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This passage is about Masada, a famous desert plateau.
Masada is a famous desert plateau, which rises high above the Dead Sea; its steep sides, a warning to any who dare to even think about trespassing. Well, at least they used to be back when the rock was inhabited; back when its world-famous fortress was patrolled by hundreds of guardsmen, all totally alert to the threat from intruders; swords at the ready.
That was the scene just over 2000 years ago when the plateau was first fortified. It soon came under King Herod’s control and he viewed it as a possible last refuge - last defence - against the enemy should the Jewish people (whose homeland – including Masada - Herod had captured) ever revolt, or the Egyptians ever try to take the land from him by force.
But today it is a far more peaceful place, and the only attention it attracts is that of eager tourists; tourists who have either trekked up the steep and well-named winding Snake Path or taken the far easier (and, in summer, more sensible) route up by cable car. Either way, at the top, they are rewarded by stunning panoramic views out across the Dead Sea and much of the Negev desert.
But it is not just the breathtaking views and ancient ruins which attract the tourists to Masada each year; it is also the legend of the place. Some celebrate it; others remember it with great sadness. However you view it, what happened here was quite incredible.
About 70 years after Herod’s death, Masada fell to the Jewish people, who claimed it back from the Romans. There followed four years of fierce fighting between the Romans and the Jews. Eventually, the Romans regained control of all of the land – all, that is, except Masada, where a community of 1,000 refused to surrender.
The Romans needed a way to reach the fortress, so they gathered some 8,000 men and began to build a massive earthen ramp up the steep side of the plateau. This was a slow process, but eventually they were able to bring their siege engines up to the fortress gate and break through to the interior.
But what they found was a scene of devastation. The Jews, all 1,000 of them bar two women and five children who had hidden, were dead. Rather than surrender to the Romans, they had chosen to kill each other. The Romans surveyed the scene in disbelief.Exit