The Masada Myth

The Masada Myth

by Nachman Ben-Yehuda
     
 

ISBN-10: 0299148343

ISBN-13: 9780299148348

Pub. Date: 02/01/1996

Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press

In 73 A.D., legend has it, 960 Jewish rebels under siege in the ancient desert fortress of Masada committed suicide rather than surrender to a Roman legion. Recorded in only one historical source, the story of Masada was obscure for centuries. In The Masada Myth, Israeli sociologist Nachman Ben-Yehuda tracks the process by which Masada became an ideological

Overview

In 73 A.D., legend has it, 960 Jewish rebels under siege in the ancient desert fortress of Masada committed suicide rather than surrender to a Roman legion. Recorded in only one historical source, the story of Masada was obscure for centuries. In The Masada Myth, Israeli sociologist Nachman Ben-Yehuda tracks the process by which Masada became an ideological symbol for the State of Israel, the dramatic subject of movies and miniseries, a shrine venerated by generations of Zionists and Israeli soldiers, and the most profitable tourist attraction in modern Israel.

Ben-Yehuda describes how, after nearly 1800 years, the long, complex, and unsubstantiated narrative of Josephus Flavius was edited and augmented in the twentieth century to form a simple and powerful myth of heroism. He looks at the ways this new mythical narrative of Masada was created, promoted, and maintained by pre-state Jewish underground organizations, the Israeli army, archaeological teams, mass media, youth movements, textbooks, the tourist industry, and the arts. He discusses the various organizations and movements that created "the Masada experience" (usually a ritual trek through the Judean desert followed by a climb to the fortress and a dramatic reading of the Masada story), and how it changed over decades from a Zionist pilgrimage to a tourist destination.

Placing the story in a larger historical, sociological, and psychological context, Ben-Yehuda draws upon theories of collective memory and mythmaking to analyze Masada's crucial role in the nation-building process of modern Israel and the formation of a new Jewish identity. An expert on deviance and social control, Ben-Yehuda looks in particular at how and why a military failure and an enigmatic, troubling case of mass suicide (in conflict with Judaism's teachings) were reconstructed and fabricated as a heroic tale.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780299148348
Publisher:
University of Wisconsin Press
Publication date:
02/01/1996
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
424
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.94(d)

Table of Contents

Illustrationsxi
Tablesxiii
Acknowledgmentsxv
Prologue: Masada--A Chronologyxix
I.The Puzzle and the Background
1.Introduction: The Research Puzzle3
2.The Historical Events of Masada27
3.Excavations of Masada50
II.The Masada Mythical Narrative
4.Shmaria Guttman71
5.Masada and Youth Movements83
6.Masada and the Pre-State Jewish Underground Groups127
7.Masada and the Israeli Army (IDF)147
8.Masada in Textbooks163
9.Masada, the Media, and Tourism179
10.Masada in Children's Literature and in Art206
11.The Masada Mythical Narrative228
III.Analysis, Discussion, and Summary
12.Methodological Framing261
13.Theoretical Interpretation271
14.Summary and a Personal Note307
AppendixMain Jewish Underground Groups in Palestine, 1920-1948317
Notes325
Bibliography350
Index375

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