Glimpses of Israel - Masada

by Joseph Hunting

As a child I well remember the Cecil B deMille epic THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. Even if I had never read the story of Israel's deliverance recorded in the Bible I would still vividly remember the film's portrayal of this great event. Likewise the drama enacted at Masada nineteen centuries ago, whilst not recorded in Scripture, has been televised and countless millions would be familiar with the heroic stand against the might of Rome by fewer than a thousand Jewish men, women and children.

I first visited Masada in 1960 after toiling up the precipitous snake path. The sun was just bursting over the ancient mountains of Moab when we reached the summit, giving the Dead Sea below a tinge of gold.

In an age of super-sonic air travel and space craft orbiting the earth and landing again like a conventional aircraft, the unbelievable breakthroughs scientists are having in biological and mechanical fields, it was good to see something of the achievements of a generation that lived 2,000 years ago. Herod's palace was built like an eagle's eyrie over an almost perpendicular drop of 1,000 feet. And what luxury! Herod surely "lived it up".

Still very evident of the determination of the Roman Tenth Legion to capture Masada is the massive earthen ramp that was built by Jewish slave labour. What an anticlimax when the Romans burst through the fortifications! There was the synagogue, the dwellings, food and water in abundance but no prisoners to parade in Rome as the spectacles of a defeated foe. The defenders had chosen to die as free men and women with the children.

Masada is a shrine of remembrance commemorating one of the most gallant stands for freedom ever made. That spirit still lives on in Israel today.