JERUSALEM (Jul. 7)
Bones believed to be the remains of Jewish defenders of the mountain fortress of Massada against Roman Legionnaires 1,900 years ago were re-buried with full military honors on the site of that ancient fortress near the Dead Sea today. The remains were said to belong to 27 men, women and children who took their own lives rather than fall into Roman hands.
The cortege was accompanied to the burial site by a guard of honor and a rifle squad. Prof. Yigal Yadin, the Hebrew University archaeologist who discovered the bones in a cave while excavating around Massada, read a selection from an address of Elazar Ben Yair, the commander of Massada during the siege. Others officiating at the reburial ceremonies were Gen. Shlomo Goren, chief chaplain of Israel’s armed forces, and Dr. Zerach Warhaftig, Minister for Religious Affairs.
Some controversy surrounded the authenticity of the bones. Prof. Yadin himself said there was no proof that all of the skeletons belonged to the Massada defenders or that they dated from the same period. But religious authorities insisted that the remains be given heroes’ burial on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem. The ceremonies were to have taken place in March but were postponed while a special Cabinet committee considered the evidence. The committee eventually recommended re-burial but the site selected was Massada, a remote location, rather than the Mount of Olives.