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The Masada Myth

    Scholar presents evidence that the heroes of the Jewish Great Revolt were not heroes at all.

Other Methods Used in Construction of Mythical Narrative

    Omission and addition are not the only methods used in the social construction of the mythical narrative. Emphasis has also played an important role. For example, most sources that propagate the Masada myth present a picture of a small group of rebels against a huge Roman army. Sometimes, even figures are provided: 967 rebels against thousands (10,000-15,000) of Roman soldiers. While these figures are probably accurate, their very emphasis tends to reinforce an element that is one of the hallmarks of modern Israeli Jewish identityŚthe struggle of "the few against the many".

    If I wanted to synthesize and re-construct the Masada mythical narrative, with its preservation of true facts, its omissions and its additions, into an ideal type it might look something like this:

"After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, the remaining Zealots escaped to Masada. The Romans put a siege on Masada. The Zealots fought valiantly and raided the Roman positions over a period of three years (and thus Masada served as a center of a rebellion against the Romans for three years). However, when they realized that there was no longer any hope to win and that the choice was either death or wretched slavery, they all chose to kill themselves." 

    Thus, by preserving some elements, by ignoring, in a systematic fashion, the more problematic aspects, and by adding liberal interpretations and fabrications, the heroic Masada mythical narrative was formed.

    The combined effect of the above-mentioned omissions, additions and selective emphasizing is the creation of a heroic tale. Moreover, this heroic tale is typically told on the site itself, in the presence of the ancient ruins. Typically, it is told as part of a swearing-in ceremony (in the army); a long and arduous trek in the Judean desert or some other educational activity. This method of combining the experiential part of an actual visit to Masada with a logically constructed heroic tale, helped into being the suspension of disbelief and the transmission of the Masada mythical narrative.

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