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Jerusalem History

and some things about the present

90 °F
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Regarding the weather we’ve been experiencing – we’ve been told it is unusually hot. Our first day, the one in Netanya when we were here a day early, was the only “normal” day we’ve had since we got here. The next day, when we drove to the Sea of Galilee, started the heat wave we are still experiencing. They say that late May-early June here is usually in the low 80’s in the Sea of Galilee area; we were experiencing low to mid 90’s. And the Dead Sea and Jerusalem are under the same heat wave. Our poor tour guides are really having to work to rearrange the tour schedules to keep us inside or in shade as much as possible during the afternoon sun. But it is a dry heat here in Jerusalem. Wetting the sleeves of my “sun shirt” from elbow to wrist provides nice cooling, until they dry (about 5-10 minutes).

You cannot visit ancient Israel without being confronted with the problems of modern Israel so here is a brief summary. When the UN established the nation of Israel in 1947, it gave a portion of the land formerly controlled by England to Israel and most of it to the surrounding Arab nations. Jerusalem was declared as an “International” city that was to be open to all people of the world regardless of religious or national origin. Within hours of the establishment of Israel, Israel was attacked by armies from Egypt, Syria, Jordan (then called Transjordan), Iraq, and Lebanon with the stated intent of removing all Jews from the land of Palestine. Palestine (Palestina) is the name given to the traditional land of Israel by the conquering Romans after the Rebellion of 70 AD as an insult to the Jews still living in the land, naming after their constant enemies, the Philistines. Hence, anyone living in the land, regardless of their ethnic origin was considered a Palestinian. Although Israel managed to survive as a nation, they lost all access to Jerusalem and much of the land allocated to them on the west bank of the Jordan river. We saw many bullet marks in the Jewish quarter of the old city of Jerusalem from their unsuccessful defense of their homes. In the 1967 war, Israel recaptured all of Jerusalem and the land originally allocated to them on the west bank (plus more on the east bank) and this is now what the world press refers to as the “occupied west bank” territory.

Today’s Jerusalem is a modern cosmopolitan city with excellent road and light rail infrastructure, high rise buildings, shopping malls and horrendous traffic. There is new high-rise construction and highway almost everywhere you look (often delayed by archaeological finds). In the residential areas, the Jewish quarter is the newest and most modern in the downtown area due to the Sherman-esque approach the Jordanian army took when they drove the Jews out of Jerusalem, dynamiting and bulldozing all of the Jewish owned homes. When the Jews came back 19 years later, they had mostly empty lots to build on.

The Western Wall
Today we went to one of the most revered places in Judaism, the Western Wall. This is often referred to as the “Wailing Wall” which was a derisive term invented by the enemies of Israel. The Western Wall is also wrongly referred to as the remaining wall of the temple (Herod’s Temple) but it is actually a portion of the retaining wall built by Herod to support the great plaza on the temple mount, upon which sat the temple. It is, however, the closest existing structure to where the temple stood and is thus greatly revered. People come from all over the world to slip small pieces of paper with prayers written on them into cracks in the wall. The wall is segregated between men and women. The women have a smaller portion and the men also have an extensive, shaded library in which to read religious texts and pray.
The following photos show the men’s side of the Western Wall, men praying while wearing Phylacteries, and a scale model of ancient Jerusalem showing the location of the Western wall in the context of the overall temple mount. The Western Wall is shown by the small red arrow just to the left of the twin round towers in the background. The temple plaza is on top of the large rectangular structure behind the towers and the temple itself is the tall building on the left, on top of the plaza.
Herod’s temple is another testament to his evil genius – the structure supporting the plaza encloses what had once been Mount Moriah, the traditional site where Abraham bound Issac. Mt Moriah is now buried underneath the temple mount to form a huge plaza to accommodate the many worshipers on the Jewish holy days. It took 10,000 men ten years to build the temple plaza with some of the precisely cut stones weighing over 50 tons. One Roman historian wrote that “unless you have seen Herod’s temple in Jerusalem, you have not seen beauty.” The temple itself towered 150 feet above the plaza (compared to 114 for the Dome of the Rock) and was trimmed in gold. After the Romans sacked Jerusalem in 70 AD, the stones of the temple were cast off the plaza and all that remains of Herod’s great architectural work is the pile of stones in this photo. 7ff3b770-86fc-11e9-9ee2-b9aaded86522.jpg After the destruction of the temple, an influential Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakhai, proposed that since there could no longer be animal sacrifices in the temple, they should be replaced with Prayer, Repentance, and Good deeds but on his deathbed was wrought with fear that his works may not have been sufficient to receive God’s favor. At the corner of the temple courtyard shown here, an inscription was found indicating that this was the place from which the Shofar (ram's horn) was played on Holy Days.

