In the days of the Great Revolt, the last of the rebels against Rome entrenched themselves at Masada, and turned their desperate fight into a symbol of the struggle for freedom. Because of the enthralling historic events that took place on the mountain, and the archaeological finds that have been revealed there, UNESCO has declared Masada National Park a World Heritage Site.
The western complex – access to Masada National Park from the direction of Arad (Route 3199).
The mountain plateau:
The eastern complex:
Access to the Masada National Park from the direction of the Dead Sea (Route 90). At the eastern entrance, there is also a cafeteria, restaurant, souvenir shop, and first aid station.
Details (main points of interest)
The western entrance complex – access to Masada National park from the direction of Arad (Route 3199).
The eastern entrance complex
Declared a national park in 1966.
The reasons for this declaration
Masada National Park rises over the shores of the Dead Sea, an isolated crag between Ein Gedi and Ein Bokek.
Over the past two decades, considerable development work has been carried out at Masada National Park to conserve and restore the archaeological finds, and to make the site accessible to visitors, looking forward to the 21st century:
Tristram's Starling - a vocal bird whose call resembles a whistle, coal black with orange stripes on its wings, which are mainly noticeable in flight. The main difference between males and females is the color of their heads – the females have grey plumage, and the males, black. Tristram's starlings living around Masada are not afraid to come close to humans, and can be found among the visitors in male-female pairs and in groups. Another common bird is the blackstart, which is about the size of a sparrow. It can be identified by its grey body and black tail, which it frequently fans out. The fan-tailed raven can be seen hovering in the skies over Masada, carrying out aerial acrobatics for its pleasure, as can the brown-necked raven.
In the foothills of Masada you may well meet ibexes, which have also become accustomed to the presence of people, and wander around as if they own the place.
The most important historic source for the history of Masada is the writings of Yosef Ben Matityahu, Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian, writer and military leader who lived at the time of the Great Revolt against Rome.
According to Josephus, the first to fortify the place was Jonathan the High Priest, and it was he who called it Masada, meaning "fortress". This appears to refer to the Hasmonean king Alexander Janaeus, who ruled between 103 - 76 BCE. So far no remains have been found at Masada that can be attributed with certainty to this period.
In the year 40 BCE Herod and his family fled to Masada to escape Antigonus Mattathias, the Hasmonean who was crowned king by the Parthians. When Antigonus besieged Masada, Herod left to get help, and those trapped inside almost died of thirst, only saved from death by a sudden rainfall. Herod returned to Masada and lifted the siege. At the end of the first century BCE, Herod built a fortress on Masada with the intention of protecting his kingdom from outside enemies, and also to protect him from the enemies within. Inside the fortress he built a sumptuous palace complex, bathhouses, store rooms, vast water cisterns, and casemate walls. After his death (in 4 BCE), the Romans set a guard force on Masada.
The Great Revolt:
During the period of the Great Revolt, which broke out in 66 CE, Masada was taken over by a group of rebels, called by Josephus Sicarii (because of the short dagger – sica - that they concealed in their clothing). The rebels on Masada were joined by the last of the rebels who left Jerusalem, including Eleazar Ben Yair, who became commander of the mountain.
The rebels lived in the rooms of the casemate wall, and in some of Herod's palaces. They built a synagogue and ritual baths, and maintained a community life. In 73 or 74 CE, after the conquest of Jerusalem, the Roman army went to Masada and imposed a siege in order to wipe out the pocket of resistance remaining there. Led by the military leader Flavius Silva, the Roman soldiers built eight camps and a dike (siege wall) encircling the mountain. Over a period of several months, the Romans also built a rampart to the west of the mountain, which reached the walls of Masada. When the defenders of Masada realized that there was no hope left, they chose death over enslavement. According to Josephus, who described the last hours of the defenders in great detail, only two women and five children found a hiding place and remained alive.
In the fifth century CE, Masada was settled by monks, who established a lavritic (hermetic) monastery. Some people have identified the monastery on Masada with the Marda monastery mentioned in the literature of the Church Fathers. This settlement appears to have ceased to exist with the rise of Islam in the seventh century CE.
After the Byzantine period, Masada was abandoned and forgotten. The site was identified for the first time in 1838 by the American researchers Edward Robinson and Eli Smith, and over the years it was excavated by other American and European researchers.
