Masada was the last holdout of Jewish rebels against the Romans 2000 years ago. Nearly 1000 men, women and children escaped Jerusalem to this isolated desert mountain fortress. They used King Herod’s buildings, water cisterns, and food storage maintained by Roman soldiers for six decades after Herod’s death. In this way, the rebels survived three years, until the 15,000 Roman soldiers encamped around the mountain had enough and built a ramp and battering ram to breach the fortress walls.
According to the famous contemporary historian Josephus, the people decided to die by their own hands rather than be captured by the Romans and a possible worse fate. They set fire to their belongings to leave nothing for the Romans. (Archaeologists found burnt belongings in their cooking areas.) Each man dispatched his own family, after which 10 men were chosen to dispatch the others. Those 10 men then drew lots to see who would dispatch the other nine, and then kill himself. The leader’s name was Elazar ben Yair. “Ben Yair” is one of the names written on the 10 shards that the archaeologists found.