3199, Israel

972 3 539 6700

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If you’re Jewish—or even if you’ve only seen the 1980 movie on TCM—you’ll probably know not just the name “Masada” but the story of its fall to the Romans. As the famous tale goes, this fortified mesa-top city overlooking the Dead Sea was the last rebel stronghold during the first Jewish revolt, which began in 66 AD. When its seemingly impenetrable walls were breached in 74 AD, after a months-long siege by Roman soldiers, the leaders of its nearly 1,000 occupants chose death for the entire population rather than submission—thereby making Masada a symbol both of adherence to Jewish faith and of religious freedom. Today you can reach the fortress, located an hour-and-a-half southeast of Jerusalem, by means of a cable car instead of the enormous ramp and battering ram used by the Romans, and even though much was destroyed over the centuries, enough remains of King Herod’s skyward citadel to constitute a remarkable site. Looking down from 1,200 feet at the desert beneath it and the Dead Sea, you can still see shadowy outlines in the sand of the eight camps built by the Roman army to encircle the mountain during the assault.

Written by John Cantrell

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