Israel’s Masada: 20 years as a UNESCO World Heritage site

i24NEWS

2 min read
An aerial view of Masada, located in Israel's Masada National Park, on i24NEWS, January 13, 2022.
i24NEWSAn aerial view of Masada, located in Israel's Masada National Park, on i24NEWS, January 13, 2022.

Despite its tragic history, Masada now represents Israel’s celebrations of life

The mountain fortress of Masada is one of Israel's most prominent UNESCO sites, and stands as a symbol of ancient Jewish resistance.

Eitan Campbell, the former director of Masada National Park, spoke with i24NEWS on the significance behind the fortress.

Masada is said to be the last holdout against the ancient Great Jewish Revolt, where hundreds of Jewish rebels held off a siege for three years until the attacking Roman forces built a ramp to reach the garrison, according to historian Flavius Josephus.

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While there was Jewish existence on Masada from 66-73 AD, the Roman siege itself only lasted a matter of months. 

It is commonly said that the Jewish rebels atop Masada chose to commit mass suicide rather than submit to the Roman forces.

However, Campbell explained that there is an important distinction to be made within the story.

“It’s not suicide. We call it suicide only because we don’t really have a better word for it,” the ex-director told i24NEWS.

The expert said that the rebels chose 10 men to help “dispatch the families, those who have weakened, and then between the 10, they (drew) lots to see who (would) kill the nine.”

The last man alive would be the only man required to commit suicide.

“This is very important in (the) Jewish religion, and they were very religious Jews,” Campbell said.

Despite its tragic history, Masada now represents Israel’s celebrations of life - the site is a common location for Israel’s bar mitzvah and military ceremonies.

“We come and we learn this story, but that’s not the essence of what the mountain means. The mountain means ‘appreciate, celebrate life’,” Campbell explained.