“Masada shall not fall again.”
Inside the Fortress Looking East to the Dead Sea, Masada 2011
© Leslie Hossack
Masada, a hilltop fortress built by King Herod, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. Masada sits on a plateau that rises approximately 1,475 feet above the Dead Sea. In this photograph, the Dead Sea can be seen beyond the ancient walls of the fortress; on a clear day, the hills of Jordan are visible in the distance. The Dead Sea, located in the Jordan Rift Valley, is the lowest point on the earth’s surface at approximately 1,400 feet below sea level.
The story of Masada is legendary. After Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 CE, a number of Jewish freedom fighters fled to the fortress at Masada. In 73 CE, the Roman Tenth Legion laid siege to the fort. When it became apparent that the Romans were going to breach the walls, the 960 Jewish inhabitants burned all the buildings and committed mass suicide rather than be taken prisoners. Josephus writes that ten men were chosen by lot to kill all the inhabitants, and then one of these ten men was chosen by lot to slay the other nine, and lastly himself.
This saga gave rise to the phrase: “Masada shall not fall again.” Israeli army cadets who take their oath of allegiance at the fortress make this pledge. It is interesting to note that when new members of the Israeli Defense Forces are sworn in, the ceremonies are often held at sites of national historic interest, such as the Western Wall and Masada.