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October 14, 1966 - Image 48

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1966-10-14

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Yadin's 'Masada': History Reconstructed and Reconfirmed

(Continued from Page 1)
It is only by seeing the actual
results of Yadin's work, of view-
ing the scores upon scores of
photographs and charts in his book
that describe the findings, that one
can fully comprehend the vast sig-
nificance of the Masada archaeo-
logical expedition. Because of the
thoroughness with which Yadin
reports on the diggings, describ-
ing them by introducing all avail-
able data, the impressive photo-
graphs, the stories about the
volunteers, that. his book becomes
such a vital factor in understand-
ing the facts related and in
recognizing the emergence of the
historic fortress as one of the
most fascinating tourists sites any-
where. The Masada explorations
open new sources to link the pres-
ent with the past. Once again the
chronicled story of Israel and of
Jewry is corroborated.
Yadin's explorations were con-
ducted at the invitations of the
Hebrew University of Jerusalem,
the Israel Exploration Society and
the Israel Government Depart-
ment of Antiquities. The volun-
teers who aided him came from
the kibbutzim and from other
groups, and individuals, Christians
as well as Jews, assisted in the
efforts. With the diggings com-
menced the trek back into 1,900
years of history, the Yadin'::3
"Masada," resorting to facts in,
Josephus, covers the events to the
fullest, sharing with his readers
the known data. The findings, the
discovery of coins—and of skele-
tons—led to the corroborations' of
what could have been brandied as
legends but which emerge/ as his.
torically true in the mtonstructed
Masada environments.
The Yadirt story provides bet-
ter yalterstanding of the Zealots
and their determined aim to
battle for liberty without sacri-
ficing freedom to inevitable
slavery if they had been cap-
tured alive by the Romans.
The manner in which Yadin and
his diggers commenced their task
is a fascinating adventure as de-
tailed by the general turned arch-
aeologist. The proximity of Ein
Gedi, the nearby youth hostel and
the availability of good water and
of electricity encouraged the
choice of the starting point. Point
by point, Yadin indicates, "the
writings of Josephus which had
seemed to many scholars to be
legendary" were confirmed. The
story of the Zealots becomes real
in Yadin's "Masada."
He describes the site and he
gives impressive accounts of the
findings — fortresses, synagogues,
storerooms. He indicates how true
was Josephus' account of the
availability of water when he saw
the collection in the cisterns after
a rain that fell during the dig-
Coins "with such typical inscrip-
tions as 'The Freedom of Zion' "
were among those uncovered.
Among the most deeply moving
accounts of the findings is the
following heartrending story about
the location of three skeletons:
"When we came to clear the
formidable pile of debris which
covered the chambers of the
small bath-house, we were ar-
rested by a find which it is
difficult to consider in archaeo-
logical terms, for such an ex-
perience is not normal in
archaeological excavations. Even
the veterans and the more cyni-
cal among us stood frozen, gaz-
ing in awe at what had been
uncovered; for as we gazed, we
relived the final and most tragic
moments of the drama of Ma-
sada. Upon the steps to the cold-
water pool and on the ground
nearby were the remains of
three skeletons. One was that
of a man of about 20—perhaps
one of the commanders of
Masada. Next to it we found
hundreds of silvered scales of
armor, scores of arrows, frag-
ments of a prayer shawl (talith),
and also an ostracon (an in-
scribed potsherd) with Hebrew
letters. Not far off, also on the

