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February 23, 2009February 23, 2009  0 comments  Geography

With spring in full bloom in Israel, a leisurely stroll through Tzippori, nicknamed by Josephus as "the ornament of the Galilee" is a must see visit for all travelers this time of year. Located in the heart of the Galilee, Tzippori is situated on a hill in the western part of the region, situated between the Tzippori stream to the south (Nahal Tzippori - also happens to be a wonderful place for a hike) and the Beit Netofa Valley to the north. The site is one of Israel's National Parks and is extremely well maintained. A modern visitor center sits at the entrance of the park and English speaking tour guides who work for the park service are available for hire in advance for approximately $150 for an hour and a half tour.


Tzippori received its name because of its location on the top of a mountain "like a bird" as written in the Talmud. Visiting today, one can view the remains of a magnificent city with streets, buildings, bathhouse, complete with very well preserved mosaic floors as well as an ancient synagague. A large theatre was also uncovered as well as an ancient water reservoir. For over two thousand years, Tzippori has enjoyed a very colorful history.


During the Crusader period, Tzippori was known as La Saphorie, and it also seems to have been populated during both the first and second temple periods. The city rose to prominence during the period of 47BCE, when Herod the Great was the governor of the Galilee. He captured the city from the governor of Syria by force and after Herod's death in 4 BCE, the Jews revolted against the Romans and captured Tzippori only to lose it to the Roman army which successfully countered the rebellion. Later in 66 CE, the revolt against the Jews began and the local population made an agreement with the Romans, successfully portecting their city from being destroyed. Later during the 3rd centurty, the city was very prominent and Rabbi Judah Hanasi moved to the city bringing with him the highest institution of Jewish law, known as the Sanhedrin. It was in Tzippori that Hanasi began working on the Mishnah.


A church was built in Tzippori during the Byzantine period and the Christian community grew, though the Jewish population remained a majority. The Arab period that followed the decline of the Byzantine period brought with it an Arab population which remained through 1948, when the local cvillage, known as Saffuriyyeh, that had been established in the 18th century, The current Moshav Tzippori was established just after the War of Independence, adjacent to the village of Saffuriyyeh.

June 16, 2013June 16, 2013  0 comments  History

"Wow, I thought Israel was a desert!" is a common comment heard from tourists when traveling in northern Israel. First time travelers are often surprised and awed by the beauty and greenery of the Galilee and the Golan Heights.

Taking visitors to the Banias National Reserve, (also known as Caesarea Philipi) is particulary enjoyable because it is a site that holds not only tremendous beauty, but is incredibly important to so many people and for various reasons: Jesus handed Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven making it an important pilgrimage site; strategically it is a critical water source; aesthetically it is a nature lover's dream with its dramatic waterfalls, and a suspended trail over a powerfully flowing river while history enthusiasts will be awed by the Pagan temples, secret caves and ancient flour mills tracing many different civilizations and characters such as Herod the Great, Peter and Jesus, and even Mark Twain to name just a few of the characters who've traveled to Banias -Caesarea Philipi. Intrigued?
Read on...

Ancient people worshipped the natural beauty of the area for generations. The seeping rainwater at the springhead carved a large cave which was venerated by Canaanite cults and used to worship gods and goddesses throughout history.

The Seleucid Greeks carved a rock temple to their god Pan (half goat-half man, god of shepherds and nature) whom they believed helped them win a great battle here in 200 b.c.e, against their nemesis, the Ptolemaic Greek army.

The Temple of Pan gave the place its name - Paneas. (When invading Muslim armies arrived in the 7th century, the name evolved into the one we know today, Banias, due to the fact that the sound ‘P' does not exist in Arabic and is often substituted by a ‘B'.)

Several other pagan temples are carved into the limestone facade, one to Zeus and one where sacred goats were sacrificed and their bones preserved in small niches. 

banias waterfall


Herod the Great also added his two cents, apparently building a temple here in honor of Caesar Augustus. Not to be outdone, Herod's son Phillip inherited this area and in the year 2 BCE built his capital city, Caesarea Philippi, near the spring. Parts of this ancient city have been excavated and are visible today, although most of it still lies underfoot.

