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What time Ierusalem that Cittie faire, Was sieg'd and sackt by great Vespasians heire   Canaan's Calamitie, Jerusalem's Misery ; The dolefull destruction of faire Ierusalem by Tytus, the Sonne of Vaspasian Emperour of Rome, in the yeare of Christ's Incarnation 74  (1598) Wherein is shewed the woonderfull miseries which God brought upon that Citty for sinne, being utterly over-throwne and destroyed, by Sword, pestilence and famine. 



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Charts & Maps | Jerusalem - Temple | Masada | Portraits
2,000 Years of Josephus | Numismatic History | The Roman Empire

Fortress Masada

The History of the
Destruction of Jerusalem

Visual Timeline of the Roman-Jewish War


1730 French Josephus

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency

Masada----October 21......There are few places in Israel that are as dramatic in both story and terrain as Masada. It is a magical place. One which connects the burnt desert ground to the soft blue sky above.

As such, it draws millions of tourists, Israel citizens, Israel Defense Forces ceremonies and children.

Massada lends itself to a fairy tale legend, although the end is not as white and clean as Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. That the Jews who committed suicide on top of this majestic, towering rock, have earned a bad name for themselves. The Romans called them "rebels," the Jews described them as zealots or fanatics but I would label them as a people who truly cherished freedom.

Masada today is one of the Jewish people's greatest symbols. Israel soldiers take an oath there: "Masada shall not fall again." Next to Jerusalem, it is the most popular destination of Jewish tourists visiting Israel.

It is strange that a place known only because 960 Jews committed suicide there in the first century C.E. should become a modern symbol of Jewish survival. Because Jewish law strictly forbids suicide, this decision sounds more shocking today than it probably did to his compatriots. The alternative facing the fortressís defenders were hardly more attractive than death. Once the Romans defeated them, the men could expect to be sold off as slaves, the women as slaves and prostitutes.

According to the Roman historian Josephus, two women and five children managed to hide themselves during the mass suicide, and it was from one of these women that he heard an account of Elazar ben Yair's final speech. Josephus probably added some rhetorical flourishes of his own, but Elazarís speech clearly was a masterful oration: "Since we long ago resolved," Elazar began, "never to be servants to the Romans, nor to any other than to God Himself, Who alone is the true and just Lord of mankind, the time is now come that obliges us to make that resolution true in practice. We were the very first that revolted (against Rome), and we are the last that fight against them; and I cannot but esteem it as a favor that God has granted us, that it is still in our power to die bravely, and in a state of freedom."

Even at this late juncture, Elazar could not accept that the main reason the revolt had failed was because Rome's army was vastly superior. Instead, he dwelt on his belief that the Lord had turned against the Jewish people. Finally, he came to an inescapable conclusion: "Let our wives die before they are abused, and our children before they have tasted of slavery, and after we have slain them, let us bestow that glorious benefit upon one another mutually." Elazar ordered that all the Jews' possessions except food be destroyed, for "[the food] will be a testimonial when we are dead that we were not subdued for want of necessities; but that, according to our original resolution, we have preferred death before slavery." After this oration, the men killed their wives and children, and then each other.

In recent years, Massada became widely known through the excavations of the late Israel archaeologist Yigael Yadin. In addition to finding two mikvaot (ritual baths) and a synagogue used by Masada's defenders, he uncovered twenty-five skeletons of men, women, and children. In 1969, they were buried at Masada with full military honors. The term "Masada complex" is sometimes applied critically to advocates of right-wing policies in the Israel government. Political scientist Susan Hattis Rolef has defined this "complex" as "the conviction ... that it is preferable to fight to the end rather than to surrender and acquiesce to the loss of independent statehood."

As I walked among the rocks of Masada today, I kept a careful eye on my 6-year-old daughter. Not that she was going to trip and fall, but more so as to what would interest a girl of six on her first trek to this historic and romantic spot in the Judean desert.

