Feb. 13, 2010

It is difficult to give the history and importance of Masada so we will not try to do so here. The following sites may be helpful to those who are interested.
the Wikipedia entry for Masada
The Unofficial Guide: Mosaic of Places
Jewish Virtual Library

Painted model of Masada
At the base of the mountain, we take a look at an artist conception of what Masada looked like at the time of Herod.
Masada cable car Magnify
Then we can take a cable car up to the top.
Model of Masada
At the top we can look at a model of Masada. The main part is the area on top of the hill. It is surrounded by a wall. In the hill below Masada we see a path and aqueduct. One can see why Masada was a great defensive fortress.
Model of Masada
This close up of the model clearly shows Herod's three level castle just to right of the sign.
Guard house in Masada wall Magnify
This is a guard house on the outer wall. The base at the very bottom of the picture is original. The rock work above the black line is a reconstruction of the original structure.
Bird cages in Masada
You might wonder "what all the little cubby holes in the wall were for?" They are for bird nests. They keep the birds to produce fertilizer for their gardens. At that time, it was quite valuable. In addition, the birds were a meat source.
Ruins in Masada Magnify
This appears to be residence that was part of the wall.
Cistern in Masada
How were they able to grow a garden on top of a mountain in an area where there was only about 1/4 inch of rain per year? When it rains, the ground is so hard that there are flash floods in the area. They constructed aqueducts and reservoirs to capture that water.
Reservoirs in Masada
On the left is a cistern on top of the mountain that could hold lots of water. The water had to be carried from lower reservoir like those shown above. The caves stored water supplied by the aqueduct.
Roman Base Camp in Masada Magnify Roman Base Camp in Masada Magnify
Imagine that you were one of the Zealots. The Romans have already reconquered Jerusalem, destroyed the temple and have broken the rebellion you helped start. You look down and surrounding your fortress, you see eight camps created by the attacking Roman army like those shown on the left and above. You see a seige wall around the whole site and an entire Roman legion of perhaps 8,000 soldiers. But seemingly you have quite an advantage. You have plenty of water. The Romans have very little fresh water. It seems impossible that they can climb the hill and attack. But at the same time, you are prisoners as you cannot leave. But you hope that the Romans will eventually just give up and go away.
Ramp to Masada Magnify
But then the Romans start to build an enormous ramp up to your fortress. You know it will take a long time to build it. and you have plenty of big rocks that you use as ammunition against the soldiers building it. But then the Romans bring in Jewish slaves to build the ramp.
Ramp to Masada Magnify
Do you still try to kill the construction workers? The Zealots decided not to. Then it became only a matter of time before you would be captured.

The ramp once reached right up to the wall. But it was partially destroyed by an earthquake.

While at Masada, our guide pointed out one of
the caves where a Dead Sea Scroll had been found.
(Additional Dead Sea Scroll pictures are in the
Qumran section.)
Dead Sea Scroll cave Magnify

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