Dovekeepers brings Masada saga to the small screen

Alice Hoffman photo/deborah feingold

About 10 years ago, Alice Hoffman, a screenwriter and author of more than 30 books, visited for the first time the ancient ruins of Masada. As she walked amid the crumbling cisterns, the synagogue and the dovecotes, she felt intensely the echoes of the tragic history that had occurred on that arid plateau some 2,000 years ago.

During and after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E., more than 900 Jewish refugees fled to King Herod’s old mountaintop fortress, where they lived and practiced their religion until around 73 C.E., when a Roman legion laid siege and built a sky-high ramp to smash through Masada’s thick walls. Rather than allowing themselves to be murdered or enslaved by their enemies, the Jewish rebels opted to commit mass suicide.

Scene from “The Dovekeepers” photo/

When the Romans finally burst onto the plateau, they found only dead bodies and just seven survivors — two women and five children.

“The tragic events of the past and the extraordinary sacrifices that were made in this fortress seemed to be present in the pale air,” Hoffman writes in the afterward to her 2011 novel “The Dovekeepers,” which spotlights the lives of women in Masada and has been turned into a two-part TV series of the same name,  airing Wednesday, March 31 and April 1 on CBS.

“I almost felt like I heard a whispering,” said Hoffman. “I felt the presence of stories that had been untold, and especially I heard women’s voices.”

This article was reprinted from the L.A. Jewish Journal. To view the full story, visit

“The Dovekeepers” airs on CBS at 9 p.m. Tuesday, March 31 and Wednesday, April 1.


Naomi Pfefferman

L.A. Jewish Journal