Caesarea Philippi is a Christian pilgrimage destination as the site where Jesus awarded Simon Bar-Yonah (Peter) his role as leader of the disciples. (In fact, many Christians believe that Caesarea Philipi is the site of the transfiguration).

"13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 7 And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[a] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[b] shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[c] in heaven." Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. (Matthew 16:13)

Who else hung around the Banias Springs, you may ask?
One of America's most celebrated authors of all time, Mark Twain, was also touched by Banias when he visited the Holy Land with a group of Christian Pilgrims in 1860.

He wrote "It seems curious enough to us to be standing on ground that was once actually pressed by the feet of the Saviour. The situation is suggestive of a reality and a tangibility that seem at variance with the vagueness and mystery and ghostliness that one naturally attaches to the character of a god. I cannot comprehend yet that I am sitting where a god has stood, and looking upon the book and the mountains which that god looked upon, and am surrounded by dusky men and women whose ancestors saw him, and even talked with him, face to face, and carelessly, just as they would have done with any other strangers. I cannot comprehend this; the gods of my understanding have been always hidden in clouds and very far away. (The Innocents Abroad, ch 45)

The Banias reserve is also the perfect place to learn about water issues, an important resource crucial in its impact on ancient history as well as modern issues of the State of Israel. The stream flows as a result of snow from Mt. Hermon that melts and permeates into fissures in the hard limestone rock. The water accumulates and eventually springs out, creating the Banias Stream. The waters of the Banias Stream, flows over 9 kilometers and joins the Dan River becoming the largest and most important tributary of the sacred Jordan River.

banias waterfall

Revered for its beauty, its history its spiritual significance and its relevance to ancient and modern Israel, Banias is one of Travelujah's favorite sites in Israel.


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Anat Harrel is  a licensed tour guide in Israel. She lives in Kibbutz Hannaton in the Galilee and contributes regularly to Travelujah-Holy Land tours. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah. Anat can be reached at the following addres: anat2rs@gmail.com


March 12, 2013March 12, 2013  0 comments  Biblical Archaeology

With a rich history dating back thousands of years, its pretty incredible that some of the Holy Land’s most renowned sites can be traced to the lifetime of one individual, King Herod the Great, who reigned over the land over 2,000 years ago. Lifetime over 2,000 years ago! The 40-year building spree that defined Herod produced magnificent structures, many of which still stand today.

Examples of King Herod’s fortresses, palaces or water systems can be found throughout the region.






Built between 37 and 31 BCE, Herod built Masada as a refuge from his enemies. Sitting 1300 feet above sea level, Herod chose this natural horst plateau, once occupied by the Hasmonean king Alexander Janneus to build his home away from home. Remains of the majestic Masada, with its vast array of water cisterns, storerooms, palaces, soldiers’ quarters, bathhouses and the magnificent Northern three-tiered palace that was once carved into the massive bedrock can still be explored. If you’re looking for a physical challenge, climb the 1,300 feet high path leading up to the fortress compound. As you climb the ancient “Snake Path” whose serpentine trail leads you to the mountain fortress, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the Dead Sea and the surrounding sandstone mountains. If you’d like to save your energy for all of the antiquities waiting for you at the top, take the cable car for a dramatic ride which still affords the great views of the Dead Sea to the east and the jutting s mountains that surround you.


Masada Travelujah


But Masada wasn’t only important during the time of Herod. Little more than 70 years later, Masada would serve as the stage to one of the most dramatic battles in history. After the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 CE, a community of Jews fled to Masada. For three years they lived in Herod’s old palaces, built a synagogue and ritual baths and survived a months-long siege by the Roman army’s illustrious 10th legion. In the end, however, the 966 Jewish residents of Masada opted for a mass suicide rather than succumb to Roman slavery. You can still see the “lots room” where archaeologists found pottery shards inscribed with “ben Yair”, the name of the leader of the Jewish rebels.


