Category Archives: Jerusalem

Jerusalem: Recent Developments Near the Gihon Spring — With Pictures

2-3 minute read with unique, never-seen-before, pictures.

The Gihon Spring is the natural water source for ancient Jerusalem.  David’s general Joab is said to have gained access to conquer the city via part of this water system (2 Samuel 5:8 and 1 Chronicles 11:6) and Hezekiah built the well-known 1,750 ft. tunnel (2 Chronicles 32:30).

On a recent trip sponsored by the Biblical Archaeological Society and Tutku Tours, led by the expert guide Ofer Drori, we descended into the water system complex.  For years the area excavated by Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron has been barely visible due to all the scaffolding in the area.

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View looking down into the “Rock-cut Pool” that dates to the 18th century B.C.
The opening just above center, where the upper blue light is located, is where Tunnel III brings water from Tunnel II to this large chamber
See the diagram in Shank’s article for details
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

I was delighted to find that the area is now available to the public via sturdy walkways, stairs and lights (with blue lights; hmm).  Completely visible are the Rock-cut Pool, Tunnel III (that brought water from Tunnel II to the Rock-cut Pool) and Tunnel IV that leads to “Hezekiah’s Tunnel.”

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The large 18th century B.C. Rock-cut Pool
Tunnel III enters from the large cut in the center of the image bringing water to the Rock-cut Pool
Tunnel IV exits to the left bring water to “Hezekiah’s Tunnel”–note the door-like exit left of center
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

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Artist’s reconstruction of the Gihon Spring, Rock-cut Pool, and associated defensive structures on the east side of the “Old Ancient Core” of Jerusalem — dated to the 18th century B.C.
On display above the Gihon Spring
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

In the above artists reconstruction the tower on the right (north) was built over and guards the Gihon Spring.  The tower on the left (south) contains and guards the “Rock-cut Pool.”  Note the city wall and the defended pathways that lead to and from the towers.  All of this was evidently built in the 18th century B.C.!

For a complete description of this system see the article by Hershel Shanks, “Will King Hezekiah Be Dislodged from His Tunnel?”  Biblical Archaeology Review, (September/October 2013), pp. 52–61, 73.  In it he notes that Reich and Shukron now believe that what has been called “Hezekiah’s Tunnel” (Hezekiah r. 715–686 B.C.) now should be dated earlier—to the late 9th or early 8th century B.C.!

Jerusalem — The Neighborhood of Silwan — The Royal Steward’s Tomb

One of the least visited places in Jerusalem is the portion of the village of Silwan that is located on the lower western slope of the Mount of Olives—opposite the “City of David.”

The village itself is built over 50 tombs from the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. This necropolis – “city of the dead”  – was investigated by David Ussishkin and Gabriel Barkay between 1968 and 1971. Travel to this area is very difficult (= impossible) for the inhabitants of Silwan are normally very hostile to outsiders.

The two most famous tombs from this necropolis are “the Tomb of Pharaoh’s Daughter” and the “Tomb of the Royal Steward.”

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Tomb of the “Royal Steward” located in the Village of Silwan
The two inscriptions have been carved out and taken to the British Museum
Note the door on the left — this important tomb was used as a storage room at the time that this picture was taken

Unfortunately the second most important tomb from the First Temple Period is located in this village.  This tomb was discovered by Clermont-Ganneau in 1870. It had two Hebrew inscriptions – one above the door and the other to the right of it. Both were carved out and sent to the British Museum where they are still housed.  The largest inscription was over the door (note the large “gash” there).

IJOTIT07 Nahman Avigad translated the larger inscription as “This is [the sepulcher of . . . ] yahu who is over the house. There is no silver and no gold here but [his bones] and the bones of his amah with him. Cursed be the man who will open this!”

In the text the phrase “who is over the house” refers to a very important personage in the Judean government (about second to the king). His name, according to the inscription, was “. . . yahu.” Unfortunately the first part of his name is missing but many believe that the person who was buried here was none other than Shebna [yahu], the Royal Steward, whom Isaiah condemned for ‘hewing a tomb for himself on high’ – SEE Isaiah 22:15-17!

The amah (a female) mentioned in the inscription may also have been a very high functionary in the Judean government.

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Tomb of the “Royal Steward” located in the Village of Silwan
The main inscription was above the “modern” door
The two inscriptions have been carved out and taken to the British Museum
This important tomb was used as a storage room at the time that this picture was taken 

For a popular description of this necropolis see: Shanks, Hershel. “The Tombs of Silwan.” Biblical Archaeology Review, vol. 20, no. 3 (May/June, 1994):38-51

You also may be interested in viewing the First Temple Tombs found on the grounds of the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem – Click Here.

Dust Storms in Israel (Hamsin, Sirocco, Sharav)

For recent followers – an “oldie but goodie!” — since Israel has been experiencing sharav conditions recently.

In the lands the southeastern end of the Mediterranean Sea the period from early–May to mid–June is a transitional season from the wet winter months to the dry summer ones. At times the wind blows in from the desert (from the east), and not from the Mediterranean Sea (from the west—which is normal). At those times the humidity drops drastically and a fine dust that permeates everything fills the air. These dry dusty events are called a hamsin, a sirocco, or a sharav.

Jerusalem — Hamsin/Dust Storm — 10:30 AM 11 May 2007

Under these conditions the green grass rapidly turns brown and the wild flowers die.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever.”

