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The Mountain Fortress of the Last King of Judea


We are standing at the Herodion, the fortress built by King Herod, the last Jewish kind to rule in the past 2000 years. He was a successor to the Hasomoneans, to the Maccabees of the Chanukah story. He tried to marry the last of the Hasmoneans but tragically she jumped off a building to avoid marrying him, because Herod even though he rebuilt the Temple and tried to make Judea into a kingdom matching some of the kingdoms of the Roman Empire. But he was a vassal king subservient to the Romans and not fully accepted by the Jews either. You see the incredible view over the Judean Hills, we are about 20 miles South of Jerusalem and we are surrounded by Arab villages and Jewish villages, Herod built this as a hideout, a fortress and emptied out a mountain and rebuilt the walls around it. Eventually he would be buried here, and his legacy was not the legacy which was the glory of the rest of the Jewish people. The legacy was established by the Rabbis who moved the academy to Yavneh and rebuilt Jewish life through the study of Torah. But this is a testimony to a period of great Jewish building and a ‘last hurrah’ after the Jewish people would be kicked off of our land. So a period that began with the re-establishing of Temple by the Maccabees ended tragically with King Herod. Rabbi Jonathan Feldman coming to you from the beautiful Judean Hills and the Herodion.


Underground tunnels in the Herodion used by Bar Kochba in the revolt against the Romans in 132 CE.

We are now entering the water cisterns which were dug below the Herodion fortress and were then later converted into tunnles and defenses during the Bar Kochba rebellion, the last rebellion against the Romans which lasted 2.5 years and was eventually was overthrown by the Romans. Come down with me to the depths of 2000 year old tunnels, I hope you are not claustrophobic. This is a testimony to Bar Kochba who led the rebellion against the Romans and was endorsed by Rabbi Akiva. Eventually the endorsement was pulled by Rabbi Akiva because Bar Kochba, like Herod let power get to him and turned against some of his allies thinking they were his enemies. Rabbi Akiva endorsed Bar Kochba as potentially being the messiah who would bring the redemption of the Jewish people, the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the ingathering of the Jewish people to Israel, but unfortunately it was not to be. You see some of the lower cisterns here going down another level. Water is essential to life in Israel and so the fortresses needed storehouses of water.

View of Herodion with the Jewish village of Rav Bar in the foreground

Hiking into the Wadi near Tekoa in the Judean Hills

Panorama of the Wadi

View from the Newest Farm and Retreat Center in the Judean Hills -Arugot Farm with founder Jeremy Gimpel. see thelandofisrael.com

Nachal Arugot was the setting for King David fleeing from King Saul into the Judean desert. He boldly went into Saul's camp in the middle of the night and took his spear and water. He called out to Saul from the top of a cliff and showed that he could have killed Saul if he wished, but did not and did not wish him any bad will even though Saul was pursuing him. This cliff might be where the Arugot Farm is situated and the view behind the patio below the sunset.




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