Family Day celebrates the many kinds of families in different situations – traditional families and those that are a bit different, small families and large families, warm, close families and families with complicated, problematic connections.
All through history, many kinds of families lived in Jerusalem, and among them were some complicated and even troubling ones. Sometimes, the intrigue, love, obsession, and revenge which drove these families, affected the special character of the city and even its outward appearance.
And who, if not King Herod, is the most appropriate example of a person with “special family connections” who impacted on his entire surroundings?
Herod was king of Judea from 37 BCE until his death in 4 BCE and was known as “the Builder King” because of his great passion for construction, examples of which are still scattered around the country. He was also known for the disturbed behavior which everyone suffered from including his subjects, his staff and also those who were nearest and dearest to him.
Herod’s two great obsessions – construction and family – combined to create impressive, silent monuments that can still be seen today. Two of them – Phasael Tower and Miriam Tower which were part of the citadel of the Tower of David – are examples of Herod’s impressive architectural style, his special outlook towards his family, and his insanity.
Phasael Tower (named after Herod’s brother) offers an exceptionally beautiful view of Jerusalem. It was built to honor Herod’s beloved brother who committed suicide. After his brother died, Herod, in his grief, erected the tower which is used today as an observation point over Jerusalem’s Old City, New City, the 4 quarters, the city’s new neighborhoods, the Mount of Olives, and even the Dead Sea.
Even though Phasael was saved from Herod’s madness, he was entwined in other disagreements with him. However, Herod’s wife, Miriam the Hasmonean, did not succeed in escaping his anger and jealousy.
Herod loved Miriam the Hasmonean deeply. As an expression of his love, he exiled his first wife and his children so as not to threaten Miriam’s status as Queen. Despite his love for her, in a fit of madness Herod killed Miriam’s younger brother, Aristobulus III, causing a change in his relationship with her. Miriam began to hate Herod even though he continued to love and covet her. Other family members convinced Herod that Miriam wanted to kill him; and she, in turn, insulted Herod and his family.
In the end, Herod ordered the death of his beloved wife, Miriam. Afterwards he was completely distraught and continued to admire her – there are even accounts that relate that Herod preserved Miriam’s body in a tub of honey. To memorialize his dead queen, Herod commanded the construction of the Miriam Tower, some of whose foundations can be seen today.
Do you want to experience these stories? Be tantalized by the madness of Herod? This year, on Family Day, we are raffling off a VIP day with treats and experiences just for you and your family.