Category Archives: Jerusalem

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.

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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.

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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 . . . .

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

And . . .

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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.”

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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.

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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 http://www.HolyLandPhotos.org

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.

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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.

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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.

Dust Storms in Israel (Hamsin, Sirocco, Sharav)

Since Israel has been experiencing sharav conditions recently I thought the following might be of interest to readers.

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.

Why is the Hen Gathering Her Chicks? (Matt 23:37; Luke 13:34)

As Jesus leaves the Temple area in Jerusalem he is quoted as having said:

Matt. 23:37  ¶  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.  (NIV)

This saying is also found in Luke 13:34 as Jesus is progressing towards Jerusalem.  This idea of protection and tender concern is also found in passages such as Psalms 17:8, 36:7, and 91:4.

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A modern mosaic of a mother hen protecting her chicks—on the altar of Dominus Flevit Church on the Mount of Olives (Matt 23:37; Luke 13:34) — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

 

In glancing at a number of commentaries on the Matthew 23 and Luke 13 passages, all I found were general statements about “protection” and “tenderness.”  However, I once heard a lecture by N. T. Wright where he seemed to suggest that what was involved here was a “barn yard fire,” where the mother hen gathered her chicks under her wings.  After the fire swept though the barn yard the mother hen had been incinerated, but the chicks under her wings were still alive—the hen sacrificing her life for her chicks.

This interpretation never struck me as too plausible and after lecturing to an adult group one of the participants came up to me and described a much more plausible explanation:

He said that he had grown up on a farm and that a hen has a variety of informative “clucks.”  For example a certain clucking sound would call her chicks to eat.  He also said that as a prank, he would cut out a cardboard eagle or hawk, affix it to a long stick, and would then maneuver it so that the shadow of the bird of prey would fall within the vision of the hen.  Upon seeing [the shadow of the fake] bird of prey she would utter a special clucking sound that called her chicks to gather under her wings for protection from the danger!  This of course is what she would do when a real bird of prey was threatening her or her chicks.  (my paraphrase)

Again, the hen sacrificing her life for her chicks.  I had not heard such an informative comment on this passage before—but then I am not a farmer, nor the son of a farmer!

The altar on which the above mosaic is found is located in the Roman Catholic Church Dominus Flevit that commemorates Jesus weeping over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41) as he entered the city from the east.

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View looking west over the Old City of Jerusalem from within Dominus Flevit. The “golden” Dome of the Rock is visible beyond the cross, and to the right of the Dome the grey Domes of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher are visible. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

You can view/download 10 images of Dominus Flevit  Here.

 

Underground the Temple Mount (Haram esh-Sharif) Very Unique Photos

In his recent blog Leen Ritmeyer, THE expert on the history/archaeology of the Temple Mount, has shared some very very unique photos including an underground tunnel that leads from cistern #10 to a Byzantine building.

Temple Mount Cisterns

Note Cistern #10 in the lower portion of the diagram.

Also included is a rarely seen photo of the “Cradle of Jesus” that is/was located at the southeastern corner of the Temple Mound (evidently in the so-called “Solomon’s Stables”).

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The “Cradle of Jesus” in the southeastern corner of the Temple Mount (in the so-called “Solomon’s Stables” — Please see the link to Ritmeyer’s blog for the complete article

For the complete article Click Here (a 5 minute read with 5 wonderful photos and an informative diagram).

PS — The Temple Mount may not have been devoid of structures as previously thought!!  See his article.