We then gathered for a teaching on the southern steps which led in Biblical times to the temple courtyard. It is likely that Jesus would have climbed these steps when going up to the temple and probable that Peter preached on these steps on the day of Pentecost. Our guide pointed out that Herod had built dozens of ritual cleansing basins (baptismals to Gentiles) around the approaches to the temple making the baptism of 3000 in one day very possible. Herod, who tried to kill Jesus as a baby, made it possible for the Gospel to be readily spread throughout his empire.84f16f70-8741-11e9-830c-13de9253c1fd.jpg

We were unable to go to Bethlehem, which is now a suburb of Jerusalem, because it is now Arab controlled and unsafe for non-Muslims to enter. Sort of like walking alone in Central Park at 2am, not suicidal, but not very smart. We were given a lesson on the history of Bethlehem in Biblical times. Access by non-Muslims to the Temple Mount is forbidden. A select group of Jews was allowed a short visit on Reunification Day (yesterday) and there were riots. We heard the stun grenades going off while we were on the Mount of Olives as the police extracted the Jews from the temple courtyard.

We stopped briefly at a shop that specialized in olive wood carvings and antiquities. They fed us pizza for lunch and our bus did a brisk business with them. Our guide pointed out the differences between the Shekel and Roman coins. The shekel had the image of a palm tree on it which was for the Jews, a symbol of freedom, no images of people were allowed lest it be considered a graven image. The Roman coin had a picture of a woman chained to a Palm Tree with a sword pointed at her, a reminder to the Jews that they were conquered. He then went on to explain that when Jesus entered Jerusalem and the people were waving Palm branches (symbols of freedom) and shouting Hosanna (Hebrew for redeem us or save us), the Romans thought little of it, understanding neither the symbols or the language.

Hezekiah’s broad wall
When Solomon was king and he built the temple, he built a wall around the temple mount for its protection. When Hezekiah came along some 200+ years later, the walls were still in the same place – around the original City of David and the Temple Mount. The Assyrians conquered the Northern 10 tribes in the land then called Judah and many refugees came and settled outside the walls of Jerusalem. Hezekiah anticipated that the Assyrians would soon turn their armies on Israel and ordered a wall built around both his people and the refugees from Judah and strengthened the walls at the gates of the city. This is a picture of the remains of Hezekiah's "Broad Wall" 85091620-8741-11e9-9acc-f5f2bee6b7a5.jpg

The old city of Jerusalem is a hodge podge of buildings that were built during the millennia starting in the 1st century BC. The Romans were some of the best and most enthusiastic builders so many of the more ancient remains are from their time. When Herod built his temple, he also rebuilt much of "downtown" and put in a proper Roman "Carda" or main downtown artery with colonnades for covered sidewalks. This is what remains of a part of the Carda. a4f4a030-8741-11e9-9acc-f5f2bee6b7a5.jpg. The old city is now divided into 4 quarters (though not evenly divided); the Arab Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, the Christian Quarter and the Jewish Quarter. We were advised that it is safe to wander (in daylight) anywhere in the old city and that there were many shops in the Jewish and Arab quarters with interesting souvenirs but that under no circumstances should we use a credit or debit card with any of the Arab merchants as they have a long history of "reusing" the card number and it is difficult if not impossible to get the charges reversed.

We ended the day with a visit to a few portions of the Israel Museum where we saw a very detailed scale model of 1st Century Jerusalem and then walked through the Shrine of the Book where the Qum Ram scrolls are kept and copies displayed. The Temple Mount and associated buildings were truly magnificent. In the picture below you can see some of the detail.

This is a view of a model of the entire city looking to the North. The City of David, the original capital established by King David, is the tongue shaped walled enclosure between the temple mount and the bottom of the picture. The poor neighborhoods are in the bottom left, and Herod’s palace directly behind (west) the temple mount.51513d70-86fc-11e9-9ee2-b9aaded86522.jpg The temple complex consisted of the Outer Court, entered through the Golden Doors (Gate Beautiful). From the Outer Court, priests were allowed to enter through the next set of bronze doors that led to the Inner Court. The actual temple was only entered by specified priests and the Holy of Holies contained inside the Temple was only entered with fear and trembling by the High Priest on Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement).Temple.jpg

Posted by dasafish 21:40 Archived in Israel

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