The very name strikes fierce pride and love of liberty.
If you don't know, during the revolt against the Romans ca. 66 CE, Jews fled to this desert stronghold in the Judaean hills overlooking the Dead Sea. Some 30 years earlier, Herod had built himself a winter palace replete with cisterns to catch rainwater, filled store rooms, hot and cold baths, and more. Standing some 100 meters above the plain, Masada (meaning fortress in Hebrew) was meant to be unassailable (Herod, you may recall, was more than a little paranoid). In 72 CE, General Flavius Silva finally breached Masada's impregnable slopes- to find that the Jewish defenders had committed suicide rather than become slaves. So accounted to us by Josephus in his History of the Jewish Wars and verified by modern archaeology.
In the summer of 1968, my cousin hiked up the slopes of Masada before dawn. We have it easy in 2011: we take the cable car up.
Those 2 big rectangles you see in the ground? That's where the Romans camped during the siege.
This is the view Herod had from his private chambers.
Herod built many baths; the Jews turned some of them into ritualaria (mikvaot).
Much of the palace floor was mosaic like this, however much was removed to museums overseas.
This was a store room. Note the old vessel still standing.
Here is an area believed to be the oldest synagogue. Before the Romans destroyed the Temple in 67 CE, that was the main place of Jewish worship.
These boulders were launched from catapults by the Romans.
We left Masada and drove to the Dead Sea for lunch and a dip near Ein Gedi, where David hid from Saul's troops.
To be accurate, David dipped his feet in the Dead Sea while the guide and I sat and watched people bobbing about like corks. A stop at Qumran was next, where the Dead Sea scrolls were found.
That's the cave where most of the major scrolls were found. We saw them later the same day at the Israel Museum (more on that later). To go back to Jerusalem from the Dead Sea, you make a left turn at the road to Jericho. A tour guide for Jericho was waiting for us at the Jericho turn-off:
He's even smiling at us. Along the way back, we stopped at a Druze village near the monastery of St. George. It has the most marvelous view of the Judaean hills:
Back in Jerusalem, we toured the archaeology wing (it's vast!) and the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea scrolls are on display. No photography allowed here, so I link you to the fiber-related item I saw on display. Neat huh? Top whorl too. So ended another day of adventures and wonders.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011