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Masada is the name for a site of ancient palaces and fortifications in the South District of Israel on top of an isolated rock plateau, or large mesa, on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea. Masada became famous after the First Jewish-Roman War (also known as the Great Jewish Revolt) when a siege of the fortress by troops of the Roman Empire led to a mass suicide of the site's Jewish Sicarii fugitives when defeat became imminent.

Masada is both recognized for its Roman fortifications and as a symbol of Jewish cultural identity.


Jorge Sanchez (Spain):
When I was working in a Kibbutz (called Mefalsim), in the year 1984, as a volunteer, I enjoyed free excursions every week. We, the volunteers, were from several countries (Sweden, England, Germany and Spain).
There was a person in charge of the volunteers, a young girl. One day she invited us to visit Masada. We carried in the bus of the kibbutz food and drinks and departed early in the morning.
Masada was a very spectacular place. It consisted in ruins on a hill.
But the best were its views.
When the Romans wanted to capture Masada, they, the Zealots, preferred death to surrender.
Seeing that they had no chances to avoid the siege, the Zealots preferred death to surrender, so when the Romans finally made their way up to the fortress, they only found cadavers.
Our chief explained us the history of every place. After lunch we were given free time to explore by ourselves, and late in the afternoon we returned to our Kibbutz.
Date posted: February 2014
Kenneth B. Jackson (UK):
I have been to Masada 3 or 4 times the first with a tour party, the remainder with me acting as the guide for friends and colleagues and always during the Summer months.

I would always recommend the walk up (take plenty of water) and allow plenty of time to wander. It is imposing, it is much larger than perhaps you would surmise from below, but equalkly there is not much shade. However, take your time and see the different areas between the many tourist groups. I would recommend trying to get there either very early or go up for the last few hours of the day and wait until the number of people have fallen away. And if the people startgetting on your nerves look out at the views which on a claer day are outstanding.
Date posted: September 2010
Xeres Nelro (Canada):
Masada holds a special place in the hearts of the Jewish people. It was there, in the first century A.D. the Jews made their last stand on Masada, in the end deciding to commit suicide rather then be captured. Because of this, Israeli army cadets take an oath of allegiance when the join the army, on Masada, with the word "Masada shall not fall again!". I was lucky enough to see one of these ceremonies during my trip, quite a site, many uniformed soldiers with guns, in the midst of 2000 year old ruins, the Israeli flag flapping in the breeze.
Dawn at Masada is very special, the light coming up over the hills, makes the stones glow with a radiance of their own.
the ruins themselves are fairly standard of the middle east, what makes them impressive is that they are on a massive mesa in the middle of the desert. its hard to see how they could move all the material needed to build the fortress/palace complex. The Highlight of my trip to Masada, was looking over the edge, a viewing all the way down. The second highlight was the bathhouse, very nice mosaics.
interesting fact: if you yell from the top of Masada, you can be heard at the bottom. but if you yell from the bottom, you can't be heard at the top. So during the siege, the Jews would rain down insults on the romans, who where unable to reply.
Date posted: November 2008
Kim Harton (USA):
I too loved Masada on my visit in Nov. 2006. It was one of my favorite places that I visited during my trip to Israel. I would love to go back again. The gift shop was excellent. I bought several items and was wondering if anyone knows if they have a web-site that you can order things from on-line. I bought some beautiful jewelry and would love to purchase more for gifts. My cousin bought me the DVD of the movie, Masada, starring Peter O'Toole. It's a good visual teaching tool.
Date posted: September 2008
Christer Sundberg (Sweden):
Zillions of sightseeing tours can take you from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem to Masada and it is actually the most convenient way to visit the site. It’s an interesting piece of Jewish history to be told here, but not the most interesting of World Hertitage sights. Once up on the mountain you realise easily that it was virtually inaccessible for the Romans, who needed more than two years to concur it and when they finally did, all Jewish people had then committed mass suicide.

Make sure that your “tour” also includes a visit the Dead Sea. Wheather you want to roll yourself in healthy mud or just walk along the salty beaches is up to you but don’t miss the opportunity to visit a unique piece of nature. The Dead Sea is located -400 meters below sea level and the water contains over 25% salt. Make sure you have not shaved before you jump into the water…!
Date posted: June 2006
Paul Tanner (UK):
Whilst non Jews might not be fully aware of the history surrounding the event for which Masada is most famous they will have come across the word “Zealot”. These were anti Roman rebels who, during their final stand at the fortress, committed suicide rather than fall into the hands of their captors.

The Masada Fortress is at the top of an imposing 440 metre high “battleship” of a crag which stands apart from other hills close to the Dead Sea. It is eminently defendable.

Today its grandeur is perhaps slightly diminished by the huge car park and the cable car which takes many visitors to and from the summit. There is a footpath however (not difficult) which would qualify you to wear one of the “I conquered Masada” T shirts if you were so minded!

The view from the top over the Dead Sea is very fine and there is enough left of the excavated “buildings” to give a reasonable picture of what existed at the top. The site is well worth taking in if you are in Israel

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Site info

Country: Israel
Inscribed: 2001
Cultural Heritage
Criteria:  (3) (4) (6)
Category: Secular structure, Military / Fortifications

Site history:
2001 Inscribed
Reasons for inscription

Site links

Official website:

In the news:
» A section of the ancient walls of Masada, one of the country's most poignant symbols of survival, is in danger of collapse as a result of a heavy downpour that drenched the desert site three years ago. (09-03-2007).
» Could Masada fall again? (16-05-2006).

Related links:
» Desert Fortress Overlooking the Dead Sea.
» Masada.

Getting there

This WHS has 1 location(s).


Cave dwellings .
Baths . Cable cars . Cisterns . Cultural sites connected to Cliffs . Dovecotes . Mosaic art . Tombs .
Table Mountain .
Byzantine Empire and Civilization . Famous suicides . Historical events . Historical Food Remains . Nabatean culture . Sieges and Battles .
Human Activity
Irrigation and drainage . Thanatourist destination .
Religion and Belief
Jewish religion and culture .
Built in the 1st century BC .
Lowest (below sea level) . Purpose Built Visitor Centre . Sound and Light Show .
WHS Hotspots
Israel-Palestine Hotspot .
World Heritage Process
Cultural sites rejected for Natural criteria .

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