I know that I am nearly a week late, but I will conclude our journey south this past weekend with a sharing of my favorite part of the trip--our time at Masada.
We awoke slightly earlier than we had the previous day to prepare for a trip to Masada and to the Dead Sea as we meandered our way back to the Galilee. I awoke earlier than I intended, but I grabbed a book and planted myself in a hamock just outside the room to read until others began to stir. I did not rest long before a friend came by and asked me if I cared to join her and another guy for a walk. I put my book up and we ventured forth into the morning happenings of Kibbutz Lotan.
Our path drew us to the goats of the kibbutz. We stood outside and watched a couple of people milking and feeding the goats. After a few moments, one of the men invited us inside to watch more closely. Upon entering, we met a couple of other people from our group who had had a similar idea. It was a fascinating short period of time in which we met three different men with three very different stories. When we felt the hunger pains of breakfast calling us away, one of the young men asked us to help fill the goat feed with him. We complied with excitement, for now we could say that we had partaken in the socialist inner-workings of an authentic Israeli kibbutz.
We ate breakfast quickly and then boarded the bus for our two hour ride to Masada. Masada derives from a Hebrew word meaning "fortress." And to look upon its sheer cliffs, I doubt that I could name it any better. Masada sits high above the Dead Sea with cliff sourrounding three sides. The fourth side, I would still classify somewhat as a cliff, but a small winding road somehow manages to snake its way the very top. (Both today and in ancient times, this skinny path is and was known as "the way of the snake.")
|One of Eighteen Cisterns|
Herod built Masada along with four other fortresses near the border of his kingdom in order to disuade any Jews from rebelling. Herod's claim to the throne was weak, as he was only Jewish on his father's side and he originally had no connections with the Hasmonean throne. Masada stood as a testament of Herod's power and as a reminder to Jews that Herod was their king.
|One of the Legionnaire Fortrs|
The Romans then began the last phase of the siege, the construction of a giant ramp to the fortress. The purpose of the ramp was to allow siege weapons (think things like battering rams) easy access to the walls of the fortress. The Romans constructed large wooden boxes, placed them next to Masada, filled the boexes with rocks, packed earth upon them and repeated until a massive ramp formed before them. At this point, the archaeology and history blends with myth as we rely on Josephus to recount what happened next.
According to Josephus, the Jewish rebels accepted their fate around this time during the siege. The leader of the rebel contingent, Elazar ben Ya'ir, convened a group of men who decided that a mass suicide would be a kinder end than serving as slaves to the oncoming Romans. After the decision had been made, the group of men went forth and slew the women and children. The men returned to cast lots. Ten men were chosen to kill the remaining men. After they had accomplished this deed, each man turned to kill one of his companions, leaving a lone man at the end to commit suicide (so in the mass suicide, only one person actually commited the Jewish sin of suicide).
The story continues that a couple of women hid a cistern and eventually survived to tell the tale of the brave warriors fate.
|A View from the Top of Masada,|
looking down at the Snake Path
I am very far behind on blogging. In every dig, there is somewhat of an emotional slump. It hit hard when we got back from our trip and just lifted in the past couple of days. It was a period when no one can really remember when we began the dig, and the end still seems to far away. This past week was a lot of sleeping, a lot of digging, a lot of eating, and not a lot of much else. A few highlights, however, I will write about later. These include a trip to Migdal on Tuesday (the home of Mary Madgalene) and a special trip to Sepphoris with Dr. Byron McCane and his Wofford students. I will write more about this hopefully later today or tomorrow. Thanks for reading.