Shmariya Gutman was the first Israeli archaeologist to excavate at Masada, in 1953, making many important discoveries. A delegation of Israel's top archaeologists excavated at Masada in 1956, followed by the excavation team of Yigal Yadin in 1963. In the following years, Prof. Ehud Netzer and Dr. Guy Stiebel also excavated at Masada.
Masada lies at the top of an isolated block in the He'etekim Cliff, which bounds the Dead Sea Valley. The Masada Cliff is a horst - a block that has risen up and sheared off from the He'etekim Cliff. The summit of Masada rises to a height of 400 m above the level of the Dead Sea, and the mountain is made up of a series of chalk, dolomite and marl strata. The seasonal rivers of the high desert break through the line of cliffs in a series of vast canyons, crevices and high waterfalls. Nachal Masada is one of these rivers.
The Dead Sea basin is part of the Syrian-African rift - a geological structure whose northern end lies in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains in Turkey, while its southern end is in East Africa. The rift was formed as a result of vertical subsidence and horizontal movement, during which the eastern bank of the rift (Jordan) moved northwards towards the western bank. The Dead Sea is the lowest continental area in the world. In 2013, the level of the Dead Sea was 426 m below sea level and it loses around 1 m of its water level every year.
How to get here: Some 18 km south of Ein Gedi or 12 km from Ein Bokek to the cable car on the east (Dead Sea) side. Access to the top of Masada: Today it is possible to get to the top of the mountain by cable car on the Dead Sea side, or by two paths: The Rampart Path: A steep path, but short and convenient, ascending from the western parking lot of Masada (access from Arad). This path, which dates back to ancient times and was made by monks in the Byzantine period, surmounts a difference in elevation of 100 m. It is a 20 minute climb.
The Snake Path: A long path that covers a height difference of 350 m. The path is broad and easy, and ascends from the eastern parking lot at Masada. It is a 45 minute climb.The Snake Path opens an hour before sunrise every morning. The Snake Path is closed in exceptional weather conditions, usually as a result of IDF reports on severe weather conditions in the area. Length of visit: Three hours
Best season: All year round (in summer, morning is preferable)
Don't miss: A visit to the Yigal Yadin Masada Museum, and the sound and light show on the west side of Masada (access by car, from Arad only).
Wedding/Bar Mitzva ceremonies:For particulars press here
• Visitor center with modern services for visitors. Film telling the story of Masada, model showing Masada and the surrounding area, display of archaeological finds.• Yigal Yadin Masada Museum, donated by the Shuki Levy Foundation • The impressive light and sound show illustrating the history of the Masada National Park, every Tuesday and Thursday• Ceremonial events are held in Masada National Park (click here for further information)
Last entry to the park is one hour before closing time
Summer:Sunday - Thursday and Saturday – 8 am – 5 pmFridays and the eve of holidays – 8 am – 4 pm
Winter: Sunday - Thursday and Saturday – 8 am – 4 pmFridays and the eve of holidays – 8 am – 3 pm
On the eve of holidays, 8 am – 1 pmOn the eve of the Day of Atonement, 8 am – 12 noon
Telephone: 08-6584207/8Sound and light show reservation center - 08-9959333Fax: 08-6584464Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/masada2012
Adult - NIS 28, child – NIS 14Group (over 30): Adult - NIS 23, child – NIS 13Students- NIS 24
Subscribers:Entrance is free for annual (Matmon) subscribers, but there is a fee for the cable car:Adult return – NIS 47Adult one-way - NIS 28Child return – NIS 28Child one-way - NIS 14
Eastern entry plaza (entrance fee and cable car in both directions):Adult – NIS 74, child – NIS 42Group: Adult - NIS 69, child – NIS 39Students- NIS 63
Entrance fee and cable car in one direction:Adult - NIS 56, child – NIS 28Group (over 30): Adult - NIS 51, child – NIS 28Students- NIS 48
Snake Path / Roman Rampart (Ascent on foot - from first light):Adult - NIS 28, child - NIS 14Group (over 30): Adult - NIS 23, child - NIS 13Students- NIS 24
Cable car one direction (for subscribers and cardholders):Adult - NIS 29, child - NIS 15
Cable car both directions (for subscribers and cardholders):Adult - NIS 47, child – NIS 29
MuseumEntrance to Masada Museum - NIS 20 (child / adult)
Click here for site pamphlet
In the Masada National Park adaptations to make the site accessible to people with disabilities are being made. Adaptations currently in place include:
Cable Car and Bridge
Suitable for wheelchairs.
The Mountain Top