"Daddy, I want to make this my kitchen," she said. I had pointed out that many of the stone buildings had been homes decorated with colorful tile floors and marble walls long ago. "Yes, this is where I want to make you pancakes and over here would be my bed." The room she pointed out was on the West side of Masada. It would have had a direct view of the Roman attack. I wondered if my daughter would have acted any different if she had been living on Massada at the time of the Roman assault.

"Is King Herod still alive," she asked. "No, he died a long time ago and is buried," I said. She responded asking if he was buried in the ground as one of our cats which recently died. This was her only measuring stick related to death.

"Daddy, I hate the Romans," she said. I replied that the Romans of long ago were bad people, but the Romans who live in Italy today are good people who love art and make spaghetti and pizza. I had to make sure of my facts with a nearby guide that Marco Polo's existence came after Massada.

"Daddy, they are like the Hizbullah who want to hurt us." "Yes, they are," I said, remembering that I still had to replace my car's windshield which was slightly cracked by a Katusha rocket's ball bearing that hit me in Kiryat Shamona.

"Daddy, why do the people of Palestine want to kill us?" I said that it was not all the Palestinians. That many are good and want peace. "Daddy, why do they want to take our land?"

At this point I wondered about the answer. No one ever hears of the Palestinians claiming Masada as theirs. In fact, Masada and the Jews were around centuries before some people actually called themselves "Palestinians". The Jews had rulers, governments, currency, stamps and a language of their own. Palestine never existed as a State or as a people.

It is a little known fact that many of the so-called 1948 Arab refugees weren't actually born in Palestine. The United Nations definition of "Palestinian refugee" is as follows: "Palestine refugees are persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict"

There was never any country called Palestine. And there is no such thing as a Palestinian people. The ideas that the West Bank and Gaza are occupied Palestinian land, and that the Palestinian people are fighting for their land, have been accepted by most of the governments of the world and by most of the media in the world. But if you read on, you will see that these two claims are the biggest lies ever deliberately perpetrated on humanity.

Check out any map of the Middle East and see for yourself. You will find Palestine listed as a region as it always has been, but definitely not a country. We can locate the Mojave Desert on the map, but we still do not recognize it as a US 51st state, let alone a country. Similarly, the region of Siberia is a region not a state. Or the Sahara is a region not a state, etc. Neither is Palestine a state. It never was a country, just a region.

Importantly, the Jews did not displace anyone, because no one permanently resided there. It was a land inhabited by nomadic, Bedouin tribes. The whole region was nothing but deserts and swamps. Only about 120,000 Arabs resided in an area that covered the territories, the state of Israel and Jordan. When Mark Twain visited the area, he wrote he found nothing but a wasteland.

During the 19 years that the territories, including Jerusalem and Gaza, were occupied by the kingdoms of Jordan and Egypt, no one talked about a Palestinian state, not the Arab countries, not the United Nations. Nobody asked Jordan or Egypt to abdicate their ownership and give it to the Palestinians. Not even the Palestinians themselves said anything about a Palestinian state or a Palestinian people, because nobody heard of a Palestinian people. It never existed.

The fact simply is that there are no Palestinians. These people are Arabs like all other Arabs, and they happen to live in a region called Palestine. They are not a separate people. What makes a separate people? Religion, language, culture, garb, cuisine, etc. The Arabs in Palestine speak the same language, practice the same religion, have the same culture, etc., as all the other Arabs. The few minor differences that exist between them are like the minor differences that exist between the American Northerners and Southerners, Easterners and Westerners... but they are still all Americans. People in the south of France are quite different from the people in the north, but they are still all French. These inconsequential differences do not make a people.

The Arabs living in Syria or Jordan, etc., are also the same Arabs, but they are each a separate nation because they each have a separate country. The so-called Palestinians want a separate country because they claim to be a separate nation. They are not. They were never a separate people before the new state of Israel. How did they become one now? Because of these lies, the so-called "Palestinians" feel justified in sending suicide bombers to kill women, children, babies, old men, old women and noncombatant citizens. Because of these lies, the United Nations and the media of the world are condemning Israel who is acting less harshly than any other country would act in retaliation for such heinous attacks.

