Wednesday, April 16, 2008


During the summer of 2003, soon after we had made aliyah, my wife Ella and I were looking for a short day trip during the day while the kids were in day camp. Almost by accident we stumbled upon what many say is one of Israel's most interesting archeological sights, the burial place of Herod, King of the Jews, Herodium. From the southern outskirts of Yerushalayim you can clearly see the volcano-shaped mountain of Herodium.

Herod the Great was born in 72 B.C.E., almost 100 years before the destruction of the Second Bais Hamikdash. He was raised in the court of the Chashmonaim and was appointed governor of the Galilee. He was appointed by the Roman Empire in 40 B.C.E. to become the king of Judaea and ruled for 36 years. His greatest accomplishment was the rebuilding of the Second Temple in Yerushalayim. The Kotel which we so venerate today is from the remains of that building project some 2,000 years ago.

While still governor of the Galilee, in the middle of one night, Herod assembled his close family and his bodyguards to escape death from Antigonus of the Chashmonaim. Close to where Herodium would be constructed, Antigonus caught up to Herod. Herod was victorious. The chariot of Herod's mother overturned and Herod feared for her life. In the end, she survived. The combination of these two episodes made a great impression on Herod. Twenty years after these events, he built Herodium where he wished to be eventually buried, in that very same location.

There are a number of things to see in Herodium. First are the remains of the magnificent Mountain Palace-Fortress constructed by Herod within the crater of the man-made volcano-like mountain. There are also the remains of Lower Herodium and its large swimming pool. Only in the past few months has the much sought after tomb of King Herod been discovered. Archaeologists are busy digging and studying the sight.

Before the destruction of the Second Bais Hamikdash, Herodium was occupied by Jewish rebels who used Herodium as a base to attack the Roman army. The flames from the destruction of the Temple on Har Habayit could be observed by the Rebels standing on Herodium. In commemoration, Herodium today is utilized on Tisha B'Av for the community reading of Eicha.

On Herodium, you can also visit one of the world's oldest synagogues, constructed during the time of the Second Bais Hamikdash by the Jewish rebels, as well as a mikvah.

More than 60 years after the destruction of the Second Temple, Herodium was again used by Jewish rebels against the Romans, this time by the fighters of Bar Kochva. You can walk through the vast network of tunnels dug by these rebels deep into the mountain and water cisterns originally built by Herod. The kids will have a great time exploring around.

You can combine a visit to Herodium with a visit to the many interesting sights in Gush Etzion and the Hills of Hebron. When I first visited Herodium in 2003, the drive from Jerusalem was over 30 minutes, driving past Efrat. Only recently was a new connection opened between Har Choma in Jerusalem and Herodium, drastically cutting down your drive time. Bring plenty of water, good walking shoes and a cap when visiting Herodium. Like all National parks, Herodium closes at 4PM in the winter, 5PM in the summer.

The City of David

Yerushalayim, Jerusalem, The Holy City where the 3rd Temple will be rebuilt speedily in our days, the city of gold where both Temples once stood. The "old" city, the kotel, the Western Wall tunnel. When touring in Yerushalayim, there is so much to see, both from ancient and modern times.

The truth be told, the City of David, one of Jerusalem's most popular tourist sights, the place "where it all started", is a place you will probably want to visit with the assistance of a guide in order to appreciate what you are looking at. The good news is that pre-arranging for a guide is quite simple and can be done by contacting the City of David National Park. Of course that will mean an additional expense, but an expense I believe to be well worthwhile.

So where to begin? If you have the opportunity, my suggestion is to start at the 'tayelet', the Haase promenade in East Talpiyot which overlooks Abu Tur, facing north towards 'Har Habayit'. From this vantage point you can appreciate the idea of Avraham Avinu, while traveling together with his beloved son Yitzchak, looking afar at Har HaMoriah up ahead, and the place of the 'Akeida'. And if the sun is shining at the right angle when you visit, you can also discern the outline of the hill jutting out just south of Har Habayit where Dovid HaMelech established his capital 3,000 years ago.

