This imposing butte was home to an ancient Herodian palace, making this landmark significant in many ways. It is a remote wilderness stronghold, near the Dead Sea, built by King Herod as a multi-tiered winter palace. (He built several opulent palaces in Israel.) The aerial view clearly shows storerooms where grain and crops were stored. This fortress was thought to be impregnable by invaders.
That made this place seemingly perfect for Jews who fled from Jerusalem and other parts of Israel when the Romans overran Jerusalem in 70 AD, displacing Jews to the four corners of the world. In fact, Jews holed up in this mighty fortress with plenty of food and water from 70 to 73 AD when the Romans built a siege ramp (visible on the right side of the aerial photo) and burst through the walls. Once they breached the walls, they found nothing but dead Jews there.
What happened to them?
They neither starved nor thirst to death, and they did not die of disease or any other natural cause. They committed mass suicide because they preferred death to iron-fisted tyranny of living under harsh Roman punishment and law. Thus, it became legendary as the place of the Jews’ last stand.
Therefore, this brutally barren place is also a significant military monument. Graduating classes of new soldiers and airmen gather here to hear the historical accounts of the Jews’ struggle for life, and to commit to the oft-spoken Israeli military mantra, “Never Again!” Jews throughout history have fought for their very existence, and the young men and women of the Israeli military are reminded very poignantly of the cause in which they fight.
In the just-concluded advanced international military training exercise called Blue Flag 2021, fighter aircraft from the 8 participating nations flew in formation above many Israeli landmarks, including this place, just days ago. Look carefully at the aerial view and you will see 11 fighter jets flying in formation!
Finally, if you have visited this place in good physical shape, you may have hiked the Snake Trail (visible on the left side of the aerial photo) that leads to the top of this butte overlooking the Dead Sea. It is quite the hike, but well worth it when you ascend to the table mesa, where the great fortress once stood.
Can you name this place?