Here's a short bit from an IHT-NYT cloumn I wrote about King Herod and the recent excitement around him in the holy land-
Herod’s sudden popularity is somewhat strange, but it is not incomprehensible. As one commentator observed, Herod, unlike most Jewish heroes, gives the People of the Book an opportunity to also be the people of the stone, with temples and palaces like other nations.
He also gives Israelis a monarchical legacy more like the ones we read about in other peoples’ history books. Herod isn’t a Biblical king from whose story morality lessons are drawn. He is as manipulative as King David, but we don’t much care and don’t feel the need to explain his actions away. He might be as evil as King Ahab or Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, but since he doesn’t incur the wrath of God, his behavior isn’t much of a cautionary tale.
Herod is just a regular king. He rebuilt the Temple without being a great Jewish leader. Although he killed rabbis, he wasn’t punished for it. He is a king Jewish Israelis can discuss without having to struggle with our heritage or our Jewish identity or our relations with the divine. Herod is purely historical entertainment- ours.
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