Masada. Israel-Jordan border.
Masada, (in Hebrew, ‘Metzuda’, meaning ‘stronghold’) - the site of ancient palaces and fortifications in the South of Israel, on top of an isolated rock plateau in the Judean Desert. After the First Jewish-Roman War, a siege of the fortress by troops of the Roman Empire led to the legendary mass suicide of the Jewish Sicarii rebels, who preferred death to surrender.
Masada figures prominently in the Israeli psyche. Shorthand for describing an attitude (‘they will never take us alive’), the term ‘Masada complex’ is part of modern-day Israeli parlance. The story of the siege that took place here has been adopted as a symbol for the modern Jewish state.
A freestanding, sheer-sided plateau high above the Dead Sea, Masada was fortified sometime between 103 and 76 BC. In AD 66 the Jews rose up against the Romans in what is known as the First Revolt. A group called the Zealots captured the lightly guarded Masada, which became a sanctuary for fleeing Jews. After four years the uprising was finally suppressed by the Romans, who then turned their attention to the mountain-top stronghold.
As the Romans prepared to breach the fortress, the Zealots chose 10 men who were given the task of killing all of the others. Nine of the 10 were then executed by their companion before he finally killed himself. The mass suicide of Masada marked the end of the Jewish presence in Palestine.