It's hard to show through pictures the beautiful view from Masada. This is an ancient fortress, sitting atop a plateau, overlooking the Dead Sea.
It was first built in the 1st Century BC. After his father's death, Herod the Great captured it, re-fortified it, and built palaces for himself in the 30's BC.
After the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70, Jewish rebels, called Sicarii, overtook Masada and began using it to defend themselves against Rome. They slaughtered 700 women and children at Ein Gedi (Dead Sea area).
The Romans began their attempt to take it back, by building a circumvallation wall (a line of fortifications) and a seige ramp.
Then a seige tower and battering ram were built and brought in. The Jewish rebels threw rocks at those who were constructing the ramp to their fortress. The Romans responded by forcing fellow captures Jews to construct it. The rebels at Masada decided to stop throwing stones at their countrymen, realizing this perhaps sealed their fate.
In 73 AD, the Romans succeeded in breaking through the walls of the fortress.
But what they found was not what they expected. The rebels had burned all but a few buildings, then committed themselves to mass suicide.
The leader evidently wrote moving speeches, and convinced them all that it would be better to die the victor than be captured by the Romans. They drew lots, down to the who would kill whom, and who (in the end) would have to kill himself. Only two women and five children were found alive.
It was a sprawling, impressive site, and is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I was shocked at how preserved the color was in some of the rooms.
These are bathhouses.
This was a lookout tour. CC is waving to me, with Big Ben, the scout, to his left.
This point is, they believe, the breeching point by the Romans.
And we found one beautiful spot, a Byzantine church, from the Byzantine era.
One particularly meaningful thing to me was the presence of ancient Scriptures found there in the synagogue, hidden in pits dug underground. They found portions of Deuteronomy and Ezekiel (the "dry bones" passage.)
After a full tour, it was time to go. My bones were dry. I let the family finish exploring, while I sat in the sunshine.
You know what I kept thinking about was Barabbas. He was to be crucified, and historical records show that he was a "rebel." Thinking of these people and their ruthless will to survive as free men, even to the point of suicide, made me think of the kind of person he might have been. And Barabbas was chosen to live. Jesus was chosen to die.