Masada’s history continued however, as a community of monks would make this hilltop there hideaway during the Byzantine era in the 4th and 5th centuries. You can still see remains of their church and its mosaics and frescos.


With its rich history, elaborate Herodian water system and well-preserve ruins, it’s no surprise that Masada became a UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the most visited spots in all of Israel.




Herod was a master politician. Even when he initially backed the loser, he changed his allegiance so quickly that he was usually rewarded for his “longstanding” support. That’s how he was awarded control over the oldest city in the world; Jericho. This city, located more than 1000 feet below sea level, is the same location where the Biblical prophet Joshua gave the command to blow the trumpets that would allow the Israelites to conquer this city. One thousand years later, this site would become home to a Hasmonean fortress, and then expanded again by Herod. Wandering along ruins one marvels at the vast mountain landscape. Remains of ancient burial chambers carved into the surrounding bedrock make for intriguing exploration. You can see vestiges of the expansive water system that filled the swimming pool that was the sight of the dramatic assassination of the high priest Aristobulus III by Herod’s mother-in-law as well as magnificent ancient mosaics near the sunken gardens.




Herodium National Park


Just 10 miles south of Jerusalem and even closer to Bethlehem, King Herod built the Herodium fortress after his victory against the Parthians. This unique site is the only Herodian complex that was built in a spot that prior to construction was completely desolate. Masada had once been occupied by the Hasmoneans. Caesarea had once been a Phoenician port, and Jerusalem had already been the Jewish capital for 1,000 years when Herod expanded the Temple mount. But Herodium was pure, unadulterated Herod.  Its unique landscape can be seen miles away with its volcano-like shape. This hill is man-made and is a result of Herod’s workmen shoring up the double walls which ran over 200 feet in diameter! Ascending to the top one finds the remains of Herod’s fortress, the lookout tower, the opulent bathhouses and cisterns. Equally fascinating are the remains of an ancient synagogue used by Jews who defended themselves from the Romans during the Great Revolt in 70 CE and later, during the Bar Kochba Revolt  in 135 CE. 


Herodion Bethlehem Travelujah


After you’ve explored the fortress area, escape the heat by descending into the tunnels below. Built by the Bar Kochba fighters thee tunnels connected to Herod’s massive water cisterns enabling the fighters to hide from the approaching Roman army. And as you look out over the base of Herodium, you’ll see the remains of an ancient country club where Mark Antony as well as Herod’s other royal guests were treated to lavish pool parties complete with musical entertainment and the best imported wine served pool side.  Because this was Herod’s favorite spot and commanded an uninterrupted view of his beloved Jerusalem, he demanded to be buried on this magnificent site. In 2007, Ehud Netzer discovered Herod‘s tomb after 40 years of searching.


The Western Wall and The Temple Mount


King Herod’s most famous building project was the expansion of the Temple Mount in which he expanded the Temple and more than doubled the size of the Temple Mount area. Then, to insure the physical security safety of this holiest of sites, he planned a retaining wall. The western side of this wall, known in Hebrew as The Kotel, or the Western Wall, is the holiest site in Judaism today. When viewing today’s Western wall I one sees the top 28 layers, however, another 17 layers remain underground! Built of limestone quarried from the nearby Zedekiah’s Cave situated just outside the Muslim Quarter, by today’s Damascus Gate, the stones at eye-level represent the typical Herodian design with beautifully chiseled edges. But gazing upwards, note how the stone style changes, evidence of later additions built by Umayyad Muslims and later still, by the Ottomans. You don’t have to be Jewish to participate in the tradition of writing a personal prayer on a small piece of paper and sticking it into the cracks of these well-worn stones.   


Western Wall Travelujah


The Dome of El Aqsa and the Mosque of Omar are located on the Temple Mount.


If you’re planning a visit to Israel anytime up to mid- fall 2013, include a trip to the Herod exhibit currently at the Israel Museum for a thorough history as well as artifacts from one of the most controversial kings in the history of the Holy Land.