48 Friday, October 14, 1966

steps, was the skeleton of a
young woman, with her scalp
preserved intact because of the
extreme dryness of the atmo-
sphere. Her dark hair, beauti-
fully plaited, looked as if it had
just been freshly coiffeured.
Next to it the plaster was
stained with what looked like
blood. By her side were deli-
iDtely fashioned lady's sandals,
styled in the traditional pattern
of the period. The third skele-
ton was that of a child. There
could be no doubt that what our
eyes beheld were the remains
of some of the defenders of
Masada. In describing the last
moments, Josephus writes: 'And
he who was the last of all, took
a view of all the other bodies
lest perchance some or other
among so many that were slain,
should want his assistance to
be quite dispatched; and when
he perceived that they were all
slain, he set fire to the palace,
and with the force of his hand
ran his sword entirely through
himself, and fell down dead
near to his own relations.' Could
it be that we had discovered
the bones of that very fighter
and of his kith? This, of course,
we can never know for certain."
Descriptions of the architec-
tural patterns of the terraces, of
the apartments, elevate "Masada"
to a work of great significance not
only in archaeology but in archi-
tecture as well. The supplemented
photographs provide material for
study of ancient modes of con-
struction. Describing the surprises
of the architectural finds, Yadin
writes: "In and around these
heaps of earth and rubble we dis-
covered scores of pillar drums, as
well as bases and capitals, which
had been flung, higgledly-piggledy
in the dump. This offered evidence
that there were pillars on the up-
per terrace, too, and also that
these were not made of a single
stone, but of several stone sec-
tions." Staircase systems, bath-
houses, mikvot were located.
Yadin tells of a visit by the
most orthodox rabbis of Israel to
examine the mikvot — the ritual
bathhouses—and their excitement
when they concurred that they had
been built, 1,900 years ago, ac-
cording to prescribed Jewish law.
No reviewer can possibly do jus-
tice to "Masada" as a description
of what had been unearthed. The
Yadin volume must be studied—
for its historical merits, for knowl-
edge of the tactics of Roman war-
riors and of the defense methods
of the Zealots; for an understand-
ing of the role of Herod and the
occurrences of his time. It should
serve as a textbook for special
courses in higher schools of
The record as provided by
Josephus, and the findings of the
excavators, showed that while
the 960 who committed suicide
in order not to fall alive into the
hands of the Romans, left food
supplies behind to prove to the
conquerors that they were well
supplied with means to live on,
although the fortresses and
storerooms were burned by the
last survivors. Yadin states:
"The fact that we found store-
rooms containing wine, oil and
flour jars which were broken
and burned might suggest a
contradiction to the words of
Josephus. But our discovery of
empty and unfired storerooms
perhaps explains his report, or
the report that was transmitted
to him, in this way: in order to
achieve their purpose, the Zeal-
ots did not need to leave ALL
their stores of food to the
Romans. It was enough for them
to leave one or two rooms with
untouched victuals to show that
they had not died through lack
of food. It is possible that the
undamaged storerooms which
we unearthed were the very
rooms in which the Zealots had
left food, which was later eaten
by the Roman garrison."
Thus, the Yadin story reads like

