I’m not sure what the view is out of the window of your synagogue/shul/other place of worship (for those of you not in Israel and who have a regular place of worship), but the view from our new Beit Knesset in Neve Daniel is quite stunning. Instead of the usual leafy trees or busy suburban road that you may see from your shul’s windows, we have a beautiful view of the Judean Mountains and especially of Herodian, which is a powerful mark on the landscape of our area. We have mentioned Herodian before in various e-mails about tiyulim and the area, it is the mountain fortress build by King Herod between the years 22 & 15 BCE. It is an incredible feat of engineering and a wonderful example of Herod’s penchant for challenging nature. Where there were mountains he tended to flatten them (ie-the Temple Mount/Har HaBayit in Jerusalem), where there were rivers he moved them (evidenced by his palaces in Jericho) and where there were no natural ports he built them (Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast). Here in the Judean Mountains, about 15 minutes to our east) Herod, quite literally, built a mountain with a castle/fortress on top. It’s internal cisterns and tunnels were later used by the Jewish soldiers of the Bar Kochva revolt against the Romans (132-135 CE).
Anyway, back to the view. While we have been using the shul (the highest in all of Israel as we sit at over 980 meters above sea level) since just before Rosh HaShanah, I hadn’t noticed the view of Herodian until the rows around my regular seat were moved a bit up. I looked up from my davening one day to see this incredible view, with Herodian prominently rising on the eastern horizon. Upon this realization, I could only think to myself, how fortunate we are that we have found ourselves here, living in the heart of Jewish civilization and history, in a wonderful community, with great people and a view like this (I will add a picture of our view and the shul tomorrow).
We look forward to sharing our view with you when you visit!