Jerusalem Expert: Shmuel
Shmuel is licensed, native English speaking, lives in Jerusalem and guides throughout Israel. He is passionate about the country and loves to help people experience the history, nature and culture of the Holy Land. He is an experienced Viator private guide. Learn more about Private Tours with Shmuel.
My Recommendation Tip
"So they went eight furlongs to Herodium; for there by his own command he was to be buried. And thus did Herod end his life." Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews
It was the American Biblical scholar Edward Robinson on his visit to the Holy Land in 1838 who first recognized the flat topped mountain about 15km south of Jerusalem as Herodium. In 1972 Professor Ehud Netzer began his excavations at Lower Herodium at the base of the mountain looking for Herod's tomb. Netzer uncovered a structure that he called the Monument building that he thought might be the tomb but no evidence of a grave. For 35 years Netzer continued his search and in May 2007 announced at a press conference that he had uncovered the base of Herod’s mausoleum halfway up the manmade mountain, on the northeast side and the remains of an ornate, pink limestone sarcophagus that had been smashed to pieces in antiquity. Netzer, trained both as an architect and archaeologist was the premier expert in the Herodian period, describes the detailed planning of the entire site, the landscaping, the pool and formal gardens against the backdrop of the Judean desert.
My Recommendation Tip
About 45km south of Jerusalem in the Ella valley, where David fought Goliath, lie the ruins of an ancient agricultural settlement from Iron age II, Hirbet Midras. The site contained a large Jewish settlement that dates from the Second Temple period (3rd century BCE) until its destruction by the Romans during the Bar Kokhba uprising (132-135CE). Today the site is part of a popular 5000 dunam JNF park and nature reserve that you can visit.In the pursuit of thieves who plunder sites for valuable artifacts to sell on the antiquities market investigators discovered a large stone lintel from a public building. When excavations uncovered large dressed stones with Byzantine crosses, an apse, incredible mosaic floors and a crypt, the building was identified as a church. There is evidence that the church was destroyed by an earthquake some 1,300 years ago. The mosaics, including geometric designs, flora and fauna are very well preserved.
At the end of the building are two rooms, one paved with a marble floor and the other that led underground to an empty crypt. Scholars who visited the site have proposed identifying it as the tomb of the prophet Zechariah who according to Christian tradition was buried in the area.
Among the artifacts discovered were coins from the time of the Great Revolt (66-70 CE) and the Bar Kokhba uprising, stone vessels, lamps and various pottery vessels that are characteristic of the Jewish population from the settlement at that time.