Dome of the Rock Travelujah


Tomb of the Patriarchs


The city of Hebron is most notable for the Cave of Machpelah, which is the traditional burial site of biblical Patriarchs and Matriarchs: Abraham and his wife Sarah, their son Isaac and grandson Jacob, and their wives Rebecca and Leah, as well as Jacob’s son Joseph. (Gen. 23:17-20)


The massive edifice built over the cave, which we can see today, is the result of multiple transformations and renovations since the construction of the huge outer enclosure (65 x 35 m) by the architectural mastermind Herod the Great. The thick walls, built of massive stone blocks with the characteristic recessed margins, reach around 16 m high. The exact location of the orginal entrance is hard to identify.


Tomb of the Patriarchs Travelujah


The place is undoubtedly holy for the tree monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. There are assumptions that during the Byzantine times a church was built inside the enclosure, which was replaced by a mosque during the Ummayad period around the beginning of the 8th century. In the 11th century, after the Crusader conquest, the mosque was changed into a church built in a Gothic style and dedicated to St. Abraham. The main structure of the church can be seen till this day. The site became again a mosque after Saladin’s conquest in 1187. In 1967 the sanctuary was shared to create inside it also a place for a synagogue for Jewish believers.




Apollonia National Park 


Apollonia National Park is one of Israel’s smaller national treasures and not nearly as known as other archaeological sites. Nevertheless, set atop the cliffs just north of Herzliah Pituach overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Appollonia is home to amazing antiquities dating back to the Phoenicians who settled this coastal town about 500 years before King Herod. Though the Roman villa here may actually date to a few years after his death, with its Crusader-era the site is a worthy visit. Two walking paths snake their way through Apollonia’s ruins; one which descends partway down the cliffs is designed for more experienced hikers while the upper one is relatively flat and suitable for people in wheelchairs or pushing strollers. Only 20 minutes north of Tel Aviv, Apollonia is a perfect site for those long on interest in antiquities but short on time!




Despite his thirst for power, no one knew how to say “thank-you” better than Herod.  Herod would show his gratitude by building fortresses in honor of Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor who granted Herod the province of Judea to rule.  But Herod realized that in order to impress the Romans they needed beauty was key. In 22 BCE, one year after his workers started building the Herodion Fortress, Herod embarked on one of his most ambitious building projects, Caesarea. He enlarged the natural port at what was formerly called Stratton’s Tower, renamed it Caesarea in honor of the emperor and create a harbor to rival the magnificent port of Alexandria. Located on the coast one hour north of Tel Aviv, Caesarea is home to a Roman-era amphitheater which even today offer some of the best acoustics. An impressive Hippodrome once that welcomed 10,000 spectators to the fight-to-the death lion tamers and chariot races, is reminiscent of a Charlton Heston’s nail-biting portrayal of a charioteer in the famous movie, Ben Hur.


Caesarea Travelujah




Sebaste National Park


Located in Samaria, the capital in the ancient northern Kingdom of Israel, Sebaste National Park is located about seven and a half miles north of Nablus. The Old Testament site of Samaria (it is mentioned 109 times in the Old Testament) was founded by Omri (ruled 885–874 BC) and it was once the capital city of the Northern Kingdom of Israel . Like most of other Herod buildings Sebaste was originally built by Ahab, the son of Omri and husband of Jezbeel. The Assyrians captured in in 723B.C, thereby ending the Israelite rule.


