What would you do guys when faced with this decision?
The year is about 70AD and the Roman occupation of your country (Israel) is becoming unbearable.
One day, somewhere in the country a group of Jews are having a service in their synagogue when in marches a Roman centurion and announces that the Romans are going to build a new road and, bad news, the new road is going to cut through the middle of the synagogue.
What follows is what became known as the Second Revolution.
What happened in Jerusalem can hardly be described as almost the entire population was slaughtered or taken into slavery and the temple of Herod the Great was torn down.
Many escaped into the country where they were hunted down and either killed or taken into slavery. However, 960 men, women and children managed to escape to the shores of the Dead Sea where they found refuge on the top of Masada.
Masada is a free-standing mountain in the Wilderness of the Judean Mountains. It was here that Herod the Great built a fortress which included a palace to which he could escape in time of danger. Herod's enemies were his own people whom he had forced into slavery to built his opulent palaces and new towns. The fortress held enough food and water to eight years.
By the time the refugees arrived at Masada Herod was long gone (interestingly having never spent a night in his palace) but the supplies were all in place.
The Romans, having crushed the Revolt, sent the 8000 men of the 10th Legion under the command of Flavius Silva to lay siege to the mountain. Flavius Silva boasted that he would finish the job in two weeks, but three years later with his men about to mutiny he finally took a drastic step and built a massive ramp up to the top of the mountain. The wall was then breached, but the attacking Romans then withdrew down the hill not wanting to attack at night.
That night the Jews were faced with the question.
They knew that the next morning the Romans would enter Masada, they knew that the men would suffer a long slow death, the woman would be raped and then, together with the children be made slaves. The community opted for a quick death at their own hands.
The Romans arrived in the morning and met no resistance. In the search they found the bodies of the refugees and two women and five children who had hidden in a water cistern during the killing. These seven survivors were taken to Rome and were questioned by the Emperor personally as the Romans viewed the sacrifice on Masada with deep respect.
For Jews today Masada is problematic, because life belongs to God and being a Jew is all about life. However every young man and women who finishes basic training in the Israeli Defence Force marches up the mountain (no cable car for them!) and pledges that "Masada will never fall again".
From Masada we drove to Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found - more on that another time.