Saturday, May 16, 2009


My legs are getting really tired from all of the trekking I've been doing, so I decided to take it a little easy today. Right across the street from my hotel is this gigantic fortress called “The Citadel” or “David's Tower.” It has nothing to do with David. This is one of those historical mistakes of history where something is given a name that sticks, and you can't get rid of the name later when the true facts come out. So, I refuse to call it “David's Tower.” If it's not his tower then I'm not going to remember it as his tower. Actually, it would be better named “The Hasmonean Tower” or “Herod's Tower.”

This fortress stands on a strategic hill that is the highest spot in all directions. So, the Hasmonean kings, around 150 BC, built a wall and watchtowers. When Herod came to power he added three massive towers in 37-34 BC. He did this both to defend the city and to guard his nearby royal palace. He named these three towers after his “beloved family and friends.” I put that in quotation marks because if you do any research on Herod you know he was one of the most wicked kings in history, and he actually named one of the towers after his second wife, Miriam, WHOM HE PREVIOUSLY HAD EXECUTED, and whose tomb was nearby. He named the other two towers after Phasael, a brother who committed suicide, an Hippicus, one of his friends. The only tower that still stands today is Phasael, and the view is absolutely beautiful.

There is a whole subsequent history to the Citadel that corresponds with the history of the whole city. It was conquered and rebuilt several times, and bears the archeological remains of that history. For me, the tower was an illustration of the awesome power and wealth that impacted the ancient world, but also the fact that even the most powerful people come and go. "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fail, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flower fall, but the word of our God stands forever" (Isaiah 40:6-8).

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