The area is small (12 acres) when compared to the size of modern day Jerusalem, but what it lacks in size it definitely makes up for in the immense amount of history which is compacted into one of the world's most excavated places.

One of the many beauties of visiting the City of David is that they are always uncovering and discovering more and more of the ancient city's past. Before beginning your tour, enjoy the view of the Old City walls (actually, not that old when compared to the City of David itself!) and of the Mount of Olives. You can also arrange to view a 20 minute film. Definitely set aside some serious time, 2-3 hours, if you plan to visit this sight. Whether you end up spending more or less time here is up to you.

What will you see here? Remnants of what may have been King David's palace. Remains of the "stronghold of Zion" captured by King David from the Jebusites. Remains from the time of the First Temple. The different water systems of ancient Jerusalem, all emanating from the Gihon Spring where King Solomon was anointed king and from where water was also used for the services in the nearby Temple.

The highlight of the trip through this ancient city is a walk through the water tunnel constructed by King Hezekiah over 2500 years ago. If you decide to take this route, come prepared! (The kids will love it). It's about a 40 minute walk and the water is about 70 cm deep. You will need a flashlight and proper shoes for walking through the water.

After leaving the tunnel, you can visit the Shiloach pool and learn about all the recent discoveries in this area dating back to the times of both the second and first Bais Hamikdash.

The City of David website is very informative; or you can call *6033 for more information.

Pesach Guide 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008


November 10, 2002
Rothman Honors Accomplishments Of Top
Bergen & Hudson County Rabbi
Pays Tribute To Rabbi Mordecai and Ellie Weiss As They Prepare To Move To Israel

Woodcliff Lake, NJ - Speaking at the Friends of Lubavitch of Bergen County’s Silver Anniversary Dinner, Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ9) tonight recognized that organization’s Executive Director, Rabbi Mordecai Weiss and his wife Ellie, for their more than 20 years of service to the Jewish community in Bergen and Hudson Counties. The Weiss’ plan to make “aliyah” (Hebrew for permanently moving to Israel) next July along with all of their 10 children and one grandson.

“Whether it is through his work at Chabad Outreach Centers across Northern New Jersey, or through his work with adult education programs, youth activities, college outreach, chaplaincy at hospitals, nursing homes, and even the county jail, Rabbi Mordecai Weiss has worked tirelessly to strengthen the Bergen and Hudson County communities,” Rothman said. “Countless men, women, and children in Northern New Jersey have felt a stronger connection to their community as a result of the outstanding efforts of Rabbi Mordecai and Ellie Weiss. The entire community is very grateful for their efforts.”

Prior to becoming Executive Director in 1989, Rabbi Weiss served as the Activities Director for the organization. As an active member of the community, Rabbi Weiss serves as the Chaplain of the Teaneck Ambulance Corps, Chaplain of the Teaneck Fire Department, Chaplain of the Bergen County Jail, and as an Emergency Medical Technician, where he served as a Captain of the Ambulance Corps. He is also a member of the Teaneck Clergy Council as well as a member of the Teaneck Advisory Board on Community Relations.

“From the very first time I met with Rabbi Mordecai Weiss and his wife Ellie, it was clear to me that they were remarkable human beings and outstanding members of the Jewish community and the Northern New Jersey community as a whole,” Rothman said. “Rabbi Mordecai Weiss and Ellie Weiss have used their position as leaders of this community to touch countless lives. I wish them and all of their children the very best with their lives in Israel.”

Rothman also used the forum to reiterate his steadfast support for the State of Israel, which he considers American’s number one ally and strategic partner in the Middle East. When they move to Israel in July, Rabbi Weiss and his wife will join their daughter, Tova Bracha, and her husband Ari, and their son, Nachum Aharon, who already live there. The Weiss’ nine other children - Avrohom Moshe, Charna, Yaakov Yoel, Chaya Mushka, Levi Yitzchok, Bas-Sheva, Menachem Mendel, Shimon Sholom, and Chana Malka - will also move to Israel. The Friends of Lubavitch of Bergen County serves the Jewish communities of Bergen and Hudson Counties.