Masada Ultimate Guide

Masada Ultimate Guide - Tourists


Ultimate Guide

Masada National Park is one the most frequently visited National Park in Israel and with very good reason. It showcases one of Herod’s Great engineering achievements. A fortress lavishly decorated on a mountain top at the fringes of the Judaean Desert. Including two palaces, Roman baths, a swimming pool, numerous storerooms, and more! But the story doesn’t end here. After Herod the Greats’ died, in the year 70 CE the Jewish people in Judea revolted against Rome. Masada is where the very ending note of that revolt. About 967 rebels hid there and eventually commit suicide once realizing their odds to survive is null. The final episode of Masada is when Byzantine monks take over and turn Masada into a small monastery that had about 15 monks. The location was ideal for them. The Judaean Desert where John the Baptist roamed and is adjacent to Holy Jerusalem.

Masada National Park

The Roman Ramp






Archaeological Research

At Masada

With the abandonment of Masada by the last inhabitants, probably at the end of the Byzantine period, the site sank into the abyss of oblivion. In 1806, a German explorer, Ulrich Jasper Zetzen,  was the first to locate and discover the Masada in the modern period. Then in 1838, the American missionary, Eli Smith, the assistant of the scholar Edward Robinson, who, with the help of a telescope from Ein Gedi, identified the ruins of a-Seba as the historic site of Masada. Furthermore, he identified the structure on the northern cliff as Herod’s palace.

In 1842, the American missionary Walcott and the British painter Tipping visited Masada and conducted a survey of the site, the results of which were published with accurate illustrations and drawings that first presented the site to the public. In 1848, American naval officers led by Captain William Francis Lynch visited the site, moored their ship on the beach in front of Masada, climbed Masada, and identified the cisterns.

Following them came the researcher Félicien de Saulcy who excavated in the Byzantine church and uncovered a mosaic floor. He also surveyed the Roman camps and drew up the siege system. Considerable progress was made in the study when the ‘Palestine Exploration Fund’ launched the “Western Palestine Survey” in 1865, in which Charles Warren and Claude Reignier Conder surveyed Masada and made accurate drawings and maps of Masada and the Roman siege camps. The expedition located the Snake Trail but mistakenly identified the Western Palace as Herod’s Palace.

Was There a Mass Suicide at Masada?

“Since we long ago resolved 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, and we are the last to 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 freedom.” (Elazar ben Yair, leader of the Sicarii rebels at Masada)

Every kid in Israel knows the story of how Jewish rebels revolted against the  Romans, fortifying in the desert fortress of Masada – and opted for mass suicide, killing themselves and their families, over capture by the Roman X Legion. The story of the Siege of Masada was brought down to us by Flavius Josephus, once a commander in the Great Jewish Revolt, and ended as an advisor to Vespasian. He told of the defenders led by Elazar ben Yair and their decision to die rather than be taken.

According to the known story, to die free rather than live as slaves, the defenders each killed their own families and then drew lots to decide who would kill their compatriots. Only two women and five children were supposed to have survived. The late Lieutenant general and archaeologist Yigael Yadin, who led the 1963 massive excavations of the fortress built by King Herod, felt that the archaeological finds supported Josephus’ account. But, despite Yadin’s acceptance of this account as fact, scholars do not all agree. So what really happened really at Masada? Join my Masada private tours and you’ll find out!



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Bethlehem Ultimate Guide


Ultimate Guide

The earliest known naming of Bethlehem was in the Amarna Archive of 1350–1330 BCE; when the town was inhabited by the Canaanites. The Hebrew Bible, which states that the city of Bethlehem was established as a fortified city by Rehoboam; identifies it as the city David was from and where he was crowned as the king of Israel. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke name Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus.

In the Roman era, Bethlehem was leveled by Emperor Hadrian during the 2nd Jewish Revolt (Bar Kokhba revolt); its rebuilding was encouraged by Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, who ordered the construction of its great Church of the Nativity in 327 CE. But the church was severely damaged by the Samaritans, who plundered it during a revolt in 529 CE; but was restored a century later by Emperor Justinian I.

Bethlehem Ultimate Guide - Crosses

Handmade Woodwork


The Birthplace of Jesus

In the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke says that Jesus’ parents traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. The Gospel of Matthew mentions Bethlehem as the place of birth and adds that King Herod was told that a ‘King of the Jews’ had been born in the town, prompting Herod to order the killing of all the boys who were two years old or under in the town and surrounding area. Joseph warned of Herod’s impending action by an angel of the Lord, decided to flee to Egypt with his family, and then later settled in Nazareth after Herod’s death.

Early Christian traditions describe Jesus as being born in Bethlehem: in one account, a verse in the Book of Micah is interpreted as a prophecy that the Messiah would be born there. The second century Christian apologist Justin Martyr stated in his Dialogue with Trypho (written c. 155–161) that the Holy Family had taken refuge in a cave outside of the town and then placed Jesus in a manger. Origen of Alexandria, writing around the year 247, referred to a cave in the town of Bethlehem which local people believed was the birthplace of Jesus. This cave was possibly one which had previously been a site of the cult of Tammuz. The Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John does not include a nativity narrative but refer to him only as being from Nazareth.

Israelite and Judean period

Archaeological support of Bethlehem as a city in the Kingdom of Judah was uncovered in 2012 at the archaeological dig at the City of David. A seal impression in dried clay (Bulla) was found; in ancient Hebrew script that reads “From the town of Bethlehem to the King,”. Probably it was used to seal the string closing a shipment of grain, wine, or other goods sent as tax payment to the King of Judah in the 8th or 7th century BCE. Biblical scholars believe Bethlehem, located in the “hill country” of Judah, maybe the same as the Biblical Ephrath, which means “fertile”, as there is a reference to it in the Book of Micah as Bethlehem Ephratah.

The Hebrew Bible also calls it Beth-Lehem Judah, and the New Testament describes it as the “City of David”. It is first mentioned in the Bible as the place where the matriarch Rachel died and was buried “by the wayside” (Gen. 48:7). Rachel’s Tomb, the traditional grave site, stands at the entrance to Bethlehem.

According to the Book of Ruth, the valley to the east is where Ruth of Moab gleaned the fields and returned to town with Naomi. Furthermore, it was the home of Jesse, father of King David of Israel, and the site of David’s anointment by the prophet Samuel. It was from the well of Bethlehem that three of his warriors brought him water when he was hiding in the cave of Adullam.





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