74 AD, Masada
They are coming.
The battering rams crashed against the enormous isolated rock face. Weapons clashed as the Romans prepared for battle. What was left for them to do?
Huddling in the far corner, I anxiously watched with the other children as their fathers and brothers gathered dirt and timber, quickly constructing an inner wall, stable enough so the battering ram would create a more compact hold.
Desperately trying to hold back the Roman onslaught, knowing if the Romans broke this defence, there would be no alternative.
Silence fell as the Romans faced their next challenge. We silently prayed, was this it? Would the Romans turn away?
I could smell it before I felt the intense heat of the fire alighting on the timber. Fear awash on our faces. But no sooner had the Romans thought they were near victory, the wind changed course, sending the fire back to the Romans.
Shouts erupted from our refuge. Surely now we would be left in peace. Lucius Flavius Silva would have to admit defeat. God had finally turned his face towards us.
But our relief was cruelly put to an end. We all felt it, the heat coming back towards us, the wind sending the fire straight back to its target. Savagely burning all in its path, soon it would destroy our wall. Then they would come.
My father and the other strong fighting men fell to the ground in despair. How had it come to this?
I was only a baby when my father went to fight the Romans. At twelve years of age brought to Masada to take refuge after the Romans destroyed the temple. For four years my father and many other men looted the Roman supplies, wreaking havoc on Roman operations.
Sacarii, or knife men they were called. Even the other groups of zealots were terrified of them.
Rumours circulated that some of the men killed over 700 women and children in the village of En Gedi for not living up to their standards. But I couldn’t believe that to be true. We were fighting against the Romans for God, not massacring all that wouldn’t stand with us.
I still remember that day, three months ago, when they first came. The huge number of Romans sent to kill every last one of us. Some said 16,000, others 25,000. I didn’t care about the number; I just knew we couldn’t fight against something that was so determined to destroy us. Even with God on our side, our faith dwindled with each passing day.
Any hope we had, burned away with our only defences. We all knew what happened to Roman prisoners, death was preferable than to live as a slave.
Day and night the Romans forced Jewish slaves to labour on their defensive wall encircling the city. Defensive towers overlooked the harsh Judean desert.
Every morning we awoke to the sounds of their work. It was the silence one morning that caused our terror. The silence echoing along the walls, we knew they were approaching.
We hurried to the walls, overlooking to where the treacherous snake path wound its way up to the fortress. The long thin rows of men, making their way towards us.
Grabbing pots of boiling oil, men tipped the dark liquid down on the broaching army, while we hurled large stones on any that were not in the scalding oil’s path. Praying every second that God would deliver us.
But the Romans were ready, carrying leather canopies to protect themselves from our desperate onslaught.
Each day we prayed for a miracle, but as the burning fire plundered through the wall, I felt our time was at an end. Why were we being punished?
I cowered further into the corner, children crying all around me. It didn’t matter how young or old they were, they knew what this meant.
Abruptly a familiar voice cut into the weeping of the women, the desperate scurrying and yelling of the men, and the clashing of weapons on the outside.
A voice echoed along the walls, a voice of authority, a voice that would further change the direction of my life.