One cannot walk through the Palestinian village of Bayt Sahour without contemplating the phrase Migdal ‘Eder. The words themselves are simple enough to translate; pulling them down to earth and hoisting them back into the air, however, is another matter.
Packs on our backs, Issa and I follow a ridge out of Bethlehem. The asphalt drops down sharply. We swing east to face the morning haze. Bethlehem’s sister villages rise to meet us. They huddle on desert’s edge.
Opportunity collided with a hankering. We responded in the only appropriate way: we grabbed our daypacks.
I hold Josephus by the hand and squint into the wind.
Our view is good, but Herod’s was better. I sit with students on the stump of a tower (or “keep”) estimated to have been 120 feet tall. Herod could climb the stairs of this structure (now tumbled downslope) and scan the horizon from a lofty perch. Looking north along the Judean backbone, he could pick out the Mount of Olives. It cast a shadow over Jerusalem every morning. Looking south, he could see, or almost feel, really, the opening up of a vast desert.