Sebaste Travelujah


Sebaste contains a fortress and palace dating from the ninth-eighth centuries BCE when prophets such as Elijah warned people of what would happen if they did not follow the word of God. But Sebaste flourished during the Roman period as well. The Roman Emperor Augustus gave the city of Sebaste to Herod and he then rebuilt it in typically grand Herod style complete with an impressive, kilometer long cardo containing 600 columns to an impressive gate. He also built a forum, a Roman basilica, stadium, temple, hippodrome, houses, storeshouses and a theater surrounded by a wall and gates. Situated in the Samarian mountains, the site enjoys gentle mountain breezes .  The ancient Roman theater and stadium were both built in honor of Augustus Caesar and the remains of a mosque built over a 7th century church dedicated to John the Baptist, who’s head was kept here (according to some traditions)




Banias National Park


Banias National Park, located in the Golan Heights is one of the favorite spots in Israel for tourists and natives alike. The hike along striking springs and waterfalls offer a cool respite from the summer heat and the impressive antiquities, carved into the natural stone face, are not to be missed. The Greek king Antiochus III won an important battle here and, as a result, a Greek Temple dedicated to the god Pan (Pan = Ban and is how Banias got its name) was built. But Herod also recognized the beauty of this site. Situated along the Banias Springs, one of the sources of the Jordan River, Herod chose this spot as the perfect place to erect a temple in honor of his patron Augustus Caesar.  Not long after his death, it was here that Simon Peter declared that, “You are the Christ, the son of the living G-d.” Then Jesus blessed Simon saying, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:16-19). Banias is filled with plane and poplars and spots abound for sitting and reflecting on the importance of this site in the life of Jesus.


While you may not be able to visit all of the destinations here, you can be assured that no matter where you visit in Israel, you’re not far from one of Herod’s great masterpieces.


Travelujah offers a new 7 day Herod in the Holy land tour for groups interested in studying Herod in depth. The tour includes site visits to several important Herod sites and museums throughout the Holy Land accompanied by an expert tour guide specializing in the second temple period, Herod and archaeology. For more information contact Travelujah.


Onnie Schiffmiller is a licensed Israeli tour guide.


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If you go:


For contact information:




  • Masada - There is a one day Masada and Dead Sea tour that departs daily from either Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. For more information visit this site. Tel: 8-995-9333
  • Jericho - There is a one day Jericho and Bethlehem tour that departs three times a week.  For more details please visit this link.
  • Hebron – Travelujah can help you to arrange a tour with a private guide. Abrahams Tours has regularly scheduled tour to Hebron every Wednesday. For more details check: here.
  • Herodium can be visited in a specially arranged day tour by contacting Travelujah. For site information visit this link. Tel: 02--654-1255
  • Western Wall – Open 24 hours a day.
  • Apollonia – Although there are no one day tours that include Apollonia the site is easily accessible to those with their own transportation and is about a 25 minute drive time from Tel Aviv. For more information click here. Tel:  03-903-3130          
  • Caesarea- A group one day tour is offered three times weekly that includes Caesarea, Acre and Rosh Hanikra. For more information visit this link.  Tel: 04-626-7080
  • Sebaste - Sebaste is best visited with a private tour guide. Visits do need to be prearranged in advance through the parks authority director,  Moti Fee, at 057-7762053 or by phoning  09-8841623. (Note Sebastiye is located within the Palestinian Authority areas)       
  • Banias - A guaranteed group tour to Banias is offered as part of the 3 day Golan and Galilee tour that is offered weekly. For more information contact info@travelujah.com Tel: 04-690-2577

Temple Mount  Visit - Available visiting hours for non-Muslims are restricted and are as follows:


Summer: Sundays – Thursdays: 8:30 am – 11:30 am , 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm.

Winter: Sundays – Thursdays: 7:30 am – 10:30 am , 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm.

The Temple Mount is closed to tourists on Fridays and Saturdays.

