Masada was one of the places that literally everyone who had ever been to Israel told me about. And at first I was all WHAT?? because I had never even remotely heard of it. But then I went to my dear friend Wiki and she told me all about Masada. And then I had an Ohhhhh Now I Get It moment. For those of you who don't know about it, you can also ask my friend Wiki and she'll fill you in. But basically it's a plateau near the Dead Sea (like you can see the Dead Sea a half mile away) that one of those dudes named Herod made into a fortress lest the people revolt. We're talking 35 years before Jesus was born building a fortress on top of a plateau that is 1,300 feet straight up. In the middle of the desert where during the day it is almost always over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Did I mention it's 35BC? Then in the first century during a war a rather extremist sect of Jews overcame the Romans and took it. But once the temple was destroyed in Jerusalem in 70AD, other Jews fled there. Given that it's almost two hours DRIVING from Jerusalem, that's a pretty far flee, but alas, it's a pretty rockin fortress to flee to. A few years later the Romans attacked Masada to take it back and eventually succeeded. But rather than be captured, the nearly 1,000 Jews there all committed suicide (or rather, they drew lots and killed each other one at a time, so only the last one would actually have to commit suicide). So it's a pretty important place in Jewish history.
Today you can go and see the remains. Many people hike up at sunrise and I've been told it's unbelievably amazing. Also, Israel soldiers are sworn in after basic training atop Masada just before sunrise. We really wanted to do the sunrise hike but weren't able to actually GET there from our hostel, since the first bus was at 8am. Not so much we could do about that. But thankfully we got there early, because even as we hiked down the 700 steps at 10am it was almost 100 degrees. Yea. It was such an amazing experience, unlike anything or anyplace I've ever been. I guess I didn't really expect the remains to be quite as extensive or complete as they were, but it was amazing to see the remains of storerooms, thermal baths, the synagogue and palace, among others. If you go to Israel, definitely plan this into your trip. Well worth it as you are in the Dead Sea area. And do the sunrise hike, because the pictures I've seen of friends who did that trounce mine.
Maybe if I Just...Push...Harder...
Room with a view?
Many of the storerooms
One of the many spectacular views from the top
Hiking down since we took the cable car up