Search
 

 More From Region

 

Love Stories in the Promised Land - part I

Israel is alive with beautiful tales of romance, from the days of the Bible to modern times.

On this Page:

Kibbutz


Israel, the backdrop for some of the most important events in world history, can never be said to be lacking in drama. Yet, alongside the earth-shattering events of the past and the present, this country has been the stage for romantic interludes that rival Hollywood for pathos and excitement. Here are some to swoon over.

 


Out of the Wilderness

The sweeping view of the Judean Desert at Ramat Rachel is also the backdrop for the story of Ruth. We can only imagine the hardships out there in the wilderness, which Ruth, on her way to Bethlehem from Moab with her mother-in-law Naomi, must have known well. On a clear day, we can see the mountains of Moab, in Jordan, which the newly widowed Ruth left behind to accompany Naomi back to her ancestral home in Bethlehem. Ruth’s words to Naomi are one of the most famed declarations of love in the world: “Wherever you go, I will go, your people will become my people, your God will be come my God.”

 

In Bethlehem, another love story develops – between Ruth and the wealthy landowner Boaz. The penniless Ruth is working as a day laborer in Boaz’s barley fields when he invites her on their first date – a picnic lunch. As fate would have it, Boaz is a “kinsman redeemer” – as a relative of Ruth’s late husband, which means he’s is in line to marry her. Naomi, who knows a good thing when she sees it, encourages Ruth to put on her best outfit, and her most alluring perfume, and meet Boaz for a very late-night second date. It wasn’t long before the couple was married and got busy producing progeny, the most famous of whom was their great-grandson, David.

 


Mother of millions


The story of Rachel and Jacob, the third generation of the matriarchs and patriarchs, is one of steadfast love and devotion. The Bible tells us Rachel’s love life begins when her cousin Jacob first sees her at a well in far-off Haran. Mesmerized by his beautiful relative, Jacob – the showoff – decides to impress her. He single-handedly removes the heavy stone that covered the well in order to water her flocks. His very next move, in labor negotiations not unusual in biblical days, was to ask Rachel’s father Laban for her hand in marriage, in exchange for seven years’ work on the family homestead.

 

Famously, Laban shortchanges Jacob, replacing Rachel in the bridal bed with his older, unloved daughter, Leah. In the end, after another seven years, Jacob wins Rachel, too.  But the family is troubled; Rachel’s barrenness is a source of constant grief for her in the face of her sister’s fertility. Finally, Rachel gives birth to Joseph, and after several rough spots, Jacob extricates himself from Laban’s service, and heads back to the land of Israel.

 

Dramas of epic proportions continue in the lives of the threesome – Jacob’s wrestling with the angel, his reunion with his twin brother Esau, the rape of his and Leah’s daughter Dinah, the revenge of Dinah’s brothers. Through it all, Jacob’s love for Rachel remains constant. When Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamin, on the road to Bethlehem, Jacob sets up a memorial for her. It is still considered a shrine for women praying for fertility. 

 

Long-suffering Rachel became the quintessential mother figure in Judaism. One ancient commentary credits Jacob with the foresight to bury Rachel on the road to Bethlehem because he imagined that someday the Jewish exiles would pass this way (as Jeremiah, indeed, says they did), and Rachel would ask for divine mercy on them.

 

On the grounds of Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, established in 1927 overlooking the area of Rachel’s tomb, is a bronze statue by the Israeli sculptor David Polos depicting Rachel in socialist-realist style, as a proud mother protecting her children. Behind the kibbutz’s large guesthouse and convention center, built after the Six-Day War when the area was no longer a border, a permanent bridal canopy has been set up, with a magnificent view of the Judean Desert and Bethlehem. It stands ready for the many couples inspired to begin married life on this spot, remembering the steadfast love in the story of Rachel.

 

Crazy in Love


If the stone walls of David’s Tower could talk, as the saying goes, even they would not repeat above a whisper the terrible tale of King Herod’s love for the ill-fated princess Mariamne. Herod the Great, ruler of Judea in the Roman period and builder of the Second Temple, set aside his first commoner wife to marry Mariamne, a member of the aristocratic Hasmonean line, in 37 B.C.E. She was quite a looker, at least according to Josephus. In his book “Antiquities,” he says of her: “In beauty of form and the grandeur of her walk, in conversation and debate, she was indescribably superior to the maidens of her time.”

 

Herod, the outsider from the non-Jewish kingdom of Idumea, could not compete with the priestly pedigree of the Hasmoneans, and marrying into the family certainly didn’t help matters. But Herod had a solution to keep him at the helm. One by one, he murdered all his in-laws – from Aristobulus, Mariamne’s little brother, who had been appointed high priest, to the elderly John Hyrcanus, her grandfather.

 

Needless to say, this did not endear him to his wife. Herod’s sister Salome and his mother Cypros added fuel to the fire by constantly insinuating that Mariamne had been unfaithful to him, even going so far, they said, as to hone in on Cleopatra by sending an image of herself to Antony in Rome.  Because of the rancor between the women in his life, when Herod went to Rhodes for some unavoidable kowtowing to Caesar, he separated them, placing Mariamne and her mother in one of his fortresses. He asked only one thing: if the kowtowing went poorly and he was assassinated, that his treasurer Sohemus would have Mariamne killed; he loved her so much he simply couldn’t stand thinking that death would separate them. But Sohemus figured that if the king was killed, he’d better be on the widow’s good side, so he revealed Herod’s plan to Mariamne. When Herod returned safe and sound, he went to see his wife, pledging his undying love, so to speak. “Oh yes, I’m sure. Especially the part when you ordered me killed,” was the gist of her retort, according to a rare direct quote from Josephus in another of his books, “The War of the Jews.” That did it. Egged on as usual by his sister and mother, Herod humiliated Mariamne at a public trial, at which even her mother turned against her, and she was condemned to death (along with the hapless Sohemus).

 

What Josephus meant when he said, “he would frequently lament for her in a most indecent manner” (Wars 15:7), we can only imagine. We do know the king used to wander the palace halls at night, calling out for his beloved. During the day, he somehow found the energy to keep up his old tricks – he killed the two surviving sons of the five children Mariamne had borne him, leaving not a soul alive of the Hasmonean dynasty.

 

Herod built a magnificent tower in Mariamne’s memory, of which nothing remains. But nearby its presumed location near the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City is another massive tower he built, which you can see in the Tower of David Museum. As you climb the old stone steps, pause for a moment and hold your breath – you may still hear the echo of tortured cries from the king, and Mariamne.

 

 Sites & Attractions

 
Five sandstone pillars at the foot of the western cliff of the Amram crater, at the sou...
The museum depicting the history of excavations in the Ophel and in the areas south and...
A museum reenacting the construction of the first Homa u-Migdal settlement and the chai...
Bird-watching and bird-ringing center located on the international axis of bird migrati...
Coral Beach Nature Reserve, south of Eilat, borders on a 1200-meter coral long reef, wh...
Persian fallow deer, wild sheep, gazelles, oryx, wild asses, and vultures – all mention...
 

 Accommodations

 
Hotel offers rooms with double beds and additional bed for children. Large families can...
Hotel with accessorized rooms and suites with Internet access, among other features. Th...
Tel-Hai Guest House is perfectly located to offer breathtaking views of the Golan Heigh...
The renovated hotel is located on the shore of the Red Sea on the promenade a short wal...
Attractions