Masada, on the southwest side of the Dead Sea, was fortified by Herod the Great.



Here’s a model of what it looked like at the time of Herod:



After Jerusalem was destroyed, a number of revolutionaries and families walled themselves up in this fortress.  The Romans, not to be refused, spent a year piling earth up the back of the fortress.



They then used one of these to break down the back wall of the fortress:



According to Josephus, the Jewish historian, after they broke through, the Romans found that the Jews had made a second wall and filled it with wood.  The Romans of course set it on fire and then broke through the second barrier.


According to Josephus, the group had decided to die rather than be taken by the Romans.  Allegedly this debate and decision took place in the room often identified as a synagogue.  It is said to be the place where the decision was argued and decided.  However, the designation of this room as a “synagogue” is not without debate.  It is unlikely that there would have been a structure exclusively understood to be a synagogue, although it is certainly possible that this room served as the place of synagogue (gathering) in addition to other functions:



The picture on the right below is apparently where they cast lots to see who would be the final person to commit suicide.  All the others would kill their families rather than let them be taken.  The picture on the left is an area adjacent to it where ostraca with names on them were found.



I close with a picture of middle aged Ken about half way up Masada:




Kenneth Schenck, June 2005