Herodian National Park
In the Judean desert, about nine miles south of Jerusalem, Herod the Great built an enormous palace and fortress on the top of the highest hill in the desert. Today, the Herodian is a national park featuring a marvelously complex archeological site. It’s a fascinating destination for Christian pilgrims touring the Holy Land, best appreciated when visited with an organized tour group, as a knowledgeable tour guide will be able to explain the significance of each set of ruins. Don’t miss the distinctive dome of the covered warm bath in the Roman bathhouse complex, one of the oldest domes in Israel.
Herod is famous for having initiated a number of massive building projects. The most well-known is his reconstruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. He has also been credited with having built Masada and Caesarea. The Herodian, which served as his palace and ultimately his burial place, is another of his considerable architectural undertakings.
The Herodian is so high, and its flat top so distinctive, it is easily seen from all around the surrounding area. Once you’ve reached the top of the hill, you’ll see one of Herod’s architectural innovations – the circular palace fortress surrounded by four towers. Herod also built a palace, gardens and a reservoir in the lower portion of the mountain.
During the Judean revolt against Rome in 66 AD, the Herodian served as a stronghold and hiding place for the rebels. While they occupied the mountain, the fighters built a synagogue out of a public building and added two ritual bathing pools. The steps that were built to enter these pools are still visible to visitors.