The name Masada is derived from a Hebrew word meaning fortress, and Masada Israel is just that, a fortified palace. Herod the Great had this palace built as a refuge in the first century BC, and some years later a Jewish division of Zealots found the remains and converted it into a base. Today, visitors can tour Masada on a special excursion, which includes the archeological site where Yigael Yadin uncovered many interesting finds, besides the palace. This site is not located far from the city of Tiberias and its array of hotels.
The history of Masada Israel is somewhat turbulent. Somewhere between 37 and 31 BC, Herod built the reinforced palace as a place of refuge against any revolt of his subjects. Nearly 100 years later, an extremist group of Zealots, known as the sicarii, used the ruins of the palace as a headquarters while raiding Roman settlements in the area. The Roman army outnumbered the sicarii by the thousands and defeated them, but rather than face capture, the sicarii committed mass suicide, except for seven survivors. Two women and their children hid in a cistern to escape, and they related much of the account known today.
Many unexpected discoveries have been made at the site of Masada during excavations by Yadin. Much of Masada has remained untouched for nearly 2,000 years, and the larger remains are still very well preserved. The ramp up to the fortress, which was built by the Romans, is still in use today by tourists. A synagogue, store houses, bath houses, Roman barracks, and the wall encircling the Masada have been unearthed and restored. Two paintings in the palace have also been restored.
Scrolls and other religious fragments have been found inside the synagogue, and 28 skeletons, believed to belong to the Sicarii, were discovered at Masada and were reburied with full military honors. At the top of Masada, the remains of a Byzantine church from the fifth or sixth century have also been unearthed. One of the most remarkable findings at this site was a 2,000-year-old seed that has successfully germinated, and it's now a date tree.
Travelers planning a visit to this notable site can tour Masada on a guided tour. Some tours include a visit to the Dead Sea, which is nearby, and the Qumran caves where the Dead Sea scrolls were found, though the scrolls themselves are housed in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. A hearty walk up the Snake Path is the beginning of most tours and is known as being part of the overall experience, but a cable car is available for those who prefer to relax or are unable to walk the distance. For those in search of a bit of evening entertainment, ever Tuesday and Thursday night from April to October, a historical light show is presented in the Masada amphitheater.
With a long and turbulent history, Masada Israel holds many relics of the past that have since been unearthed for the whole world to see. Visitors who are interested in learning about the history of the Holy Land during their vacation can tour Masada along with nearby attractions, including Qumran and the Dead Sea. With its restorations and attractions, Masada has become a great destination for a family holiday or for the solo traveler.