At the edge of the Judean Desert, on a rocky plateau overlooking the Dead Sea, lies the excavated ruin of a royal citadel. It was the last stronghold held by the Jewish Zealots who refused to submit to Roman occupation. When they could hold out no longer, Masada became the backdrop for one of the most dramatic scenes in Jewish history.

The cliffs on the east edge of Masada are about 400 m high and the cliffs on the west are about 91 m high; the natural approaches to the cliff top are very difficult. The top of the plateau is flat and rhomboid shaped, about 550 m by 270 m. There was a casemate wall around the top of the plateau totaling 1.3 km long and 3.7 m, with many towers, and the fortress included storehouses, barracks, an armory, the palace, and cisterns that were refilled by rainwater. Three narrow, winding paths led from below up to fortified gates.