Masada: Symbol of Jewish Freedom

Masada, which in Hebrew translates as "fortress," is a location of magnificence and royal splendor and is unique in the eyes of Jews who still regard it as delightfully the last trench defended by a small number of Jewish Zealots against the Roman assault in 73 AD. The group that chose to perish rather than give up their national freedom stood out as the symbol of national pride, daring, and courage that Masada will always be associated with. The location of Masada is at the pinnacle of a secluded rock precipice at the western end of the Judean Desert and overlooks the Dead Sea. On the side of the west, the rock stands at almost one hundred meters above the adjacent landscape and falls in a vertical drop of approximately four-hundred-and-fifty meters to the Dead Sea on the eastern edge.

In 73AD, during the fight between the Jewish and the Romans; a cluster of Jews ascended Masada, surpassed a small battalion of Romans safeguarding the mountain thereby making the place their final holdout against their enemies. They came from the Sicarii division, a radical fallen apart assembly of the Jewish Zealot responsible for fighting the Romans at Judea. The set attained their identification from the minute blade, sicaraius which they possessed. The Jewish revolts, together with their leader Eleazar ben Ya’ir and about 960 cohorts remained on Masada to resist the Romans who were also not content with leaving behind any opposition battalions of the Jews not destroyed (Bein Harim Tours Ltd, p 3).

The Romans launched their 10th legion under the leadership of Lucius Flavius Silva, together with the assisting forces and the Jewish convicts with the intention of laying cordon to Masada. They constructed a wall around the place to catch any fleeing Jews from down to hilltop before starting to shower the mountain with all the items of possible modern machinery which was within their reach. Upon breaching the fortified walls, previously, the hilltop palace of Herod, and charging on Masada’s flat summit, the Romans found that the Jewish rebels had already engaged in the mass suicide. According to Josephus, the Roman historian, the trapped Jews did believe that it was God’s will and by necessity that they had to die, and in fact, as the attacking Romans approached, the Jewish leader Eleazar rallied to the people on the Masada. In his speech, he said that long ago they had resolved not to serve the Romans or anything else than their God, who they believed to be the only real and righteous Lord.

He went further to say that they must not choose slavery given its penalties and that it was in their power to die bravely as free people with their wives not abused and children without the comprehension of slavery (Jewish Virtual Library, p 12). Those fighting for freedom were never convinced, and that made the leader give out a second speech which made them decide on a mass suicide irrespective of it being against the Jewish rules. Through drawing the lots, ten men chosen were to kill the rest, and then one of the remaining ten was to murder the remaining nine before taking his life. Nevertheless, according to Josephus, five kids and two women endured through hiding in the cave and later gave out the story to the Romans who became surprised of the bravery and pledge in the face of fatality by the multitude (Bein Harim Tours Ltd, p 5).

The Symbolism and Significance of Masada

The siege and subsequent suicide of the Masada inhabitants are deeply established in the Jewish traditions as the Zealots never killed themselves due to being hopeless but due to their belief that it was the will of God that they die bravely. For the majority, the story of Masada symbolizes the Jewish intrepidness, valor, and vigor, not only by their last traumatic decision but also by the fact that they managed to retain the mountain for almost three years (Dead, p 5). The Israeli youth groups, as early as 1941 would organize expeditions to Masada to instigate an opposition against the inhabiting foreign military in Palestine. Through the Second World War, the Masada story kept on inspiring the Zionists to fight for their beloved nation, and also motivated the ghetto revolution in Warsaw.

Until lately, the Masada has been in use by the Israeli military as the inaugural ceremony spot for the selected armed forces upon accomplishment of their a half a year essential exercise. The Nahal Infantry Brigade carried out a fifty-seven kilometers beret demonstration with the final stage seeing the soldiers climbing the Snake Path of Masada to the top thereby pledging an allegiance to their country. The ethics behind such a demonstration is to provide to the soldiers the logic of togetherness that the battle is not individual other than a collective effort for the nationwide endurance. They had to toil as a band to overcome the test together as one, and they uttered the words, in the ritual that, Masada will never plummet for the second time. The intimate familiarity of Masada begins much earlier in the lives of the entire Israelites through the historical study of the place while schooling and unavoidably making a tour to the location. Moreover, the site’s cultural and spiritual importance has made it an admired scene for the landmark events such as weddings. The Masada story is still significant and a perfect symbol of the sacrifice the majority of Jews and Israelis are ready to make for their national dignity.

