Terrorism has succeeded where the Roman Empire failed: Masada is closing down.
The Judean desert fortress where Maccabbee rebels reportedly committed mass suicide rather than surrender to Rome two thousand years ago is among the 58 Israeli tourist sites to be closed this week due to the hostilities.
Another site shutting down is the gravesite of the state of Israel's founding father, Ben Gurion. "We are ceasing operations as a result of the security situation and the resulting dearth of tourism, which has meant an 80% drop in admission receipts," a spokesman for Israel's Nature Reserves and Parks Authority said on Sunday. All of the authority's 58 nature and antiquities sites would be shut down by week's end, beginning on Tuesday, and left unguarded, he said. These include the first-century hilltop fortress of Masada, in the Judean Desert, and the gravesite of David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister who read out the Jewish state's declaration of independence at its founding in 1947. The 20-month-old
has killed at least 1,415 Palestinians and 548 Israelis, and devastated the region's tourism and service industries. The government recently agreed to help bail out the nation's collapsing hotel industry. The tourism authority saw an NIS 80 million ($16 million) fall in revenues this year, the spokesman said. Unlike last year, the government would not defray the costs, he added. "The Nature Reserves and Parks Authority is like any other business - if the business doesn't succeed, it gets shut down," Israeli Environment Minister Tzahi Hanegbi told Israel's Channel 2 television.