In This Review

The Masada Myth: Collective Memory and Mythmaking in Israel
The Masada Myth: Collective Memory and Mythmaking in Israel
By Nachman Ben-Yehuda
University of Wisconsin Press, 1995, 401 pp
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Perhaps it is only when a nation's survival is assured that its founding myths can be attacked. If so, then Israelis may well be on their way to becoming a "normal" nation. In this forceful book, an Israeli sociologist details the dismay he felt when he first heard the Masada myth challenged; he then found that, in fact, the events at Masada in 73 A.D. were far from the romanticized version of a heroic remnant of the Jewish people committing suicide to avoid being conquered. In addition to questioning the received myth, however, Ben-Yehuda examines how it originated, how it was sustained and elaborated, how it was memorialized, and how it eventually gave rise to a tourist attraction. The significance of this case study in the "archaeology of knowledge" goes well beyond Israel.