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!
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 13 Israeli soldiers die in Gaza — the deadliest day for the IDF in decades. So much for 'precision' strikes and easy exit strategies.
  • What do a Southern staple like okra and an Israeli favorite like tahini have in common? New Orleans chef Alon Shaya brings sabra tastes to the Big Easy.
  • 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.