The Role of the symbolic places and spaces in the Variance between Israel and Palestinian

The two religious traditions that are Israel and Palestine, both share the same sacred location in Jerusalem that is the Western Wall. The Jews refer to the place and platform in the Jerusalem’s Old City as the Western Wall and the Temple Mount whereas the Muslims call the space as the Noble Sanctuary and the Prophet’s supernatural stallion tethered to the wall. The Temple Mount, to the Jews, is the place where Abraham bound, Isaac, his son for a sacrifice, Solomon and David erected the earliest sanctuary, and where there was the reconstruction of the second temple following the Babylonian Exile. Moreover, they say that it was later enlarged by Herod the Great before the destruction in 70 C.E by the Romans. The sacrificial rite of the Temple preserved the cosmos’ order and joined heaven and earth. Although it got obliterated and the Jews drove out of Jerusalem, they still upheld a mental residency with the place. They erected its sacredness into the system of their prayers, in the customs marking the transitions of existence, in their synagogue’s design, in their visualization of the messianic end time and ultimately in the core of their autonomist association (Friedland and Hecht 22).

For the Muslims, the identification of the Noble Sanctuary was after their Palestine’s conquest as the target of Muhammad’s flight from Mecca. Later, they combined the traditions of the ladder to heaven to the traditions of the air travel to prove that the Prophet had stopped in Jerusalem before climbing the ladder to the holy specialty. The British have tried to resolve the conflict between the Jews and the Muslims over the Western Wall through various means. For instance, they took the issue to the League of Nations and anticipated that the League should set up the commission to investigate, identify, and verify the privileges and claims of both the two rival groups. However, Mufti has always been a tyrant when it comes to resolving the conflict and even opposed the League of Nations claiming that establishing the arguments concerning the Muslim’s holy place cannot be by any other authority apart from the Shari’a law. Moreover, the British have gone further to try to bring the Jews and Muslims to some conciliation; nevertheless, Mufti, as usual, has refused to attend the meetings with the Jews claiming that doing so would give their rivals the rights to the Wailing Wall (Friedland and Hecht 34).

The two groups have always negated one another’s places and traditions in the process of nurturing and enhancing their own thus escalating the tensions. The Israelis just like Rabbi Goren believe in the out of doors worshipping inclusive of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa which are free of the Muslim buildings, but for the Mufti, the whole area is a mosque thus not allowing the Jews to use them for prayer purposes. Besides, the Jews always try to enter the haram for prayer purposes, but the Muslims oppose that claiming that the place is a mosque and not a synagogue thus every group negating one another’s traditions (Friedland and Hecht 49).

The Role of the Symbolic Places and Spaces in the Continuation of Palestinian Identity

The Muslims have always associated themselves with the haram al-sharif or the Western Wall as their symbolic place of the destination of the Isra or flight of Muhammad from al-masjid in Mecca. The Muslim Council have come up with the laws that protect their sacred spaces from the external invasion, for instance, the Jews’ access to prayer, and especially the Western Wall which they refer to as the Noble Sanctuary. In the year 1920 even before the becoming of a Mufti by Hajj Amin, the Muslims had started initiating the minor renovations of the walls of the Noble Sanctuary, and the repairs were inclusive of the removing of the weeds which covered the wall top. By doing so, they were trying to prove to the world that the wall is theirs and meant a lot to them and are capable of going to whatever heights to protect it (Friedland and Hecht 31).

Furthermore, the Palestinians have identified themselves with the place to the extent of calling for its rebuilding and even preventing the Jews from violating the mosque laws through bringing things like chairs and benches to the mosque. On the other hand, the Jews have also asserted that the area is their Temple Mount and a place of worship and therefore, the Palestinians should not be using the wall as a mosque. Indeed in the years 1936-39, there was a Palestinian revolution against the British and the Zionists as regards the space hence creating massive tensions between Israel and Palestine. The Jews have also come up with a Six-Day War in the year 1967 to protect the area as their holy place of prayer and even punish those who violated their laws as concerns the place of worship thus escalating the conflict to greater heights (Friedland and Hecht 35).

Works Cited

Bein Harim Tours LTD. "Masada? Symbol of Jewish Freedom." Mount Masada Information and Tours, 12 Feb. 2016,

Dead "The Story of Masada? The Siege & Its Symbolic Meaning.", 27 Feb. 2017,

Friedland, Roger, and Richard D. Hecht. The Politics of Sacred Place: Jerusalem's Temple Mount/ al-haram al-sharif.

Jewish Virtual Library. "Masada Desert Fortress." Jewish Virtual Library, 2017,

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