Masada – The story of 960 Jewish martyrs
From time to time it is worthwhile reminding ourselves who we are and why.
As the Chabad Lubavitch Rebbe said: the core of the existence of the Jewish people as a nation that dwells alone (“… people shall dwell alone, set apart from other nations” ~ Numbers 23:9) is by choice and by force; it is by these two forces, the positive one, the first and foremost force, by the Jewish faith, religion, and the other one, the negative force that helps to keep the Jews away from assimilating. A combination of positive and negative, philosophical and spiritual aspects, mainly relate to the existence of the Jewish people.
The ultimate example of the preservation of Judaism and the resistance to not to succumb to the enemy is the story of the men, women and children who fortified themselves on top of the mountain Masada in the Judea desert.
In 66 CE, a group of Jewish rebels, of the Sicarii sect overcame the Roman garrison of Masada with the aid of a ruse. After the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 CE, additional members of the Sicarii sect fled Jerusalem and settled on the Masada mountaintop. According to Titus Flavius Josephus, also called Joseph ben Matityahu, a first-century Roman-Jewish historian and a scholar who witnessed the sack of Jerusalem, the Sicarii were an extremist Jewish splinter group antagonistic to a larger grouping of Jews, referred to as the Zealots, who carried the main burden of the rebellion against the Romans.
In their efforts to rid the kingdom of Judea of all Jews, in 73 CE, the Roman governor Lucius Flavius Silva, who headed the Roman legion X Fretensis, laid siege to Masada. It took the Romans the X Legion, a number of auxiliary units and Jewish prisoners of war, totaling some 15,000 troops, to crush the Jewish resistance at Masada.
After probably two to three months of siege, the Romans built a circumvallation wall, a 375-foot high assault ramp, consisted mostly of a natural spur of bedrock and a giant siege tower with a battering ram. They laid a siege embankment against the western face of the mountain plateau and moved laboriously up the completed ramp that allowed them to finally breach the wall of the fortress, built by King Herod the Great, with a battering ram.
According to Flavius Josephus, the walls of the Masada fortress were breached in 73 CE; when Roman troops entered the fortress, they discovered that its 960 inhabitants had set all the buildings but the food storerooms ablaze and committed a mass suicide; they killed each other in order not to fall into the enemy’s hands.
Shining A Light
Even in the greatest darkness, when you light a candle its light will spread and shine afar.
The brave two spies Caleb and Joshua, the Maccabees, the Masada brave, the Ghetto Warsaw heroes, Yosef Trumpeldor and the soldiers of 1948 Independence War, the countless other heroes and Herzl’s vision of Zionism and the Zionist pioneers who built the Jewish state, all tell us that as Jews we must simply stand proudly for the state of Israel and the Jewish people.