Masada (2001)

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Israel 1965. Masada. Stamp #1 of three. Israel 1965. Masada. Stamp #2 of three. Israel 1965. Masada. Stamp #3 of three. Masada is a rugged natural fortress, of majestic beauty, in the Judaean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea. It is a symbol of the ancient kingdom of Israel, its violent destruction and the last stand of Jewish patriots in the face of the Roman army, in 73 A.D. It was built as a palace complex, in the classic style of the early Roman Empire, by Herod the Great, King of Judaea, (reigned 37 – 4 B.C.). The camps, fortifications and attack ramp that encircle the monument constitute the most complete Roman siege works surviving to the present day. 
  • Israel 1965. Set of three stamps depicting Masada. 

Masada (Hebrew, “fortress”), are the ancient ruins on a mountaintop in the desert about 48.3 km (about 30 mi) southeast of Jerusalem, the scene of the last stand made by the Jewish Zealots in their revolt against Roman rule (AD 66-73). Two fortified palaces were built there in the 1st century BC by the Judean king Herod the Great. 

After Herod's death, Masada was occupied by a Roman garrison until the Zealots captured it in AD 66. 

When Jerusalem was taken by the Romans in 70, the last remaining rebels -- about 1000 men, women, and children -- withdrew to the remote mountaintop. Under their leader, Eleazar ben Jair, they withstood a 2-year siege by the Roman Tenth Legion. 

All but seven killed themselves rather than surrender when the besiegers finally captured the fortress in 73. 

Excavated by the Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin in 1963-65, Masada is both a popular tourist attraction and an Israeli national shrine.

Israel. Photograph of the ruins at Masada. Image (c) Microsoft Encarta 2002.

UNESCO has stated in its justification for inscription that Masada is a symbol of the ancient Jewish kingdom of Israel, of its violent destruction in the later 1st century CE, and of the subsequent Diaspora. 

Further, that the palace of Herod the Great at Masada is an outstanding example of a luxurious villa of the Early Roman Empire, whilst the camps and other fortifications that encircle the monument constitute the finest and most complete Roman siege works to have survived to the present day. The tragic events during the last days of the Jewish refugees who occupied the fortress and palace of Masada make it a symbol both of Jewish cultural identity and, more universally, of the continuing human struggle between oppression and liberty. 

Sources and links:

Other World Heritage Sites in Israel (on this site). Inactive links are not described on postage stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section Israel for further information about the individual properties. 

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Revised 21 jul 2006  
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