Friday, May 11, 2012

On Masada

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
As soon as I heard about this book I knew I had to read it. First it's a historical fiction, which I'm always happy to read. Second it's a Jewish historical fiction, and some of my favorite books (such as the Rashi's Daughter trilogy) have fell into that genre. And third it takes place at Masada, which I was able to climb and view the sunrise on my Brightright Israel trip to Israel 4 years ago. Basically it was the perfect book for me.

Except when I started reading it, it felt a little slow and took me a while to get into it. It was such a let down to think that this book that I'd been dying to read wouldn't live up to my high expectations. Although, I told myself that once the action actually moved to Masada it would get better. And while it wasn't immeadiate, as the story progressed I started to fall in love.

The story follows the 4 female dovekeepers on Masada. The book was broken into 4 sections, so each was able to tell their story. There were some whose stories I enjoyed more than others, but within each one's story is the story of Masada.

For those that haven't heard of Masada, which I hadn't until I actually climbed it, it was originally built as a summer palace for King Herod. One hundred years later as the Romans started enslaving and killing Jews, many fled to Masada where they had their own outpost. The Romans weren't able to climb the narrow snake path up the mountain to capture the city. So instead they built their own ramp out of dirt to climb to the city. But when the Romans got city to capture the Jews, everyone was already dead. The Jews had decided they would rather die at their own hands than at the ends of others.

For such a tragic story to tell, I found the whole book beautiful. As soon as I finished the book I was ready to pick it up and read it again. Reading the words I really felt like I was at Masada, although I think the fact that I've been there helped me picture it. And I shed a few tears by the end of the book, although not neccessarily where I would have expected. I'm glad to say that even with the slow start, this held up to my expectations, and definitely will join my list of favority books.


And for fun, and since I wanted to share, here's a few of my favorite photos from when I was lucky enough to visit Masada.
View of Masada
The Snake Path down the mountain
The snake path, which the Romans weren't able to climb with their troops.
Walking up the Roman Ramp
The Roman ramp which allowed them access to the city.
Roman Camp
Ruins of a Roman camp. Since the Romans spent so much time building the ramp, they left their own ruins behind.
The Synagogue
Ruins at Masada. This was actually the synagogue.
Roman baths
These were the Roman baths during King Herods time, but used as a mikvah before the seige at Masada.
Myself and Sara as the sun rises
My maid of honor and me standing on top of Masada at sunrise, with some of the ruins in the background.

Have you ever read a book where you felt like you were able to get more out of it because you've visit the place where the story takes place?

Today I'm linking up with Blonde Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday!


  1. This post brings back memories from my own Birthright trip. Now, of course, I have to read this book. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I've heard some mixed reviews on this book. I'm glad to hear a good review. I'd like to check this one out.

  3. I love reading a book and being able to actually picture the places where the story takes place!