Re: travel to and from Masada, w/o guided tour
You can get scheduling info at www.egged.co.il/en - this is the website for the Egged buses - they run regularly throughout the day from Jerusalem to Masada.
Your best bet is to book rooms at the Masada Youth Hostel - really more like a motel. (www.iyha.org.il/eng) - they are located right at the base of the Snake Path - you can spend the night then get up early to climb Masada before sunrise. Tour Masada and then take the cable car down - you may even make it back in time for breakfast.
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