Signs decorated with an artist’s renditions of how the palace might have looked lined the trail that wound past what was left of the courtyard, various living quarters and underground storerooms and dovecotes, and the elaborate irrigation system that provided the grounds with pools and gardens – a system that must have been the pinnacle of technology of its time.
Hardly any one was around and even the sounds of the highway were muted from so high up among the little forest.
I skirted the occasional canine dropping and made my way through a spacious dirt courtyard to what was supposedly once a small parlor that now had a bare-branched tree growing out of it.
Whenever I ride past the undulating hills of Eretz Yisrael and see the abandoned stone homes on the rocky green slopes, I’m struck with a longing to take a soaring leap into that ancient dwelling – even though I know I’d be miserable without electricity, indoor plumbing, and more than one room. But still.....
And so, my heart was captivated by the artistic renditions of the ivory stone palace with its decorative doorway headers, tile pools, and lush gardens on the serene hilltop surrounded by all kinds of trees.
Not far from a pile of ancient pottery shards, I sat down on what was left of the wall, making sure there were no droppings in sight.
And I began.
But faced with what was once someone’s crowning accomplishment and the result of artistic genius and backbreaking work (not to mention the upkeep) and to see it now inhabited by canine droppings and sparse trees with walls so broken they could be used as benches and the dusty neglect amid the former glory....well, it drills the intellectual understanding right into your heart.
In other words, huge mussar.
A military hero?
A powerful official?
Or perhaps it was the residence of a favorite wife?
We don’t even know the religion of the owner.
All that glory and human innovation – ravaged by time and neglect.
Despite the glory, pride, and gratification that such a luxurious residence likely brought to its owner, designers, and inhabitants, the estate’s greatest accomplishment actually lies in its ruins: a palpable reminder of This World’s transience and vanity, making it the perfect place set one’s mind straight and really connect to the One Architect of Everything.
All photos except the last are courtesy of Deror_Avi