Masada Apr/May 1978

The rock Masada is an austere natural fortress located at the eastern edge of the Judean desert. Its extended summit mounts sheer inclines which rise abruptly to an imposing height thirteen hundred feet above the western shore of the Dead Sea. There is a gaunt majesty about the place which immediately possesses those who visit the site. From its crest one is afforded a magnificent view of the Judean Wilderness, the Dead Sea and the distant mountains of ancient Moab. A compelling sense of history fills the air as visitors walk amidst the remains of the palaces constructed by Herod the Great two millennia ago. Far below, prominent remnants of the Roman encampments and siege wall, erected by Flavius Silva’s famed Tenth Legion, stand as mute reminders of Masada’s past.

From atop Masada nine hundred sixty Jewish survivors of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 mounted a final, desperate effort to resist Roman tyranny. The Roman Emperor, Titus, saw in the zealots’ existence a manifest display of defiance which must be crushed as an enduring example to all subjects of the empire. It was not until A.D. 73 that the fatigued Romans were successful in dislodging the indomitable Jews from their stronghold. The conquest would, however, prove to be a victory devoid of glory, for by free choice the embattled defenders chose death by their own hands over humiliation and slavery. Their leader, Eleazar ben Yair, felt that “. . . a death of glory was preferable to a life of infamy, and that the most magnanimous resolution would be to disdain the idea of surviving the loss of their liberty.”

With their resolution, resistance and sacrifice, a new symbol rose. It is one which has loomed ever larger in the hearts and minds of the people of Israel. It is a determination of inspired spirit and will which rises to say, “Masada – never again!” The symbol’s phrase is so fixed in the mind of the nation that it has been memorialized in a special medal struck recently by the Israeli government. One side bears the words, “Masada shall not fall again.” The other side says, “We shall remain free men.”

So Jews come to Masada to lend the weight of their personal resolution to this national spirit of conviction. Armored units of the Israeli Defence Forces voice the expression of determination when they assemble on Masada to take their oath of allegiance: “Masada shall never fall again!”

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