The cover story of a recent National Geographic, written by Tom Mueller, is focused on King Herod, the holy land’s visionary builder. On the cover is an aerial image of Masada, the ancient fortress he constructed in approximately 37-31 BC.
Seven months ago, on a cold March morning, I watched the sun rise at Masada. I was documenting a culinary tour through Israel, led by chef Michael Solomonov. We awoke in the Negev desert at 4.15 am, inside a bedouin tent, and followed the winding road to Masada. As the light appeared above the hills, I loaded rolls of tri-x 400 into my cameras and began to shoot the structures and views of the fort.
In 66, at the beginning of the First Jewish-Roman War against the Roman Empire, a group of Jewish extremists called the Sicarii overcame the Roman garrison of Masada. After the destruction of the Temple, the Jewish rebels and their families fled Jerusalem and settled on the mountain top, using it as a base for raiding Roman settlements.
The Romans eventually took back Masada in the spring of 73. When they entered the fortress, however, the Romans discovered that its 936 inhabitants had committed mass suicide rather than face certain capture, defeat, slavery or execution by their enemies.
Today, there is declaration in Israel set in place by the Israeli Defense Forces: “Masada shall not fall again”