two sons. And, as did Cleopatra,
he turned to grave-robbing to fi-
nance his bloody exploits, even
looting the tomb of the poet-
warrior King David.
Although Herod feared the
revenge of the Jews, he could
contend with domestic insurrec-
tions so long as he controlled a
sizeable military force and his
network of spies and informers
functioned. However, his army was
no match for the legions of Rome
—and these would be turned
against him the moment Mark An
tony could no longer say "no"
to Cleopatra. Josephus puts it
vividly: "she (Cleopatra) extended
her avaricious hum or to t h e
Jews and Arabians, and secretly
laboured to have Herod and
Malichus, the kings of both those
nations, slain by his order."
Antony, unwilling to kill
Herod and Malichus, neverthe-
less "was . . . alienated from
the friendship he had for them."
He took away land from Herod
and the other ruler and, when
Cleopatra entered. Judea later,
Herod had to swallow a bitter pill
indeed. To a woman he loathed
as well as feared, he had to give
"large presents." To retain those
lands which Anthony had taken
from him at her instigation, he
had to give Cleopatra a yearly
rent of "two hundred talents." He
had to bow and scrape and "con-
Masada, the ancient fortress, built during Herod's reign, was
her as far as Pelusium,
the last stronghold in the resistance to Roman rule by the Zealots, ducted
her all the respect pos.
in the first century of this era- For three years the Israelite fighters sible
held off the Roman attacks, and instead of falling into the hands
Cleopatra was far from ap-
of the enemy as slaves, 960 men, women and children committed
Shortly afterwards, she
suicide. Shown here is one of the approaches to Masada, not far peased.
with Antony to com-
from the Dead Sea. The rock has been excavated under the direc-
mit the war against the Arabians
tion of General Yigael Yadin.
to Herod." Her strategy was bril-
liant. Since she hated both Herod
and the other, she would delight
in the death of either and would
seize the victim's lands-
So long as Cleopatra was alive,
therefore, Herod could not relax.
Everyone in Judea knew the de-
fensive value of Masada and even
During the Israel Week fes- Cleopatra—The Evil
Herod had once sent his family
tivities to be observed here Nov.
7-11, under the sponsorship of El Spirit Behind Masada there for protection. At that time,
it was discovered, the only
By a Special Correspondent
Al Israel Airlines, the Israel Gov-
The recently-uncovered palaces, shortage from which they suffered
ernment Tourist Bureau, Greek
Shipping Line and the Sheraton Roman bath complete with fre- was water.
The time would come when he,
Cadillac Hotel, one of the great scoes, colonnades, storehouses, ter-
tourist attractions in Israel, the races and plentiful supplies are too, might have to flee from the
excavated area of Masada, the last abundant evidence of the lavish- lust of Cleopatra—and there could
fortress that held out against the ness with ,which Herod built and be no secure refuge in the world
for him but Masada. For six years,
Roman invaders of the Holy Land stocked Masada.
However, much less well known between 36 and 30 B.C.E., he used
in the first century, will be dis-
played and its significance ex- is the role of the lustful Cleopatra an army of slaves to build huge
of Egypt in the construction of cisterns fed by aqueducts to as-
Masada. For her evil spirit, more sure a plentiful supply of water.
Reuven Goldstein, sales man- than that of any other person, He laid in weapons with which
ager for El Al in Detroit, said influenced Herod in his grandiose to arm 10,000 men, built palaces,
that data will be offered during scheme to build a refuge for him- fortifications, storehouses. When
the Israel Week celebrations at self at the Dead Sea.
the Zealots fled there almost 100
the Sheraton Cadillac and there
Herod, in his struggle to main- years later, they found "fruits .. .
will be explanatory illustrated
tain control over Judea, a fresh and full ripe," although,
material as well as lectures on
Roman province, depended en- Josephus says, "they were little
the subject.
tirely on the humor of Mark short of a hundred years from the
Antony. While his own relation- laying in these provisions by
a romance. It is, indeed, one of
ship with Antony was g o o d, Herod•"
Trying to rationalize thi!
the very great romances in his-
the Roman was, in the words
story, linked with the history of
Josephus guesses that they were'
of Josephus, "bewitched by his
the beleaguered Zealots whose
preserved by "this fortress being
love to Cleopatra, and was
triumph over the Romans even in
so high, and so free from the
en t i r el y conquered by her
death now becomes more appar-
mixture of all terrene and
ent. The chapter giving a corn-
muddy particles of matter."
Josephus describes Cleopatra as
plete account of "the dramatic a "slave to her lusts, but she still
At any rate, it is one of his-
end," taken from Josephus, is an imagined that she wanted every- tory's supreme ironies that Herod
addendum to the historic record thing she could think of . • . " never used the fantastic palace
that gives the Yadin volume add- and, as he says, "she . . . stuck and fortress he constructed atop
ed emphasis.
Masada. It was used, almost a
at no wickedness."
To ensure remaining Queen of century later, by Jewish Zealots
Then there is the chapter on the
pioneers, and the description of Egypt, she had her 15-year-old who there defied the Roman
the devotion of the volunteers is brother (who would have become Empire for seven long years. Thus,
deeply moving. It was a labor of king) murdered and then insti- the fortress built by a loyal minion
love for people of many faiths, gated the murder of her sister. of Rome, was used by Jewish
from many lands. The pioneers Even 2,000 years ago, queens resistance fighters who challenged
were many—some who a century needed money—and Cleopatra was Rome in a gesture which still
resounds throughout the world two
ago had foreseen that there is no exception in this respect.
significance to the Masada rock.
Josephus says —"nor was thousand years later.
Today, Masada is one of Israel's
But it was left to Yadin and his
there any holy place that was
fellow-workers to uncover the ac-
esteemed the most inviolable prime tourist attractions and its
tual settings of the Herod palace,
from which she would not summit may be reached in minutes
the fortifications, the residences—
fetch the ornaments it had in from the convenience of a for-
ward position built many years
all that went with a great pro-
tective military area.
Interestingly, Herod, who feared ago by the Romans, and renewed
"Masada" by Yadin echoes in Cleopatra more than any other by Israel's engineers. Once there,
literary fashion the Masada of the soul on earth for her domination one can study the ruins of the
heroes and the rock of a great of Mark Antony, paralleled her titanic struggle of almost two
archaeological exploration. The murderous inclinations and lusts thousand years ago and admire a
book is as great and as impres- closely. He, too, murdered his rela _ view, described by early explorers
sive as the history it reveals and lives. First, he killed his wife's as "a picture of stern grandeur
offers anew to an admiring world relations, then, as his madness and desolate magnificence, perhaps
, unequalled in the world."
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS and a proud Israel. —P. S. increased, his wife and, finally

Masada Story Will Be Related
Here During Israel Week Fetes;
Cleopatra's Evil Spirit Revealed

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