Reflections on my visit to Masada in 2002

Top of Masada, 2002.

You can see the Dead Sea in the background. The Israeli flag is planted roughly at sea level, Dead Sea is 1,237 feet below sea level. This photo was taken by me. From the museum below there’s a cable car to the top of Masada. There are also steps carved into the rock, over 1,000 of them. I and my companion took the steps both directions.

There were no steps in 72 A.D. when the Roman Soldiers attacked Masada. They spent a year building an earthen embankment to the top to get to the 960 Jews that occupied the top of Masada. When they got there they found that a mass suicide had occurred, at least according to Josephus.

That is disputed because suicide is forbidden by Jewish law and is considered a serious sin. Those who claim the mass suicide to be a myth have no explanation for what happened. No mass graves have ever been found and to date only 30 skeletons have been found.

Roman emperor Herod built the fortress at Masada in 37 B.C. A visit to Masada is quite moving. The Jews were able to survive for a long time because of the cisterns that Herod had built. In fact, though I’m no expert, I’m willing to venture that the Romans simply found 960 Jews that died of starvation and falsely called it mass suicide. Perhaps the Romans wanted to shame the Jews for cheating them out of a military victory. There had been some humiliating Roman losses in battles with Jews in the preceding 100 years.

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