Masada – Israel
Sunrise and Heroism at a Legendary Mountain Fortress
The haunting rock fortress of Masada is on a sheer-sided plateau surrounded by desert as desolate and dramatic as a moonscape.
A palace complex and fortress built by Herod the Great 1,440 feet above the shores of the Dead Sea, it was all but abandoned after his death. Eventually it became the stronghold of Jewish partisans in a battle against Rome in A.D. 73, when 967 Jewish men, women, and children defied their Roman attackers here for three years. When it was clear that they would be taken by more than 15,000 troops camped at the foot of the mountain, the Jews committed mass suicide.
It is a national tradition to make the ascent on foot at least once to pay homage to one of the most tragic and heroic incidents in Jewish history. It is also a beautiful location from which to watch the sunrise.
Arrive as early as possible if attempting either of the two footpaths, a must if you intend to beat the desert heat, or watch the sun levitate over Jordan and the Dead Sea. (You can descend by cable car.) An evening sound-and-light show at the foot of the mountain is as dramatic as you might expect.