Natural Masada Facts: An Ancient Fortress In Southern Israel | Kidadl


Natural Masada Facts: An Ancient Fortress In Southern Israel

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Masada, also known as Fortress for Hebrew, has become the most significant symbol of the Jewish people.

This is where the last Jewish revolt took place against the Roman invasion. Also, it is next to Jerusalem and has become one of the favorite destinations for tourists visiting Israel after the great revolt.

Since the Masada fortress fell, 2000 years have passed away. But still, the remoteness and regional climate have helped preserve the two palaces and other things of Masada. In 2001, this place was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. This national park is situated at the top of an isolated rock cliff on the western side of the Judean Desert. The rock falls in a sheer drop to the Dead Sea from the east side about 0.27 mi (450 m). Masada is about 0.062 mi (100 m) from the surrounding terrain on the western side.

Siege Of Masada

The first Jewish-Roman siege was one of the final events around 73 to 74 CE. It took place on and around a large hilltop located in present Israel. This siege is known through a single source.

Also, at that time, a Jewish rebel leader, Flavius Josephus, was captured by the Romans. As per Josephus, the prolonged seizure in Masada led to the mass suicide of the residents of the Jewish family and Sicarii rebels based in Masada. However, this specific siege has become one of the controversial discussions of that time.

History Of Masada

About Masada, the only written source is Josephus Flavius' The Jewish War. Joseph ben Matityahu was born into a priestly family, and during the outbreak of the Great Jewish Rebellion against Rome, Flavius Silva was a young leader. It happened in 66 CE, and at that time, he was appointed as a Governor of Galilee.

He became a successful historian and a Roman citizen and called himself Josephus Flavius. As per Flavius, the Fortress of Masada was constructed by Herod the Great between 37 and 31 BCE. During his Roman overloads, the King of Judea was Herod, an Idumean. He furnished the fortress as a refugee, with a casemate wall covering the plateau, large cisterns, and storehouses. It has large cisterns filled with barracks, rainwater, an armory, and a western palace.

After the death of Herod over 75 years ago, a section of Jewish rebels successfully overcame the Roman garrison of Masada. It happened during the great revolt against the Romans. In 73 BC, the governor of Rome marched against Masada with auxiliary units, the 10th Legion, and many Jewish prisoners. At the base of the Fortress, Roman camps were established that laid siege and a circumvallation wall was constructed.

This wall had tons of stones and beaten earth against the western approaches of the fortress. In 74 CE, there was a battering ram up the wall, following which the fortress wall was breached. At some point, it was evident that the catapults and the 10th Legion's battering rams would succeed when it came to breaching the wall of Masada.

The Zealots' leader, Elazar Ben Yair, said that all defenders of Jewish should commit suicide. Flavius recounts the story that was told to him by two surviving women. The defenders and one thousand women, men, and children led by Ben Yair were burnt and killed down the fortress. They cast lots to pick ten men to kill others, and then they chose one man who would destroy the survivors. The last person to survive was Jew, who then killed himself.

The last speech given by Elazar was a masterful oration. They had decided long ago not to be servants of anyone, including Romans, apart from God. The lord was the only true one for them, and they considered that the time had come to bring this concept into practice. They were the first to revolt and the last ones fighting against the Romans. Elazar considers it a favor they have got from God and still have the power to die bravely. It shows the state of freedom.

In the writing of Josephus, the Masada story survived, but the fact is not many people of Jerusalem read through it. It was more or less forgotten in Jewish history over 1500 years.

After a few years, in 1920, Isaac Lamdan, a Hebrew writer, wrote Masada. It was a poetic history explaining the anguished fight against all enemies worldwide. As per David Roskies, a professor, the poem was written by Lamdan inspired the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

In 1842, the site was identified by American Eli Smith and Edward Robinson. But in the 1960s, intensive excavation took place with many volunteers from Israel. Also, people from many countries took part in it. Now, this place, Masada, symbolizes the determination of the people of Jerusalem to be free in their own lives and land.


This location was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage by Masada in 2001. After a few years, in 2007, the Masada Museum was opened in Memory of Yigael Yadin. Here the archeological findings were showcased in the theatrical settings. Yadin and his entire archeological team unearthed most artifacts kept in this museum. This team was from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem during the 1960s.

In the Masada National Park, this archeological site is located, and to visit the park, and you would need to pay an entrance fee. Two hiking paths are there, and you will find them steep. The first one is the Roman Ramp Trail, which has less elevation gain and is steep. It can be accessed from the western part of the mountain to drive your car from Arad road. Another one is the Snake Trail, present on the eastern side with 980 ft (300 m) in elevation at the Masada Museum.

Travelers who plan to visit this place start at least an hour before sunrise. They do so to avoid the midday heat in the park, which can go up to 109 F (43 C) in the summer. Also, during summers, the hiking paths are closed due to excessive heat. Travelers are recommended to bring water as they will need it to travel to the top.

However, a cable car is available at a high price that visitors can take. This cableway starts functioning at 8 am and goes to the top of the mesa. There is a museum and visitors' center at the cable car base. If you are not interested in hiking, traveling in a cable car is a good option.

Apart from that, a light-and-sound show is presented, which you can see on the mountain's western side. You can access this by car from the Arad rood. People interested in taking a walk can also go ahead through the Roman Ramp path, down the mountain.

But while hiking through this path, travelers need to be extra careful. In May 2015, Briana McHam, an American tourist who was 20-year old, fell 25 ft (7.62 m) while traveling on Masada's Snake Path. It happened after she got separated from her Florida State University tour group. After searching for an hour and a half, the personnel of Magen David Adom found her. She was suffering from dehydration and lying unresponsive. After many revitalization attempts, Briana was declared dead.

Also, before World War II, people took suggestions and views from the siege of Masada. Additionally, this place has become one of the most attractive locations in Israel.

A world heritage site by UNESCO


Q: What is unique about Mount Masada?

A: Mount Masada is not only a UNESCO World Heritage site but also a flat plateau above the Dead Sea. It has symbolic importance of heroism and determination continuing with many Israeli army and soldiers.

Q: How long did Masada last?

A: It symbolizes the courage of the Masada warriors, which lasted for almost three years.

Q: What is Masada?

A: It is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel. Masada is located on the top of the isolated rock plateau.

Q: Who built Masada?

A: The King of Judaea, Herod the Great, built Masada. Reigned between 37 BCE and 4 CE.

Q: Where is Masada in Israel?

A: This place is in the southern district, located on the top of the isolated rock.

Q: What happened to the survivors of Masada?

A: The siege of Masada was the most prolonged and last encounter, and from this encounter, only a small number of Zealots could survive. They escaped the war and settled down at the main top fortress of Masada.

Q: Who were the survivors of Masada?

A: Only five children and two women survived the siege of Masada.

Q: How long is the Masada hike?

A: The hike is around 3.8 mi (6.11 km), located near Kfar Hanokdim. It is in the southern district of Hadarom and offers impressive scenic views.

Q: How far is Masada from the Dead Sea?

A: It is around 18.39 mi (29.6 km) from the Dead Sea.

Q: How to get to Masada from Jerusalem?

A: The bus line 486 operates five times a day from Jerusalem, which you can take and get down at Masada Junction.

Q: How long was the siege of Masada?

A: The siege of Masada was around for four to seven months.

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