Archived entries for Masada

Masada or Yavneh?


CEDAR: When you compare the rebels on Masada to the wise men in Yavneh, the rebels died as lions, and the wise men lived as dogs . But the dogs had puppies, and we are those puppies. So, there was something about blowing up Beaufort, blowing up the fortifications, blowing up the mountain, at the end of the film, that was also about blowing up a symbol of (the lion’s) power. It’s about our power to create something else that, at least for me, makes us different from our enemies.

ZEEK: It means that as Israelis, we can start over. That we have the ability to reinvent ourselves.

CEDAR: Not only that. It means that we have an identity without the geographical symbol, that we have an identity that is as powerful and as firm as concrete and fortifications, flags and pride.

To read the rest of my interview with director Joseph Cedar, check out the new issue of Zeek.

American Studies


American defense concerns have always given weapons names that fit their function. For example, fighters such as the F-15, F-16 and F-18 were appropriately given names such as ‘Eagle’, ‘Fighting Falcon,’ and ‘Hornet,’ while the black-painted, radar-evading F-117 stealth bomber was dubbed the ‘Nighthawk‘.

As silly as these names can get, (Why not a Dayhawk? When is the Chickenhawk coming? etc..) you can see the cultural logic behind their specificity. They’re meant to convey that such war machines embody the fierce, agile, even predatory qualities that define the brave birds that the aircraft were named after.

Hence the curious naming of the new ‘Masada‘ assault rifle by it’s manufacturer, Magpul Industries. Named after one of the first recorded incidents of mass suicide (in which 960 Jews besieged by Roman troops took their lives) the complexity of the rifle’s title represents a fairly serious break with convention.

As though anticipating criticisms over having chosen such a potentially controversial name, in a PDF brochure for the weapon posted to Wikipedia, Magpul maintains that the company isĀ  neither “Jewish or Israeli backed,” but that it has always found the story of Masada to be “a bold example of defiance.”

If you want to get a sense of what informs so many American estimations of Israeli military prowess, you won’t find a more revealing signifier. One people’s loss is another’s defiance. Or, one could conjecture that such takes on Israelis say more about American desires than what they think about Jewry.

In January, the Masada was licensed to the larger American arms manufacturer Bushmaster, who have since retitled it the Adaptive Combat Rifle.


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