Friday, May 11, 2007

Historical Narratives

Amiram Barkat has a contemporary take on Herod the Great:
"It is hard to come up with the name of a Jewish figure whose life story is more relevant today than King Herod, whose tomb was discovered this week at Herodium. Herod was a vassal of a world power, the Roman Empire. He pursued a complex relationship with the Roman emperors and the neighboring rulers: the Egyptians, the Nabateans and the Arabs. He was unpopular among his own people because he was perceived as a puppet of the Romans, he murdered three of his own children as well as many of the Hasmonean elite because of his Edomite origins. He had to deal with strong opposition, from the Hasmoneans and later from the Pharisees.

"Herod's political talents, however, enabled him to remain on the throne for 33 years, until the day he died. In addition to insuring his political survival, Herod found time to fill the country with impressive construction projects. Herod's genius as a builder is proven by the fact that some of these projects, such as Caesarea amphitheater and the Western Wall, are part of Israeli life today.

"Israeli politicians could perhaps have learned from Herod how it is possible to survive, to rule and to build all at once. It is possible that had they learned from his rich experience, they would have spared themselves the need to appoint an investigative commission or two."

Soon I'll have more to say about how certain Biblical figures play into Israeli historical memory, probably in my next travel post, when I also plan to talk about contemporary politics. Incidentally, as you may have noticed, I haven't been motivated to comment on any news developments the past few days. I'm still keeping up with things, I just don't have the motivation to actually think about them. This will probably pass.



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