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Learn Hebrew History - Masada

Updated: Jun 15, 2020

The Masada story is well known among the Israeli people. It became a symbol (סֵמֶל – semel) of courage (ometz אֹומֶץ) and sacrifice for the sake of freedom.Masada is a fortification (היִתבָצרוּת hitbatzrut) located on top of a mountain in the eastern part of the Yehuda Desert. It is an isolated 450 meter tall mountain, surrounded with deep valleys, and an extremely difficult way to the summit. The summit (פִּסְגָּה pisga) is flat, which makes this place ideal for making a fortress (מְצוּדָה metzoda). The fortification was 1400 meters long, and included towers, weapon depots, barracks and more.


Here is the story in short:

The year is approximately 35 A.D. Herod the Great rules the land of israel, and builds Masada as a safe place in case the Jewish subjects rose up against him.The Zealots, a political movement during that time, wanted to incite (לְהַצִּית lehatzit) the local Judea Province people, to rebel against the Roman Empire and expel it from the Holy Land.At the year 66 A.D. there was a big jewish revolt against the Romans, and a group of Zealots took over Masada. a few years later, at 73 A.D. The Roman commissioner - Flavius Silva ascended Masada with the Tenth Legion and imposed a siege (matzor מָצוֹר) on the fortress.At 74 A.D. after two or three months of siege, the Romans finally broke through the fortress wall with a battering ram. However - when they entered the fortress, they discovered that his defenders, about a thousand in number, set all the buildings on fire and preferred mass suicide than falling into captivity or a certain defeat.They chose suicide to end the war with dignity rather than slavery.

The only survivors were two women and five children that hid in a cistern (בּוֹר מַיִם bor ma'im), and they are the ones who told this story.


Masada was recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, and Today you can still climb the fortress by foot, in a path called “the snake path” (shvil ha nach'ash - שביל הנחש)

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