It is recommended to call in advance to find out regarding changes. Tel: 02-622-6250 



February 13, 2013February 13, 2013  0 comments  Museum

For the first time ever, Herod the Great has become the subject of an extraordinary exhibition at the Israel Museum entitled "The Kings Final Journey".  The exhibit, which opened to great fanfare yesterday, includes over 250 artifacts collected from the archaeological remains of several buildings and palaces constructed by Herod the Great including pieces from the  Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The display features reconstructions and artifacts from Herod’s edifices at Herodium and Jericho. Starting with his funeral procession of Herod, which began at this third palace in Jericho, the visitor first arrives in Herod's reconstructed throne room completed with restored frescos. As the visitor walks from room to room within the exhibit he is taken through many of Herod's major building feats including Caesarea and Masada and artifacts from these sites and others along with digital restorations are on display. However, it is the newly excavated (as believed) Herod’s tomb, which takes center stage. The reddish sarcophagus of Herod, discovered outside the palace at Herodium in 2007, was found shattered in hundreds of pieces and was meticulously restored for the exhibit. It is pm display in the last room of the exhibit, adjacent to the magnificent royal room.


Why did Herold build his tomb on the northeastern slope of Herodium? While no one really knows the answer it is believed that he wanted the tomb to be seen from Jerusalem. As to why it was not within the palace grounds, speculation is that Herod, with his vast knowledge and respect of Jewish culture and its rules regarding impurity, understood that should his tomb be within the palace complex priests would not be able to visit. He therefore constructed the mausoleum on the highest possible spot ouside the palace.


The exhibition is dedicated to Prof. Ehud Netzer, a prolific archaeologist who devoted much of his professional career to searching for Herod's tomb. In fact in 1972, Netzer came within one meter of the tomb's location during a dig at Herodium. However, it took him another 40 years until he finally discoveredthe tomb in 2007. Knowing that this find would require a professional restoration team in order to protect and restore the significant artifacts discovered, he conceived the initial idea of Herod's exhibit and brought in the Israel Museum to assist. Unfortunately, during the initial site tour at Herodium accompanied by members of the Israel Museum's restoration team, Netzer fell from  the theatre site and died from his injuries three days later. The Israel Museum team, led by co-curators David Mevorah and Silvia Rozenberg, and designed by Iddo Burn, spent the last three years planning the exhibit, which contains over 30 tons of material from Herodium and 250 artifacts from the site and other related sites throughout the region, as well as related artifacts on loan from other museums worldwide.


The exhibit plays tribute to Herod the man and his achievement as a regional imperial ruler with an obligation to be loyal to his imperial mandate het with an understanding that he was presiding over a magnificent golden age of Jewish life. According to museum director James Snyder, the exhibit "explodes this moment" of  Jerusalem's golden age by showcasing the grandeur of buildings constructed by Herod during this period. The exhibit "brings into context remote imperial rule during a pivotal time", says Snyder. Which is, he explains, why this exhibit is of great interest, not only to Jews but to Christians as well. While Herod the Great may have died four years prior to the birth of Jesus, he ruled during a pivotal period in history, and his death and the subsequent rise of his son and the turmoil which began during his reign, paved the way to early Christianity.


Herod the Great

Herod the Great Exhibition Travelujah

Miniature Model of Herodium and the Tomb below; photo courtesy Elisa Moed, Travelujah.com

Herod the Great (73/74 BC – 4 BC) in 39/40 BC was appointed the client king Roman province of Judaea, consisting of geographical regions of Judea, Samaria and Idumea.


Herod was the second son of Antipater the Idumean, a high-ranked official of Hyrcanus II, and his mother was Cypros who was a Nabatean.


After the conquest of Idumea by John Hyrcanus, all its residents were obliged to convert into Judaism or leave the area. Thus Herod as well followed the Jewish faith, however due to his Idumean blood, religious Jews of Judea did not considered him Jewish.


When Herod was 25, his father appointed him a governor of Galilee, but it was his brother Phasel who governed in Jerusalem. In the middle of the 1st century BC, Hyrcanus’ nephew Antigonus took his uncle’s throne by force. At that time, Herod escaped to Rome to ask for help in bringing him back into power.


Herod with the support of the Romans managed to win the kingdom from Antigonus – the Hasmonean dynasty came to the end giving the way to the Herodian one.


In the Bible, Herod is mentioned as the ruler at the time of Jesus’ birth. “Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod” (Matt 2:1) The ruler was so obsessed with the wish of power and domination that when he heard from the Wise Men from the East that they are looking for the newborn King of the Jews, he decided to kill all the babies of Bethlehem and its surroundings.


