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The Siege of Masada (2:06)

Jerusalem, Israel

In about AD 70, the Roman Empire crushed the Jews. As a desperate last stand, a thousand Jewish rebels fled to the mountain-top fortress of Masada where, on the eve of the inevitable Roman breakthrough, they committed suicide. To this day, Masada is a symbol of Israel’s staunch determination to remain free.

Complete Video Script

Israel is laced by modern freeways. By tour bus, public bus, or rental car, getting around is easy. Road signs are in three languages and three scripts: Hebrew and Arabic for Jews and Arabs, and English for everybody else. And the scenery can be dramatic. Driving along the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, you marvel at the timelessness of the landscape — and the history it’s witnessed. Our destination: Masada — an ancient fortress dramatically capping a mountain and the site of a pivotal event in Jewish history.

A gondola zips us effortlessly to the summit. Built over 2,000 years ago as one of King Herod’s many palaces, Masada served as a refuge of last resort back when the Jews were the rebellious subjects of Roman occupation.

In about AD 70, the Roman Emperor Titus, in an effort to put down the Jews once and for all, destroyed Jerusalem. About 1,000 Jewish rebels, in a desperate last stand, fled up here to this fortress to defend their families, religion, and way of life.

A mighty army of Romans attacked. You can still see the rocky remains of their camps. To avoid a long starve-’em-out siege, the Roman army engineered and built a massive ramp up the side of this mountain.

Slowly, as the rebels watched with frustration, the ramp was completed. The Jewish rebels realized they were doomed to a life of slavery, or worse. So, on the eve of the inevitable Roman breakthrough, Masada’s rebels methodically took their own lives.

Today, that mass suicide is the symbol of Israel’s staunch “they’ll never take us alive” commitment to freedom. And “Masada shall never fall again” is a popular slogan, declaring Israel’s determination to remain free.