There were several sites surrounding Jerusalem that we wanted to visit, including Herodian, Herod the Great’s magnificent fortress and the only site he named after himself. We embarked early in the morning so that we could make the climb before the heat got too severe. The climb to the top isn’t too difficult, but definitely bring water! The view of the fortress will reward your efforts.
One portion that I found really interesting was the synagogue. Herod didn’t use it, apparently, but he was content to let the Jews at his court practice there devotions there, according to our guide. Years later, a group of rebels made Herodion their headquarters and dug out a crude mikveh there for purification purposes.
Later in the day, we returned to Jerusalem and visited the site of the House of Caiaphus, on which a chapel now stands. We descended into the basement, the part of the house where Jesus might have been held prisoner between the time of his arrest and his trial. As we meditated, my sister read aloud Psalm 38–I don’t think those verses will ever hit home the way they did in that cramped, rude room.
Finally, we visited the Garden Tomb, the site that many consider a more likely spot than the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christ’s burial, myself included. I was surprised by how tranquil the location is. A children’s choir was singing as we walked through, and a multitude of flowers and trees line the pathways. Many people had come to honor the spot, but there was none of the frenzy and anxiety that we met with at the Holy Sepulchre; although moved and saddened, people seemed more peaceful here. I’m including a photo of the tomb itself:
And a photo of Skull Rock (possibly Golgotha?):