Herod the Architect


In the early years of his reign, still before he became a mad man, Herod conducted multiple construction projects, which impressing results can be seen until today.


One of his great architectural achievements was expansion of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, which was however tremendously destroyed, as predicted by Jesus, by the Romans in 70 AD.  “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Mark 13:2)

Herod the Great Exhibition Travelujah     Herod the Great Exhibition Travelujah

Ruins of Herodium & Reconstruction of Herod's Tomb memorial 

Other projects of the king include the advancement of water supplies for Jerusalem, imposing fortresses such as Masada or Herodium, founding new cities like Caesarea Martima or expanding the existing ones, e.g. Sebastiya. Herod built also the enclosure over Cave of the Patriarchs (Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi) in Hebron etc.




Modern scholars commonly agree that Herod had a mental disease which resulted in paranoia and constant depression. As well, after basing their theories on the writings of the ancient historian Josephus, they suppose that in the last days of his life the king suffered from serious gangrene, which he tried to cure in the waters of the Dead Sea.


Herod died in his winter palace in Jericho. While on his deathbed, he became afraid that no one would mourn after his death, so he ordered to execute a large group of important personas, so the feeling of grief and loss would hit the country. However, finally this wish was not carried out.


After his death, Herod’s kingdom was divided between tree of his sons. Cesar Augustus apointed Herod Archelaus to rule over Judea, Samaria and Idumea, Herod Philip I to rule the northern part of the kingdom and Herod Antipas to take care of Galilee and Perea districts.




The location of Herod’s tomb is also described in the writings of Josephus Flavius as being at Herodium. Those documents gave a hint to the archaeologist Ehud Netzer, who focused his search in the area atop the tunnels and water pools.

Herod the Great Exhibition Travelujah     Herod the Great Exhibition Travelujah 

Herod's Sarcophagus & Restored urn in a block from the conical roof on Herod's tomb; photo courtesy Elisa Moed, Travelujah.com

Finally, after decades of search, on 7th of May 2007 the archaeology team of Prof. Netzer  announced the discovery of the sarcophagus with no body inside. Scholars assume that it was destroyed during the first Jewish revolt against Rome (66 – 72 AD) in an act of hatred or revenge towards the tyrannical king. (Likely part of the reason why he had tomb hidden.) The reddish limestone sarcophagus was found shattered into hundreds of pieces on the floor of the tomb, unlike two other whitish limestone sarcophagi found at the site, which were found broken into many larger size pieces, indicating that they had been dropped.


Israel Museum


The mysterious tomb of King Herod and many more interesting findings can be now seen on  display within the temporary exhibition entitled “Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey Exhibition” in the Israel Museum.

Herod the Great Exhibition Travelujah     Herod the Great Exhibition Travelujah

Carved Window Screen & Ossuary with an inscription "Simon builder of the Temple" in Aramaic; photo courtesy Elisa Moed, Travelujah.com

The museum contains an impressive  permanent exhibition of archaeological findings in the Near East, Jewish Life and Art, and an international Fine Arts collection.


The exhibition and its publications was made possible by a grant from the William Davidson Foundation of Detroit. other generous support was provided by Bank Hapoalim, Tel Aviv, Ingelborg and Ira Leon Rennert, New York, the Leon Levy Foundation, the David Berg Foundation, Sara and Avie Arenson and Dr. David and Jemima Jeselsohn.


If you go:

The temporary exhibition on Herod the Great will remain at the museum through October 5, 2013. The Israel Museum is located in Jerusalem on Ruppin Bldv. and is open:

Mon, Wed, Thur, Sat, Sun and on holidays: 10 am – 5 pm;
Tue: 4 pm – 9 pm; 
Fri and on holiday eves: 10 am – 2 pm.

For more information visit their website.



By Beata Andonia and Elisa Moed for Travelujah-Holy Land Tours, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.

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