Category Archives: Jerusalem

Dome of the Rock Not Visible from the Mount of Olives

For a 44 second video from the Mount of Olives check this out—I cannot see the Dome of the Rock!

Recently Israel 21c has published the following NASA photo of the current massive sandstorm in the Middle East.

NASASandStorm-1168x657See below how a typical sand storm affects Israel.

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)

The positive effect of these winds is that the hot dry weather aids the ripening of the grains by “setting” them before the harvest. It is during this season that first the barley and then the wheat harvest take place.
The Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, pp. 30–31

Jerusalem — “Normal Conditions” — 10:30 AM 14 May 2007

All the camera settings and filters were the same.

A similar transition takes place in September/October, but this is from the dry summer months to the wet winter months.

For more free, high–resolution images of a hamsin click Click Here.

Unusual Ritual Bath Discovered in Jerusalem

Many ritual baths from the Second Temple Period have been excavated in Jerusalem, but today (Wednesday, 5 August 2015) the Israel Antiquities Authority announced the excavation of one in the Arnona neighborhood in south Jerusalem.  This large mikveh has inscriptions, written in Aramaic, and symbols of a boat, palm trees, plants and possibly a menorah written or carved on its walls!

The Times of Israel has published an article describing this discovery along with 9 clear photos and an informative (partially in Hebrew) 5 minute video of the exterior and interior of the mikveh and its inscriptions.

Old City (Jerusalem) Church Now Open

The Church of Saint John the Baptist is located at 113 Christian Quarter Road in the Old City of Jerusalem.  I have always wanted to visit the church but visiting hours were non-existent and it seemed that the church was always locked!$#@!

OldCity04This past June when walking past the church I noticed the door to the courtyard was open so I “popped in.”


View of the entrance to the Church of Saint John the Baptist with the courtyard in the foreground.

Much to my surprise the door to the sanctuary, on the far side of the courtyard was also open—so I walked in!

Aviva Bar–Am describes the interior of the church as “one of the most ornate in Jerusalem”—and it did not disappoint!


View of the Iconostasis of the Church of Saint John the Baptist. On the pedestal to the right of the carpet is a relic of the skull of John the Baptist.

The current church was built sometime between the 8th and 11th centuries.  Underneath of it is an older Byzantine Church that dates to the time of the Empress Eudocia— ca 5th century A.D.—it is not yet open to the public.


View of an icon depicting the head of John the Baptist on a platter. To the right of it, within a jeweled silver case, is a piece of a skull that is said to be a relic of John the Baptist.

In the sanctuary a relic that is said to be a portion of the skull of John the Baptist is venerated.  During the Crusader Period the Knights Hospitaler cared for the sick from this monastery/church.  After the conquest of Jerusalem by the Muslims in 1187 — eventually the church was returned to the Greek Orthodox.

For a convenient description of this church see Bar–Am, Aviva. Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem. Jerusalem: Ahva Press, 1998, pp. 36–49.

For additional photos of the Church of Saint John the Baptist Click Here.

Kishle Tour (Citadel at Jaffa Gate Jerusalem) — Herod the Great’s Palace

Over the years I have heard about the excavations under the Kishle (Turkish “temporary encampment;” now an Israeli police station) that revealed the foundations of King Herod’s Palace.  This site is located just inside and south of Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem.  I have always wanted to see these excavations but have not been able to gain access until today.


View looking south at the excavation that is under the Kishle. Actually, the wall perpendicular to the “org” at the bottom of the image is thought to be from the time of the Judean King Hezekiah (ca. 701 B.C.) — More in a future post.

What I found out is that there are guided tours (in English) that are open to the public on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10:00 AM for 45 NIS (ca. $11.50).  So, I purchased my ticket at the entrance to the citadel.  I was expecting a 20 minute tour of the excavations, but instead the tour lasted 90 minutes!  Our guide, Talia, took us to the top of the citadel and gave us an overview of the Old and New City).  We then walked down through the citadel examining the Hasmonean (2nd to 1st centuries B.C.) and Herodian (Herod ruled 37–4 B.C.)  walls (maybe even Hezekiah walls) along the way.

Via an underground passage way we entered the dry moat and made our way to the south (Talia commenting all along the way).  Along the path toward the excavated area we were shown a magnificent stepped pool that was part of King Herod’s Palace.


Looking northeast at the carved steps that lead into the magnificent rock–cut pool that formed part of the Palace of Herod the Great (picture from inside the pool)

And . . . .


A ritual bath (miqvah) that probably dates to the Hasmonean Period. Note the steps leading down into the miqvah.

And . . .


An engaged column base—possibly from Herod’s time.

We spent about 20 minutes under the Kishle examining modern, Medieval, Herodian, Hasmonian, and First Temple walls and an aqueduct and a tanners’ tub—but these will be for a future post.

All in all, it was a very worthwhile 90 minutes!  And to top it off, we ended up inside the citadel so we were free to wander and photograph to our hearts content—all for $11.50!


Dome of the Rock — New Carpets over Ancient Floors

The Times of Israel has reported that during the installation of new carpets in the Dome of the Rock that ancient floors have been revealed.  Many Jews and Christians believe that the Dome of the Rock stands over the spot where the “Holy of Holies” of the Solomonic and Second Temples.  This is where the Ark of the Covenant was placed.  Muslims believe that the Rock is the spot from which Mohammed ascended to “heaven.”


In the Well of Souls, a cave UNDER the foundation stone of the Dome of the Rock, an ancient tile floor has been revealed. — Photo from The Times of Israel

The Dome of the Rock has not been open to the non-Muslim general public for years.  BELOW the famous rock is a small cavern that is called the “Well of the Souls”—see photo above—where it is said that the dead meet twice a week to pray (and see 2:20 in the video below and pause it).  Notice the very beautiful tiled floor that was revealed during the updating of the carpet there (date??).

For a four minute YouTube video of the carpet laying process—with views of the interior of the Dome of the Rock and other underground passageways (at the 1:20 spot), see below.  At 3:25 notice the mikrab that directs the faithful towards Mecca as well as the personal prayer places on the rug that is being laid.


Dome of the Rock. To the left of it is the Dome of the Chain and in the foreground is the “head” of a cistern (underground chamber that collects rain water). Courtesy of

For additional images of the Dome and the area Click Here.


Ennion — The Master Roman Glassmaker

Haaretz, an Israeli daily newspaper, has a wonderful article in its English edition describing  the exhibition at the N.Y. Metropolitan Museum that showcases over 20 Roman glass masterpieces—most by the famous Ennion of Sidon.  In this article there are images of 5 of Ennion’s creations.


A Glass Goblet produced by Ennion and found in one of the palatial structures excavated by Nahum Avigad in the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem.

A “jug”/goblet  found in the excavations of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem—the wealthy Upper City quarter of Second Temple Jerusalem.  It dates to the first century A.D. and was “blown” by the famous artisan from Sidon—Ennion.  The first two letters (in Greek) of Ennion are visible just right of center.

The small goblet (a drinking cup with a stem and base), along with other glass objects indicates the “sophistication” of the inhabitants of the Upper City of Jerusalem (= on the western hill).

“Artisans eventually discovered that fashionable tableware could be produced with relative ease by blowing glass directly into molds similar to those employed for casting metal objects.  The technique, called mold–blowing, was developed in the 1at century CE in Sidon, an important glassworking center on the Eastern Mediterranean coast.  Similar vessels were also manufactured in Italy, possibly by Sidonian expatriates.  Using this technique artisans could produce a series of vessels bearing the same motifs with a single mold.” (from the description in the Israel Museum).

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.


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)


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.