Masada will not fall again - or will it?

A section of the ancient walls of Masada, one of the country's most poignant symbols of survival, is in danger of collapse.

masada 298 ap (photo credit: AP)
masada 298 ap
(photo credit: AP)
A section of the ancient walls of Masada, one of the country's most poignant symbols of survival, is in danger of collapse as a result of a heavy downpour that drenched the desert site three years ago, the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority said Thursday. The fortress, built as a palace by Herod the Great, who was King of Judea from 37 to 4 BCE, is situated atop an isolated rock cliff at the western end of the Judean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea, and was the site of the last stand of a group of Jews rebelling against Roman rule nearly 2,000 years ago. Masada is used as a swearing-in site for some IDF combat units, who pledge that "Masada shall not fall again." Several hundred meters of the 1,400-meter wall are in need of urgent repair as a result of the freak December 2003 winter storm, Masada Park director Eitan Campbell said. "There is a growing danger that parts of the wall will collapse if they are not fixed," Campbell told The Jerusalem Post. The section of the wall requiring immediate preservation work is on the southern side of Masada, and does not lie along the trail used by visitors. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is among the country's most popular tourist attractions. The camps, fortifications and attack ramp that encircle the monument constitute the most complete Roman siege works surviving to the present day, according to UNESCO. Campbell said that several hundred meters of the damaged wall had already been repaired in the three years since the storm, but that much more work needed to be done. The government had allocated NIS 10 million for storm repairs, he added. "Israel doesn't have oil or diamonds, but we have cultural treasures," said Zeev Margalit, head of the preservation department at the Parks Authority. He noted that his organization and the Israel Antiquities Authority have asked the government for NIS 75m. over the next five years to strengthen Masada's supporting walls and carry out repairs at other Biblical-era tourist attractions throughout the country. "Of course security comes first [when budgeting funds], but if we do not have these cultural treasures, then we have nothing to live here for," he concluded. A ceremony marking the addition of eight additional cultural sites in Israel to UNESCO's world heritage list will be held next week.