Zealots of Masada

 

In 66 AD, a group of 960 Jewish Zealots decided they would prefer to commit suicide rather than yield to Roman conquest at Masada:

Masada (‘Metsada’ in Hebrew) is the name of the mountain on which the Masada fortress was built. It is more like a plateau or a table mountain, and quite isolated from its surroundings, as there is only one narrow, winding pathway leading up, fittingly called “the Snake.” According to Josephus Flavius, an ancient historian and the only one to record what happened on Masada, Masada was first built by the Hasmoneans, a Jewish dynasty who ruled Judaea in the years between 140-37 BC. Then, between 37-31 BC, King Herod the Great built two palaces there and further fortified the place as a refuge for himself in case of a revolt. However, it proved to be a refuge for Jewish rebels about 90 years later.

A group of Jewish extremists went to Masada after the destruction of the Second Temple. In response, the Roman governor of Judea conducted a siege there and the Jews tried to hold them off, but finally realized that they would lose. Technically, what they committed was not suicide, which is forbidden by Jewish law; instead, the people drew lots, taking turns in killing each other, so that only one person actually killed himself.

This event represents for many Jews strength and courage under impossible conditions, since the Zealots held the mountain for three years.

Ironically, archaeologists are challenging this ancient story, pointing to discrepancies and lack of evidence. In spite of their efforts, the story of Masada will likely continue to be a story of inspiration to Jews everywhere.

Whether it is true or not, I admit that I am ambivalent about celebrating this sacrifice.

There are 72 comments.

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  1. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Well, you were close! ;-) I believe you’re referring to the Pharisees, Essenes and Sadducees who were “warring” over doctrine and practices. As far as I know, though, they weren’t violent with each other (although I’m not positive about that).

    The small size of these groups is attested by the fact that even during Herod’s rule [37-4 BCE] the Pharisees numbered only some six thousand, and in the first century there were approximately four thousand Essenes. The Essene communal site at Qumran, specifically its dining area, could accommodate perhaps as many as two hundred members at any one time and roughly indicates the sect’s size. The Sadducees, for their part, were even fewer in number, if a comment by Josephus regarding the first century C.E. may be considered relevant to the Hasmonean era.

    For more: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/jewish-sects/

     

    Well, I went on line and found most of what I was talking about.  There were three factions, not two, and on re-reading it, it sounds pretty fishy.  I think something was up, but Josephus was probably severely exaggerating.  Here’s a link, and chapter 1 has most of the stuff I was remembering.  http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/war-5.htm

    • #61
  2. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Well, you were close! ;-) I believe you’re referring to the Pharisees, Essenes and Sadducees who were “warring” over doctrine and practices. As far as I know, though, they weren’t violent with each other (although I’m not positive about that).

    The small size of these groups is attested by the fact that even during Herod’s rule [37-4 BCE] the Pharisees numbered only some six thousand, and in the first century there were approximately four thousand Essenes. The Essene communal site at Qumran, specifically its dining area, could accommodate perhaps as many as two hundred members at any one time and roughly indicates the sect’s size. The Sadducees, for their part, were even fewer in number, if a comment by Josephus regarding the first century C.E. may be considered relevant to the Hasmonean era.

    For more: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/jewish-sects/

     

    Well, I went on line and found most of what I was talking about. There were three factions, not two, and on re-reading it, it sounds pretty fishy. I think something was up, but Josephus was probably severely exaggerating. Here’s a link, and chapter 1 has most of the stuff I was remembering. http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/war-5.htm

    And if you keep going past chapter 1 all the way through that section on the webpage I linked to, the descriptions get more and more detailed about what I remember.

    • #62
  3. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Well, you were close! ;-) I believe you’re referring to the Pharisees, Essenes and Sadducees who were “warring” over doctrine and practices. As far as I know, though, they weren’t violent with each other (although I’m not positive about that).

    The small size of these groups is attested by the fact that even during Herod’s rule [37-4 BCE] the Pharisees numbered only some six thousand, and in the first century there were approximately four thousand Essenes. The Essene communal site at Qumran, specifically its dining area, could accommodate perhaps as many as two hundred members at any one time and roughly indicates the sect’s size. The Sadducees, for their part, were even fewer in number, if a comment by Josephus regarding the first century C.E. may be considered relevant to the Hasmonean era.

    For more: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/jewish-sects/

    There’s archeological evidence that suggests that Qumran may have been the Sedona, Arizona of its day. In addition to the Essenes, there were expensive villas. According to a detail in Samuel Kurinsky’s delightful Glassmakers: And Odyssey of the Jews: The First Three Thousand Years (early Jewish history as seen through the lens of glassmaking,) at least one such villa had a largish room with a floor which was a massive slab of glass (IIRC around a foot thick, apparently made in situ.) Must have been pleasantly cool on a hot summer day as you one upped your neighbors and friends. Kurinsky asserts that the deforestation of Israel was due to cutting wood to manufacture glass (making glass from raw materials, not melting and forming existing glass; the latter was a significant item of trade until the technology of the former spread from the Middle East.) Kurinsky was at Corning Glass, a chemist I think.

