the summit plateau for stunning views of the Dead Sea and the surrounding Judean Desert.
The Fortress History
The palace fortress of Masada was built by King Herod, sometime between 37-31 BCE as a possible place of refuge for himself. The Jewish zealots fled Jerusalem during the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE and went to live at Masada. In 72 CE, the Romans, led by Lucius Flavius Silva, laid siege on Masada, building a rampart up its western flanks. Realizing that the fortress was about to be overrun, the 960 Jews of Masada chose death by their own hands rather than face capture, slavery and possible execution at the hands of the Romans.
Masada was thoroughly excavated in the mid-1960s by Israeli archaeologist and former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Yigal Yadin. A great deal of restoration work was carried out on the site in order to enable visitors to understand life during Roman times. The IDF uses Masada for some military ceremonies – new recruits climb the winding ‘snake path’, as the trail is known, and when they reach the summit, swear their allegiance to defend Israel declaring, "Masada shall not fall again."
The ascent of Masada generally begins at the visitors’ center, located on its eastern side, facing the Dead Sea. Climb to the summit via the snake path, a forty-five minute hike, or opt to take the ten-minute cable car ride. If you reach Masada from the Western side through the town of Arad, climb the Roman Path – a slightly easier and shorter route to the top. Once on top of Masada, there are glorious views of the Judean Desert, the Dead Sea and the mountains of Moab in Jordan. Visitors can also watch the story of the last stand of the Jews of Masada in a unique audiovisual show that takes place on the western side of Masada at night, from March -- October on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
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