Pre-Trip Research...

Eric Dolman

Location of your site:

Masada is located in the Southern District of israel, on top of an isolated rock plateau, or horst, on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. Masada is located at 31°18'56"N, 35°21'14"E, about 20 kilometres (12 mi) east of Arad and about 30 miles southeast of Jerusalem.

Geographical Features (Include a Picture or Map):

Masada are the ancient ruins on a mountaintop in the Judean Desert.


The Meaning of the Name of your Site:

Masada, is the Hebrew word for fortress.

Historical Background/Significance:

After the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 CE by the conquering Roman army, 1,000 Jewish zealot resistors and their families fled Jerusalem and took over this remote mountaintop. Under their leader, Eleazar ben Jair, they withstood a 2-year siege by the Roman Tenth Legion.
Then, in 73 CE, the Roman governor Flavius Silva marched against Masada with the Roman Tenth Legion. They established camps at the base of Masada, laid siege to it. Later they constructed a rampart of thousands of tons of stones and beaten earth against the western approaches of the fortress [see left portion of photo] and, in the spring of the year 74 CE, moved a battering ram up this ramp and breached the wall of the fortress
When the Zealot leader, Elazar ben Yair, saw the end nearing, he gathered his people and together they chose death with honor by their own hands rather than being captured alive and becoming slaves to the Romans.

Do other Cultures or Religions have connections to your site?:


Connect a Talmudic/Biblical saying to your site:

"Let our wives die before they are abused, and our children before they have tasted of slavery, and after we have slain them, let us bestow that glorious benefit upon one another mutually." said Elazar ben Yair, the Zealots’ leader

Share any Midrash, Fables, or other “stories” about the site:

What is even stranger is that the Masada episode is not mentioned in the Talmud. Why did the rabbis choose to ignore the courageous stance and tragic fate of the last fighters in the Jewish rebellion against Rome?
After Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70, the Great Revolt ended-except for the surviving Zealots, who fled Jerusalem to the fortress of Masada, near the Dead Sea. There, they held out for three years. Anyone who has climbed the famous "snake path" to Masada can understand why the surrounding Roman troops had to content themselves with a siege. Masada is situated on top of an enormous, isolated rock: Anyone climbing it to attack the fortress would be an easy target. Yet the Jews, encamped in the fortress, could never feel secure; every morning, they awoke to see the Roman Tenth Legion hard at work, constructing battering rams and other weapons. If the 960 defenders of Masada hoped that the Romans eventually would consider this last Jewish beachhead too insignificant to bother conquering, they were to be disappointed. The Romans were well aware that the Zealots at Masada were the group that had started the Great Revolt; in fact, the Zealots had been in revolt against the Romans since the year 6. More than anything else, the length and bitterness of their uprising probably account for Rome's unwillingness to let Masada and its small group of defiant Jews alone.
Once it became apparent that the Tenth Legion's battering rams and catapults would soon succeed in breaching Masada's walls, Elazar ben Yair, the Zealots’ leader, decided that all the Jewish defenders should commit suicide. Because Jewish law strictly forbids suicide, this decision sounds more shocking today than it probably did to his compatriots. There was nothing of Jonestown in the suicide pact carried out at Masada. The alternative facing the fortress’s defenders were hardly more attractive than death. Once the Romans defeated them, the men could expect to be sold off as slaves, the women as slaves and prostitutes.
I suspect there are two reasons the Talmud omits the story of Masada. First, many rabbis still felt a lingering anger toward the extremist Zealots who died at Masada. We know that Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkaihad to flee Jerusalem secretly to avoid being killed by the sort of people who died there. Furthermore, at a time when the rabbis were desperately attempting to reconstruct a Judaism that could survive without a Temple and without a sovereign state, they hardly were interested in glorifying the mass suicide of Jews who believed that life without sovereignty was not worth living.

Now You're ready to create a multimedia presentation in Hebrew for class here in America.

    • [Link your Presentation here if applicable]

You're also responsible for a brief "Tour Guide" presentation in ENGLISH to be given at your site in Israel.

    • [Type your English "Tour Guide" script here]

After the Trip...

Picture From your Site.

[Add a photo from your trip to the site here]


[Write a brief reflection on your visit to your site. Was your experience what you expected? Did you learn something new? What was it like experiencing this place in person...]