Isaiah 40:7–8 (NIV)

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Jason’s Tomb (2nd Temple Period)

Jason’s tomb is a beautiful funeral monument from the late Hellenistic – early Roman period. It was the tomb of a high priestly family that was forced out of Jerusalem in 172 B.C. (2 Maccabees 5:5-10) by their rival, Menelaus. It was constructed in the second century B.C. and was in use until A.D. 30 (about the time of the crucifixion of Jesus).  This tomb was discovered in 1956 and is located in west Jerusalem—in Rehavia. It consists of several courtyards and a “pyramid-shaped” roof.

Entrance to Jason’s Tomb

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Football/Soccer on the Temple Mount (Haram esh–Sharif)?

The folk over at HaAretez newspaper have published an article on how more Jews are more frequently visiting the most sacred site for Jews—the Temple Mount—the place where the First and Second Temples stood.

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Muslim School Children Playing Football/Soccer on the Haram esh–Sharif
Using the Mihrab (that directs worshipers towards Mecca during prayer) as a Goal
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

It mentions that in recent weeks the police “…the police prevented Palestinian children from playing soccer on the mount….”

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Muslim man praying facing towards Mecca on the Haram esh–Sharif
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

The Haram esh–Sharif is the third most sacred site for Muslims—after Mecca and Medina—and here, it is said, that Mohamed made his night journey to the “distant place.”

For more images of “Daily Life” on the Haram esh-Sharif (aka, Temple Mount) Click Here.

Defaced Western Wall Excavations — Ugleeee!

The folk over at the Times of Israel have posted an article whereby the “Women of the Wall” have been provided with a platform upon which they can pray—not AT the “Western/Wailing Wall” but south of it and south of the ramp that leads into the Haram esh-Sharif (Temple Mount)—covering Benjamin Mazar’s and Ronny Reich’s excavations!$#@!

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New Platform for The Women of the Wall covering Benjamin Mazar’s Excavations
Photo: Courtesy of The Times of Israel

This gastly platform defaces the remains of one of the most significant Continue reading

1917 Movie of General Allenby’s Entrance Into Jerusalem

The folk at “Israel’s History – a Picture a Day” have drawn attention to unique movie footage of the British General Allenby’s Entrance into Jerusalem on December 11, 1917 from the British Imperial War Museum.  Click Here to View.

I have seen still pictures of the event, but to see a movie of it, and the visit of Allenby’s stay in Jerusalem, was very exciting!

Church of Holy Sepulchre — Animated in 3D!

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Pilgrims at the traditional site of Calvary
inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
Click on Image to Enlarge

Wayne Stiles has drawn our attention to a great 14 minute computer animated video of the history of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher/Resurrection entitled “Holy Sepulchre 3D Journey back in time.”   This video is very well done and traces the history of the building and the site on which it rests from the present day back to the days of Jesus—first century A.D.

Many of the items in the video helped clarify things that I had known but was now able to visualize.  I was particularly fascinated to see representations of the church including the tombs of the Crusader Kings that were removed after the fire of 1808.

This video is without verbal explanation but is clearly labeled.  I found myself pausing it very frequently to take in the data that is wonderfully presented on the screen.

Wayne Stiles posts very informative/useful blog entries three times a week.

To view 78! High Resolution images of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and commentary Click Here.

Ancient Capital on Temple Mount?

Life on the Haram esh–Sharif (Temple Mount in Jerusalem) is not static but dynamic!  Over the years the Muslims have been refurbishing older structures and completely remodeling others.  In the process much debris has been discarded, some of which was from ancient structures—possibly even from the Second Temple Period.

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A well-carved ancient capital that was on the debris pile
of the Haram esh–Sharif/Temple Mount
June 2011
Click on image to Enlarge (or download if you wish)

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Debris pile on the Haram esh–Sharif/Temple Mount
located east of the Dome of the Rock — July 2009
Click on image to Enlarge (or download if you wish)

For additional images of “Life on the Haram esh–Sharif/Temple Mount”
Click Here.

Jerusalem — Church of the Redeemer Excavations

Today I visited the excavations at the Church of the Redeemer that is inside the Old City of Jerusalem.  This exhibit has been open since December and the entrance fee is 15 NIS.  The price includes a visit to the excavations, the “museum,” and the bell tower (178 steps to the top).

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General View of the Excavated Area — Looking East

The excavated area is well laid out and the major architectural finds are highlighted.  There is a digitally produced audio-visual display (on a 10 x 8 inch screen) that is available in German and English.  It lasts about 5 minutes and is very well produced—highlighting the quarry from the Old Testament period, the garden from Second Temple times above the quarry, the forum of Hadrian, and the forum after the Constantinian building program (it would be great to be able to purchase a DVD of this!).  The excavations confirmed that the area of the Church of the Redeemer and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher were both outside of the city wall—up until the time that the third wall was built.  By pushing the buttons the various architectural finds are displayed.

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Looking Down At the Probe
In the bottom — rock carvings from the OT Period quarry are visible
Along the sides — fill from the Second Temple Garden along the sides

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View looking east along the foundations of the south retaining wall of the Constantinian forum (to the south of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher)

FWIW – I used my “cyclops headlamp” when I visited the site, and it was very useful.  The “museum” is beautifully laid out and the descriptions of photos and diagrams are very thorough—to read and absorb them all would take a good hour or more.

I see that Tom Powers has recently reported on this site and has additional details.