Thursday, October 08, 2015

The other Queen Helena

THE JERUSALEM POST: The Queen who Built a Palace in Jerusalem (ELAINE ROSE GLICKMAN, The Streets of Jerusalem Blog).
Actually, there are two Queen Helenas. One was an empress and the mother of Constantine the Great, who in the fourth century visited the Holy Land and – according to legend – located the tunic of Jesus, pinpointed the site of his resurrection, and even found the nails used in his crucifixion. When my family rented an apartment on Heleni Hamalka last summer, I assumed that was the Helena for whom the street was named. I didn’t realize until later that there was another Queen Helena, and I am sorry not to have fully appreciated her legacy while I was in Jerusalem.

Well, at least you’ll know better next time you are in town! And the Heleni Hamalka memorialized in Morasha is definitely worth knowing. An early-first century queen of Adiabene (a district in ancient Assyria with its capital in present-day Iraq), Helena became acquainted with Judaism through Jewish merchants who visited her country and – according to legend – hired a tutor in order to learn everything she could. Around the year 30 C.E., she turned her back on the dominant Ashurite religion and – along with her younger son Izates – formally converted to Judaism.
Queen Helena of Adiabene was a real historical person, but that doesn't necessarily mean that all the stories told about her in the rabbinic literature are historical. More on her is here and links.