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