On most Masada tours you will hear about Herod’s mighty palace fortress which he built on the flat plateau summit of Masada in 37-31BC and the remains of Herod’s palace complex are also the main attraction once on Masada. Your Masada tours guide will also tell you briefly about the events which took place here about 100 years later but for Jewish travelers those events were extremely significant to Jewish heritage and the main reason for visiting Masada. On Masada tours Touryourway guides will take you around the many amazing structures which have survived on the top of Masada. You will see King Herod’s former palaces, bathhouse, guardhouses, water cisterns, storage rooms and even a swimming pool! However be sure to ask your Masada tours guide about the Jewish connection with Masada.
The Jewish Connection with Masada
Roman historian Josephus recorded the events which took place at Masada towards the end of the First Jewish-Roman War (66-73AD) during this Great Revolt the Jews of Judea Province rose up against the Roman Empire which ruled the land. There were ethnic tensions between the Romans and the Jews which escalated due to the Jews’ refusal to pay taxes. In response to the Jewish refusal to pay taxes the Romans plundered the Jewish Holy Temple in Jerusalem, claiming the contents of the temple as their payment in lieu of taxes. There were also raids, arrests and executions which led to large-scale rebellion. In 66AD a group of Sicarii Jews went up to Masada and overcame the small Roman garrison which had been left to hold the mount once Herod’s palace had been abandoned. More Jews fled to Masada following 70AD when the Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem and had brought most of the Jews into submission. Eventually there was a group of almost 1,000 men, women and children on the mountain plateau. In 73AD Roman governor Flavius Silva led a Roman legion to lay siege to Masada.
Masada was surrounded and attacked as the Romans tried to scale the mount. They employed all of their weapons and military skills including building a circumvallation wall and eventually a ramp sloping up the western face of the mount. Using this ramp they could reach the top of Masada with the help of a siege tower and battering rams. The Romans cleverly used Jewish prisoners to build the ramp knowing that the Jews on Masada would not throw stones down on their own people. The plateau was breached in 73AD where they discovered that the men, women and children had all taken their own lives (or the lives of each other). Josephus wrote that the Romans found the food storage rooms on fire, 960 dead Jews and 2 women and 5 children still alive.
The legacy of Masada has become a symbol of Jewish heroism and dedication to the faith. As the “last stand” against the Romans it now symbolizes the last stand against any power seeking to take Jewish freedom or the Jewish land. The Jews of Masada are remembered for their bravery, self-sacrifice and choice of death over captivity. Today Masada is often used as a venue for national heritage ceremonies and special events.