Masada is situated on a desert mesa high above the Dead Sea. It is accessible by two paths: the steep Snake Path which winds its way up from the Sea, and the gentler Roman Ramp, which is accessible by driving around to the other side of the plateau through Erad. So, while the car break-in resulted in an unexpected trip to the Erad police station, at least it saved us a grueling hike in the desert heat by putting us only 20 minutes away from the easier entrance!
Masada was built by the paranoid Herod the Great as a protective fortress against a potential Jewish revolt or other invasions. Despite its natural defenses, it was captured by the Jews several years after Herod's death during the First Revolt against the Romans. After the Roman's cracked down on the uprising, it became a haven for Jews fleeing from Jerusalem. Despite holding out against the Romans for months, the Romans eventually were able to build an earthen ramp up to the fortress walls (today's "Roman Ramp" entrance) to lay siege on the defenders. But, before being captured, nearly all of the Zealots committed mass suicide, marking the end of the Jewish presence in Palestine. The site was later occupied by Byzantine monks.
It's a beautiful spot, particularly at sunrise, but it's Masada's legendary status in Jewish history makes it a must-see for any trip to Israel.