Israel Museum’s Herod Show is King of Exhibitions

Judean King's Palace the Hottest Ticket in Jerusalem

If Walls Could Talk: Professor Ehud Netzer and Roi Porat in the Royal room of the theater at Herodium.
Courtesy of israel museum
If Walls Could Talk: Professor Ehud Netzer and Roi Porat in the Royal room of the theater at Herodium.

By Tal Kra-Oz

Published August 27, 2013, issue of August 30, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Rome and Jerusalem, the birthplaces of modern Western civilization, share an infamously bloody history. The destruction of the Second Temple by the Roman general Titus in 70 C.E. effectively excised Jerusalem from the world’s annals for almost 2,000 years, while securing its place in prayer books.

In our collective memory, the two seem eternally at loggerheads. But as a popular new exhibition now on display at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum demonstrates, less than a century prior to the sacking of the city there was room for a thriving, mutually enriching coexistence between the two cities. That the man responsible for this minor miracle was King Herod the Great, one of the region’s most controversial figures and the subject of the exhibition, is but one of the display’s great ironies and pleasures.

“Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey” just might be Israel’s hottest ticket; it has attracted more than 230,000 visitors since its opening this past February (it is scheduled to close in January 2014). It is definitely Israel’s largest archaeological exhibit ever.

The fact that Herod, who ruled as client King of Judea from 37 to 4 B.C.E. on behalf of his Roman benefactors, left a massive architectural footprint on the Land of Israel, is hardly news for anyone who has ever paid a visit.

His aesthetic legacy lives on in the port and amphitheater at Caesarea in the North, the Masada fortress in the South and especially in the collective memory of Jerusalem’s Second Temple. But it was at Herodium, the most idiosyncratic of his constructions and the only one named for him, that the exhibit was born.

Herodium is a truncated conical hill — off the beaten track for most tourists because of its location, east of the Green Line — where Herod built both a palace and his final resting place. Ehud Netzer, an archaeologist and professor, spent 35 years excavating Herodium in search of the king’s tomb before finally uncovering it in 2007. As one of the exhibit’s curators, Silvia Rozenberg, a longtime colleague and former student of Netzer, told me, the museum had originally planned on displaying only the tomb.

“But we decided we couldn’t show the man’s death without also showing his life,” she said. Herod’s life is conveyed primarily through his construction.

As Netzer wrote in the introduction to the exhibition’ catalog, despite not being an architect himself, Herod “lived and breathed the art of construction, deeply understood its ways, and, quite simply, loved to build. It seems that over the course of his 33 year reign, Herod never once stopped building.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.