Herod's fortress

Trip Start Jul 16, 1975
Trip End Jul 15, 1976

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Flag of Israel  , HaDarom,
Sunday, November 16, 1975

To the east and west of the Dead Sea are several mountains and rock formations.  The most prominent of all is a Roman fortress built by Herod - Masada!

In 67AD, the Jews rebelled against the Romans.  It was their last stand, as it was quickly and thoroughly squashed.  The last group of Jews survived by overrunning Masada.

The Romans besieged the fortress with several camps below.  They built a long ramp along the Western slope.  After three years, they were ready for the assault.  The night before, however, there was a big fire on Masada.  After overtaking the fortress, they found everybody dead.  The Romans were confused.  A few women and children found hidden revealed the story.  The Jews decided to kill themselves rather than live under Roman rule.  Lots were drawn to decide who would carry out the plan.  Some of the relics found were small stones with Jewish names inscribed on them.

Before going to Masada, several Israelis I met asked if I had visited the site yet.  They always spoke reverently about it.  I think Masada is highly symbolic of their desire for independence.

Today, young Jews walk up the same slopes to the top.  In this heat, everybody in my group opted for the gondola ride.  During my tour, I saw several different school groups at the top.  I think it's an important part of Israeli education.  Almost a pilgrimage.

Historically, the siege at Masada was about 2,000 years ago.  The few Jews that survived the rebellion were scattered.  After the Romans, other empires controlled the region.  But Jews today still have a strong connection to Masada.

I think more than religion holds Jews together.  Ethnicity and nationalism are strong here too.   They seem to transcend time and heritage.

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