The Masada Myth
Scholar presents evidence that the heroes of the Jewish Great Revolt were not heroes at all.
Now that we are acquainted a bit with the historical account about Masada, the next question is to what extent are Israelis familiar with this account? How close is their knowledge of Masada to the actual historical account? More important, how do we know what these Israelis (and others) know? To discover the answers to these questions, I examined the different cultural manifestations of the account. That is, the methodological question became focused on how cultures manufacture and transmit knowledge to their members. In the case of Masada, that question was not difficult to answer. I made an in-depth inquiry into almost every possible cultural facet that could have references to Masada, and examined how the Masada account was described there. This examination was both historical and cross-sectional, and consisted of examining written sources (newsletters, books, pamphlets, newspapers) as well as interviews. The cultural elements that I checked were:
1. Youth movements. The major seven youth movements in Israel (secular and religious) were examined.
2. The use of Masada by the pre-state Jewish underground movements in Palestine.
3. The ways that Masada was used in the Israeli army.
4. The way Masada is presented in textbooks for schools (elementary and high), as well as in reference texts and Encyclopedias.
5. The way Masada was presented in the printed daily media during the 1963-1965 excavations of the site (religious and secular).
6. The way Masada is presented to tourists who visit the site; in printed manual tour guides; the numbers of visitors to Masada; the development of Masada as a site for tourists.
7. The way Masada is presented in various art forms: children’s literature; adult fiction; poetry; theater; movies; pictures; sculpturing; science fiction. Examining all these areas gives us a very powerful cultural analysis as to the amount of consistency between the account given by Josephus Flavius and the nature of the presentation of Masada in the Jewish Israeli culture. Moreover, this cultural analysis also exposes the ways in which Masada was presented.