I do not blame the Palestinians solely for these lies. I also place much of the responsibility of these lies turning into so-called fact due to the inaction of the Israel government in addressing these distortions. The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs has an extremely limited budget and the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson's Office is directed today by a General who does not speak English and directs 18 year-olds and reservist academics to get the job done.

The Prime Minster's Office of Israel has never taken global public affairs and public relations seriously. Not realizing that public affairs determines public opinion and public opinion determines policy and the wars we fight. What the Prime Minister's Office has twice done in the last few years was to set up committees that were created to deflect criticism. Israel governmental PR committees which have come and gone without addressing facts and providing professional solutions.

Back to "Palestine." What is the United States doing in Afghanistan, a totally foreign country? Killing Afghanis. Why? Because they attacked the US on Sept. 11. I understand this. But why do they not understand that that is exactly what Israel is doing, only on a much smaller scale? Ask yourself this: Should the use of terror ever be rewarded? When is the use of terrorism justified as a military tactic? As a political tactic? As an economic tactic? What implications does this hold for future conflicts?

Let us examine the truths here: There never was a Palestinian state or a Palestinian nation. There are no Palestinian people, per se. Rather, these are Arabs living in a region that historically has been called many things, including "Palestine."

Israel did not go to war against a Palestinian state and occupy its land. Rather, Israel was attacked by six Arab countries at once. She defended herself, defeated her attackers, and won the so-called territories, not from the Palestinians, but from Jordan and Egypt.

Jerusalem was never the capital of any state but Israel. It was certainly never the capital of a country that never existed. Why should the Palestinians get any part of it? Because they want it? Because they have terrorists?

Jerusalem, under the current Israel control, is a free and open city. Israel, as a democracy, guarantees freedom of religion within its borders. Contrast this fact with areas that have come under Palestinian occupation. What percentage of Christians have left in recent years because they cannot stand the harassment and persecution?

Most Arabs living in Palestine today are not indigenous to the region. It was not until after the Jews had changed deserts and swamps into a productive and thriving land that the Arabs started migrating there. Arafat himself was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt.

The belief that giving the Palestinians a state will bring peace is a delusion. The truth is that they want it all. The short-term goal is a state consisting of the West Bank and Gaza. The long-term goal is a state which includes all of "historical Palestine," including Jordan. How do we know this? The late Faisal Husseini, Arafat's Jerusalem representative, a man who was cultured, sophisticated and considered the most moderate of all the Palestinians, shortly before his death on May 31, 2001, expressed his true feelings in an interview with the popular Egyptian newspaper el Arav.

Husseini said: "We must distinguish the strategies and long-term goals from the political-phased goals which we are compelled to accept due to international pressures." But the "ultimate goal is the liberation of all of historical Palestine." Explicitly he said: "Oslo has to be viewed as a Trojan Horse." He even added and clarified that it is the obligation of all the Palestinian forces and factions to see the Oslo Accords as "temporary" steps, as "gradual" goals, because in this way, "We are setting an ambush for the Israelis and cheating them." He also differentiated between "strategic," long-term, "higher" goals, and "political" short-term goals dependent on "the current international establishment, balance of power" etc. All of historical Palestine! Does not this include all of Israel and all of Jordan?

Masada was fact. The Romans were fact. But the existence of a country named Palestine is as real as the pancakes my daughter was making on top of Masada. Do I believe that the Palestinians should have their own state. Yes. But it will not include two items. Massada and peace.

Today, as my daughter and I were discovering Masada, Qassam rockets were launched from Gaza towards Israel cities and towns. Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza over a year ago. So what then do the terrorists of Hamas and Hezbollah want? They want Masada. They want Jerusalem. They want Tel Aviv.

No different than the Romans. Only difference is that the Israelites have a far better army today. And that my daughter is making pancakes on top of a place called Masada. Pass the maple syrup.


