Yesterday I was faced with my first day off since arriving so decided to head out and see some of the sights on offer. Using my trusty Satnav, I punched in “Dead Sea” and headed off down Route 1. Having been told before that it was only an hours drive, I was surprised to see that it was 180km but assumed the time suggested had just been a casual suggestion. Off I trundled before realising that I was heading wayyy down South, turning and coming all the way back up North again. It turns out the Israeli Sat-navs have an option to avoid that nasty Palestine country. Just when I thought that damned GPS couldn’t annoy me any more, it finds a new way.

Anyhow, trundling towards my destination, I passed a sign for Masada and remembering senior photographer Marco Longari‘s advice of places to see, I opted to go and check it out. Having passed warning signs informing me I was entering a dead end, the twisting road led me 20km across the desert, without passing a single car on the way. Let me say, after driving like this for 15km, you start to instinctively have flashes of “The Hills Have Eyes” or at least start looking out for the odd “Tusken Raider“.

Anyhow, after driving on a stretch of road that car advert makers dream of, I arrived at the end of the road and the fortress ruins of Masada. Perched on the top of 400m cliffs sit the ruins of palaces, homes and storerooms that were the scene of a siege by the the Roman army. Surrounding the mountain-top fortress, the Romans eventually got through the defences in 73AD to allegedly find all 936 people inside dead, having chosen to kill themselves rather than surrender. Bummer. The Roman garrison site where they planned their entry during the three month siege is still visible (below, left) from the top of the mountain. It must be quite a feeling to have a whole bunch of soldiers camped within shouting distance for three months, watching them prod and probe the walls of the fortress every day as they try to get in. Sheesh..

As you can see from the image below, the original structures were pretty damned dapper and would certainly have featured heavily in “MTV CribsSicarii Special Edition”.

Anyhow, back on the road home again, the newly defeated satnav gave me a much more sensible 90km route home, even throwing in a camel-train as way of apology.

16 Responses to “The road to Masada”

  1. Love these, Leon. Especially the Cribs shot.

    Posted by Kirsten
  2. Cheers babe. Not as exciting as the last post but it was a day off! :) x

    Posted by tabascokid
  3. Tusken Raiders indeed. “Issikabani!!” :o)
    Great photos. Gotta love that camel sign!

    Posted by Beth
  4. No, I think it’s more of a “Hawwwwwww hawhawhahawhaw!!” for the Tuskens..

    Posted by tabascokid
  5. Great pics again. Hope you are loving the sun while we are loving the snow!

    Posted by mistersnappy
  6. I’m actually quite jealous as I love snow. Booo to sunny skies.. Watch those un-gritted pavements people! I don’t want to see you guys on a “Greed Direct” blame-claim advert!

    Posted by tabascokid
  7. Remarkable how they built the fortress, and how the Romans built the siege ramp. Looks very dry and barren all around there.

    I remember watching the 1981 movie and being in awe of the landscape and it’s barrenness.

    Strange that in the time of the Jewish Revolt the Sicarii sought political independence from Rome by violence (terrorists or freedom fighters?), but then all committed suicide. And now in recent times the Palestinians want their own land and independence, and some factions have used suicide bombing to achieve their aims. History just keeps repeating.

    Posted by Tim
  8. I’d missed the bit about there being a film. Cheers for the heads up. I’ll try and track it down on my return. I have had it suggested to me that there is some “polishing” of the story to make it slightly more romantic than is currently reported but I couldn’t get any more detail than that. I guess everyone becomes a hero over time when it comes to a story like that.

    As for the repetition of the story, it goes without saying how many times that’s evident all around the world. My desire to shake large quantities of people at one time, shouting “grow up!” at them never seems to fade.

    Posted by tabascokid
  9. For sure, Masada the mini-series*/movie is Israeli propaganda as reflected in the portrayal of the Jews as being more like brave, defiant rebels than Sicarii terroists, and in the choice of the actors. Still, it’s worth watching seeing as you’ve been there now, and to see the Roman army in full siege mode. The acting’s not bad either.

    I read somewhere that next to Jerusalem, Masada is the most popular destination for Jewish visitors to Israel. Also, I heard this report on BBC radio about schoolchildren’s obligatory visits to Masada.

    PS. You should become a diplomat. ;)

    *the double DVD of the mini-series is supposed to be better than the abridged movie.

    Posted by Tim
  10. Sorry, that previous link went to the Region 1 DVD.
    Here’s the link
    for the Region 2 PAL DVD to play on European players (it has only just been released on 19 Jan 2009).

    Posted by Tim
  11. hehe They were clearly waiting to celebrate my visit to the area! ;)

    It doesn’t surprise me about the school visits as it’s very impressive although I wouldn’t want to try controlling 30 school-kids near a 400m precipice..

    Cheers for the added research and info, Tim! :)

    Posted by tabascokid
  12. These are beautiful shots, my liege. You be safe and bring yourself back in one piece. As you know by now, it’s been snow, snow snow down here!

    Posted by pixgremlin
  13. Cheers, bud! Yeah, I’m certainly jealous of being in the snow although it wouldn’t do my cold much good. Can you believe it? Walking around in the olive groves and sunshine and I get an Israeli cold? Damn them..

    Posted by tabascokid
  14. School visits, don’t talk to me about school visits…

    ‘we’re going to Masada’ they announced
    ‘cool’ we said, ‘We’re gonna climb up and run all the way down, the cable car is for the girls’ (we were 14!)
    “ah’ they said, ‘we’ve got to be there for sunrise, it’s the best time’
    ‘What?’ we replied ‘sunrise?’
    ‘yes sunrise’ they confirmed ‘we’ve got to be at the top for sunrise, so you’ve got to be up and out by 2.00am and we start climbing at 3.00am’
    ‘Masada is so not cool’ we moaned

    As I recall, the sunrise was inspiring but my camera was shit and I’ve been since, but not that early!

    Posted by mistersnappy
  15. Sorry to resurrect an old post but these articles from your Israeli election trip were a great read. I spent a couple of weeks in Israel back in the mid 90’s and I can identify exactly with so many of your observations. I remember the wonderful spicey aromas and the colours of the food markets in Old Jeruslam and the trip we took to Masada was totally unforgettable, and those incredible views!

    Posted by Tim
  16. @Mistersnappy – Brilliant! Ah, I’m sure it was worth it. :)

    @Tim – Are you mad? Why would you aplogise to me for looking at my old posts? I love it when that happens! Particularly happy as I’ve only just re-loaded all of the images after killing my flickr account. There are so many posts currently without pictures but it’s such a pain digging them all out again. Anyway, thanks very much and I’m mucho happy that you took the time to comment! :)

    Posted by tabascokid

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