    From the Amazon blurb:

    This remarkable book uses the history of glassmaking as a foil with which new light is shed on the hidden history of that phenomenally creative people. During his association with the glassmakers of Venice, the author uncovered an intriguing historical symbiosis between the Jews and the art of glassmaking. The revelation impelled him to launch an intensive, eight-year campaign of research which led him across three continents and through 4000 years of human history. He discovered that the vitric arts, conceived in Akkadia among the progenitors of the Jews, was subsequently borne by the Jews into the Diaspora, an enthralling historical odyssey which has never been told in its entirety.
    Many myths are shattered in the course of following the adventurous path of the art from its Akkadian roots through Canaan, Egypt, Rome, Persia, China and the West. Drawing upon a wealth of archeological, Biblical, archival and historical material, an intense beam of light is cast into the darker recesses of history in which conquered peoples suffer the indignity of having the record of their accomplishments obliterated by their conquerors, a process the author terms “Institutionalized Obfuscation.”

    • #63
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):
    This remarkable book uses the history of glassmaking as a foil with which new light is shed on the hidden history of that phenomenally creative people.

    It seems like we got our fingers into just about everything, everywhere! That is what happens, in part, when you are limited in what you are allowed to do. Thanks, OTLC!

    • #64
  5. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    I wish a Jew, especially an Ashkenzai, would have mated with one of my grandparents.  I’d be smarter now.  If I can’t have a Jew, I’ll take an Asian.

    Of course, I don’t really blame my grands and great grands.  It was probably hard for them to find a Jew or Asian in Oklahoma in the 19th century to mate with. They could have visited New York, though, and perhaps found one there. 

     

     

    • #65
  6. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    I wish a Jew, especially an Ashkenzai, would have mated with one of my grandparents. I’d be smarter now. If I can’t have a Jew, I’ll take an Asian.

    Of course, I don’t really blame my grands and great grands. It was probably hard for them to find a Jew or Asian in Oklahoma in the 19th century to mate with. They could have visited New York, though, and perhaps found one there.

     

     

    But you wouldn’t be.

    • #66
  7. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Skyler (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    I wish a Jew, especially an Ashkenzai, would have mated with one of my grandparents. I’d be smarter now. If I can’t have a Jew, I’ll take an Asian.

    Of course, I don’t really blame my grands and great grands. It was probably hard for them to find a Jew or Asian in Oklahoma in the 19th century to mate with. They could have visited New York, though, and perhaps found one there.

     

     

    But you wouldn’t be.

    True, Skyler, but I wouldn’t know I wasn’t. 

    • #67
  8. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    I wish a Jew, especially an Ashkenzai, would have mated with one of my grandparents. I’d be smarter now. If I can’t have a Jew, I’ll take an Asian.

    Of course, I don’t really blame my grands and great grands. It was probably hard for them to find a Jew or Asian in Oklahoma in the 19th century to mate with. They could have visited New York, though, and perhaps found one there.

     

     

    But you wouldn’t be.

    True, Skyler, but I wouldn’t know I wasn’t.

    If only you were Jewish, you might have been smart enough to know.  :)

    • #68
  9. Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu Inactive
    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu
    @YehoshuaBenEliyahu

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    I wish a Jew, especially an Ashkenzai, would have mated with one of my grandparents. I’d be smarter now. If I can’t have a Jew, I’ll take an Asian.

    Of course, I don’t really blame my grands and great grands. It was probably hard for them to find a Jew or Asian in Oklahoma in the 19th century to mate with. They could have visited New York, though, and perhaps found one there.

     

     

    Well, Kent, we will gladly accept you as an honorary Jew.  There is an Israeli rabbi who astutely remarked that “there are some gentiles we wish were Jews and some Jews we wish were gentiles.”

    • #69
  10. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu (View Comment):
    Well, Kent, we will gladly accept you as an honorary Jew. There is an Israeli rabbi who astutely remarked that “there are some gentiles we wish were Jews and some Jews we wish were gentiles.”

    I have a friend who is an orthodox Jew.  As we both neared our mid thirties, she said to me, if neither of us gets married to someone else, maybe we should get married.

    But you want to marry a Jew, I said.

    You can convert.

    But I’m not going to keep kosher, I said.

    You don’t need to be kosher to be Jewish, she said.

    I don’t believe in god, I said.

    You don’t need to believe in god to be Jewish, she said.

    In a yiddish accent, “So, I’m Jewish.”

    She met and married a nice Jewish man, and their son just celebrated his bar mitzvah.  She is one of my best friends in my life, though it took me a long time to understand that.

    • #70
  11. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    I wish a Jew, especially an Ashkenzai, would have mated with one of my grandparents. I’d be smarter now. If I can’t have a Jew, I’ll take an Asian.

    Of course, I don’t really blame my grands and great grands. It was probably hard for them to find a Jew or Asian in Oklahoma in the 19th century to mate with. They could have visited New York, though, and perhaps found one there.

    Well, Kent, we will gladly accept you as an honorary Jew. There is an Israeli rabbi who astutely remarked that “there are some gentiles we wish were Jews and some Jews we wish were gentiles.”

    Yehoshua, I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member, said another Jew by the name of Marx.

    • #71
  12. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

     

    • #72
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