The Masada Coin from the First Jewish Revolt | Hebrew Inscription: "Year Three"
Spears found at Masada

Roman Beltbuckle found at Masada
Roman Legionary Ring found at Masada

Towering 430 m. above the Dead Sea, Massada (Hebrew for fortress) is a boat-shaped, craggy mountain. Upon it one of the greatest epics in the history of mankind was played out.

When the Jewish rebellion erupted in 66 CE, a group of Zealots headed for Massada. They knew that Herod had built, about 100 years earlier, an impregnable fortress on its summit which he intended to use as a sanctuary in the event of Cleopatra or local dissidents trying to usurp his throne.

The Zealots seized it from the Roman garrison and settled into the sumptuous palaces, hanging villas and rooms within the casemate wall surrounding its heights. It seemed they could not be dislodged. Herod had built well. There were giant cisterns hacked within the rock to receive the flood waters following the rains. There were barracks, defence towers and arsenals.

With the fall of Jerusalem four years later in 70 CE they were joined by survivors fleeing the capital and some Essenes from Qumran. Their numbers swelled to 960 men, women and children. During the next two years they remained the only pocket of resistance in Palestine, continuing to harass the Romans by using the royal citadel as their base.

In 72 CE the Roman Governor, Flavius Silva, arrived at the foot of Massada, with the Tenth Legion, auxiliaries and 10,000 Jewish slaves. He built a dyke around the base of the mountain and eight siege camps to prevent escape. On the western side, he later built a ramp of beaten earth, stones and logs. While he did this, the Jews hurled down boulders and rounded rocks and fired arrows from their bows. In time the Romans positioned a siege tower on the ramp and then a battering ram. The year was 73 CE. The siege was approaching its denouement.

The Romans set fire to the wall, but wind drove the flames into the face of the attackers. The defenders took heart, but then the wind changed and the wall burned.

All this has come down to us through the Jewish historian Josephus Flavius, who recorded the events after he became a turncoat and joined the Romans. His account of what happened next makes compelling reading, and the oration of the leader of the defenders, Eleazar Ben Ya'ir, ranks with Henry V's electrifying summation before Agincourt, and Churchill's galvanizing war-time speeches. ``Let our wives die before they are abused,'' he implored, ``and our children before they have tasted of slavery and after we have slain them, let us bestow that glorious benefit upon one another mutually, and preserve ourselves in freedom, as an excellent funeral monument for us.''

He then exhorted them to destroy their money and burn the fortress but to spare their provisions ``for they will be a testimonial when we are dead that we were not subdued for want of necessaries, but... preferred death before slavery.''
Josephus' account of the drama notes that after this speech there were some who balked at the idea of killing their families. Ben Ya'ir again appealed to them. He reminded them that Jerusalem had fallen and that the great Temple had been burned. ``Now, who is there that revolves these things in his mind, and yet is able to bear the sight of the sun?'' he asked. ``Let us die before we become slaves under our enemies, and let us go out of the world, together with our children and our wives, in a state of freedom. Let us therefore make haste and instead of affording them so much pleasure, as they hope for in getting us under their power, let us leave them an example which shall at once cause their astonishment at our death and their admiration of our hardiness therein.''

Josephus writes that before Ben Ya'ir had finished they ``all cut him off short and made haste to do the work...'' They ``gave the longest parting kisses'' to their wives and children and then slew them. Then they cast lots to choose 10 men to despatch the remainder. Again they cast lots to select one to kill the survivors. With this done, the lone Jew ``ran his sword entirely through himself.''

Details of the mass suicide and the oration were provided later by two women and five children who hid in the underground caves and lived to tell the tale.

Massada was excavated by Professor Yigael Yadin for 12 months from 1963 to 1965. The Israeli army and thousands of volunteers from 28 countries came to help sift the rubble and restore what was found. While discovering much evidence of those fateful hours, they also determined that the Romans maintained a garrison on Massada for several decades after its capture. The last inhabitants were a handful of reclusive 5th-century monks.

Today Massada has become a symbol for men who cherish freedom. The defiant cry of recruits to the Israel Defence Forces Armoured Unit swearing the oath of allegiance in an annual ceremony on its summit: ``Massada shall never fall again!''


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