The Masada Myth

The Masada Myth

by Nachman Ben-Yehuda
     
 

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… See more details below

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 a Romanized Jew, Josephus Flavius, was edited and augmented in the twentieth century to form a simple and powerful myth of heroism. Ben-Yehuda 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 myth-making 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 inparticular 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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780299148348
Publisher:
University of Wisconsin Press
Publication date:
02/01/1996
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
424
Sales rank:
1,064,089
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.94(d)

Table of Contents

Illustrations
Tables
Acknowledgments
Prologue: Masada - A Chronology
IThe Puzzle and the Background
1Introduction: The Research Puzzle3
2The Historical Events of Masada27
3Excavations of Masada50
IIThe Masada Mythical Narrative
4Shmaria Guttman71
5Masada and Youth Movements83
6Masada and the Pre-State Jewish Underground Groups127
7Masada and the Israeli Army (IDF)147
8Masada in Textbooks163
9Masada, the Media, and Tourism179
10Masada in Children's Literature and in Art206
11The Masada Mythical Narrative228
IIIAnalysis, Discussion, and Summary
12Methodological Framing261
13Theoretical Interpretation307
14Summary and a Personal Note307
Appendix: Main Jewish Underground Groups in Palestine, 1920-1948317
Notes325
Bibliography350
Index375

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