Since 2001 – Masada has become a World Heritage Site on the World Heritage Center list.
According to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention (1972), this inclusion reflects the extraordinary global importance of this site, making it worthy of protection for future generations.
UNESCO’s main focus is on the northern palace, built by Herod the Great, an exceptional example of a magnificent Roman-era villa as well as the Roman siege system that surrounds the site and is the most comprehensive example of the survival of the siege system.
One of UNESCO’s reasons for choosing Masada is that Masada is a symbol of the violent destruction of the Kingdom of Judea and the exile that followed at the beginning of the first century. It is also recalled that the tragic events of the last days of the Jews who established this castle make Masada symbols of Jewish cultural identity and the ongoing human struggle between oppression and freedom.
Herod the Great Masada
Masada is located on an isolated cliff in the Judean desert, more than 400 meters above the adjacent Dead Sea. A combination of cliffs and cliffs in the middle of the desert, the place provided a perfect natural defense system.
Despite the natural elements, Herod the Great surrounded Masada with a strong double wall. This was not an easy operation 600 meters long and 300 meters wide for Masada peak.
Herod the Great did more – Masada was not only a fortress, but also a royal castle with large mansions, a state-of-the-art public bath house and some smaller mansions that probably hosted Herod’s family members.
The northern palace is the most impressive building in Masada, and the way it was built is still spectacular: the palace is connected to the sloping northern edge, and appears to be hanging on the edge of the cliff. The shelf consists of three levels of rock, and in order to make these levels larger – builders constructed massive wall trusses.
Upstairs there were four bedrooms and a balcony with a breathtaking view of the Dead Sea, the oasis of Ein Gedi and the Moab hills. A sophisticated hidden staircase led to the second level where a large hall was built, surrounded by another balcony with ballot boxes that seemed to hang from the cliff. Then the stairs continued to the lowest level, where a huge hall was built, surrounded by exedras. The walls of this hall are decorated with beautiful frescoes, and next to the hall was built a private laundry house – for use by residents of the North Palace.
At the height of the mountain, Herod built a public laundry house for the rest of Masada. Herod seems to have challenged the forces of nature by building this magnificent house in one of the most dry areas of the universe.
29 warehouses were built at the top of the mountain, each 27 meters long. Archaeological excavations have uncovered hundreds of pottery pieces containing huge amounts of food. Thus, through a rare combination of natural conditions and human action, Masada has become an invincible site.
Herod dug 12 giant water holes on the western edge of the Masada cliff, where flood water was collected. The size of all the water holes combined was 40,000 square meters. This was a huge amount of water that provided all the inhabitants of Masada with enough water to drink, shower, swim and even grow vegetables.
Water holes are scattered in two lines – the upper line is located 80 meters below the Masada summit, while the second line is at an altitude of 130 meters. Monsters burden the water to the top of the abyss via special routes.
Masada is a fanatical
Despite the power and splendor reflected by Herod’s buildings, the most dramatic results seem to be small pieces of remnants left by fanatics, which enable us to understand the end of the great rebellion.
The large halls in the palaces were not suitable for families to live in, so they were converted into public buildings and premises. The building adjacent to the northern wall, which was stable for the horse, was converted into a synagogue. This is one of the oldest synagogues found, and was operating while the second temple was still active. The defenders also built two “mikveh” water spaces that allowed them to wash according to the rules of Jewish tradition.
By looking at ovens and food storage facilities, we understand that most of the population lived inside walls or in small huts next to walls. Personal items such as garments, baskets and food containers were found in rooms not burned by the Romans. Many of these properties are found in piles along with coal – which we understand were intended to burn so that the Romans would not reach them.
More than 5,000 coins were found in Masada, mostly dating from the time of the Great Rebellion. More interesting are the coins bearing the Hebrew script: “Israel NIS” and “Holy Jerusalem.” Coins also remember the year of the great rebellion in which they were made. Apart from those coins, pieces of scrolls and about 700 ostrons (written pottery) were found.
Hundreds of catapult stones launched by Roman soldiers, human skeletons (and possibly zilot) spread throughout the mountain, and large rolling stones indicate the intensity of fighting between the Romans and Zilot.
The Roman siege regime remained almost unchanged around Masada. From the top of the slope, one can inhabit camp land, dam land and many of the roads and towers used by the fighters. The total length of the double wall that surrounds Masada is 2 km wide and 2 meters wide. The Roman siege system is surprisingly large, if you think it was targeting 960 people who defended Masada, some of them children and women. This reflects the power of the Masada cliff and the perseverance shown by the defense of Jewish-fanatical fighters.
The Israel Parks and Gardens Authority is making great efforts and resources to maintain Masada, employing the best researchers and technologies around the world. Rebuilding the collapsed walls and buildings recreates the original Masada. Reconstruction and conservation is done using the original building materials used to build Masada. This form of reconstruction is particularly important when dealing with frescoes, mosaics and artistic elements.
Reach the height of Masada
Today, Masada can be reached by cable car or by two walking routes:
1. Bridge path – a steep, but short and comfortable path that runs all the way from the western parking lot (Access Through Arad). It was reopened by monks in the Byzantine era. It overcomes an altitude of 100 meters, and the climb takes 20 minutes.
2. The path of the snake – a long road that overcomes the height of 350 meters. It is spacious and comfortable, and goes all the way from the eastern car park in Masada. It takes 45 minutes to climb.
Audion Visual Spectacle takes place at Masada National Park during March – October on Tuesday and Thursday. The scene tells the story of the last Jewish settler in Masada. Cliff Masada – on its west side serves as a backdrop to this magnificent scene.
At the dawn of the third millennium, the Dead Sea region continues to seek its identity between the spirit of the desert and the ever-growing life in the Middle East. It is a region where dreams and ideas are created on the one hand, and there is a will to live a peaceful and peaceful life on the other.