During this trip to Israel, I made a pilgrimage to the mighty fortress of Masada, located between Ein Gedi and Sodom; where, in the first-century, Roman legions besieged hundreds of Jewish soldiers entrenched behind the high walls of the limestone fortress.  Nestled majestically in the Judean Desert, the ancient fortress of Masada stands as a witness to the indomitable spirit and unwavering determination of its inhabitants. Visiting Masada is a profound experience, offering a glimpse into the rich history and remarkable stories that have shaped the land of Israel.

Masada holds a significant place in Israeli history and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fortress’s origins date back over two millennia when it served as a refuge for King Herod the Great. However, it was during the First Jewish-Roman War that Masada etched its name into the annals of history.

It was built as a palace complex, in the classic style of the early Roman Empire, by Herod the Great, King of Judea from 37-4 BCE.  The camps and fortifications and ramps that surround the monument form the most complete Roman siege works surviving to present day.  To reach the summit of Masada, I opted to embark on a thrilling cable car ride. During the ascent, the awe-inspiring views of the desert landscape unfolded before me, adding an extra layer of excitement to the journey.  Once at the top, I walked around to explore the remnants of the fortress, including impressive walls, storerooms, and an intricate water system that reflected the ingenuity of its inhabitants.

This architectural marvel served as King Herod’s luxurious residence, boasting stunning panoramic views of the Dead Sea and the surrounding desert landscape. As I wandered through the palace’s terraces, courtyards, and living quarters, I felt transported back in time, imagining the grandeur that once graced these hallowed grounds.  The intricate mosaics, heating systems, and ritual bathing chambers offered a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the time. Nearby, the ruins of the Roman camp stood as a stark reminder of the Roman forces’ relentless pursuit of victory.

Death before slavery! Masada has come to symbolize Jewish heroism and resilience. It is said that in the face of certain defeat, the Jewish rebels chose death over surrender, taking their own lives in this last Jewish stronghold rather than falling into Roman captivity. Their unwavering courage and determination echoes throughout history, inspiring generations to stand strong in the face of adversity.

Visiting Masada was an unforgettable experience combining history, natural beauty, and the spirit of resilience. It offered an opportunity to delve into the rich tapestry of Israel’s past and pay homage to the courageous individuals who once called this fortress home. As I stood atop Masada, the wind whispering tales of an ancient era, I was captivated by the profound sense of history and awe-inspiring beauty that surrounded me. Masada truly stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of the Israeli people. After touring Masada, and wrapping up my Dead Sea stay, I made my way back to the states, after layovers in Istanbul, Frankfurt, and Iceland.

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