First stop, Masada. This fortress-palace complex was built by Herod the Great around 35 BC. The site was picked because it is on an isolated mesa, nearly impossible to attack. There is no evidence that Herod ever came to the place after it was built, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t sneak down for a weekend at one of the three palaces he had built hanging on the cliff edges. Following the revolt of the Jews against the Romans in 66 AD, Masada was the last outpost of the rebels as the Romans re-conquered the area (destroying the Second Temple in Jerusalem). In 73, the Romans sieged Masada, built a ramp up one side, brought a battering ram up and knocked a hole in the wall. According to Josephus, (the only source), that night the Jews decided to commit mass suicide rather than be taken slave to the Romans. Archeologists and historians today have doubts about this story. It seems that Josephus had commanded a Roman squad early in his career that did commit mass suicide just as his Masada story, but he had chickened out as the last man and did not kill himself. So he may have thought it was a good story. Also, no bodies or bones or ashes have been found that should be there if no one was alive when the Romans entered.
In the afternoon we drove up the Jordan Valley, passing the caves of Qumran, to the sight where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.
On to Beit She’an, to see the archeological digs of a huge Roman city. The site had been occupied since 5000 BC, and was subsequently occupied by Greeks, Romans, and later Byzantines, Moslems, etc. 1 Samuel 31 says the victorious Philistines hung Saul’s body on the walls here.
Then on to Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee to spend the night.