Category Archives: Places in Palestine

Where does Grandma Live?

Here in the USA, the non-visit of Rashida Tlaib to visit the “West Bank” is much in the news.

Israel had granted her permission for a “humanitarian” visit.  One of her stops was to have been in the Palestinian village of Beit Ur al–Fauqa—where her grandmother lives.

The Tlaib clan is one of three clans in Beit Ur al-Fauqa, home to some 1,000 people—home of her grandmother. The two other clans in the village are Samara and Zahran.

Residents here boasted that the village has one of the highest numbers of educated people. More than 20 village residents hold high positions in PA ministries and other Palestinian institutions in Ramallah, including banks.  (Jerusalem Post)

The bedrock foundations of the ancient Roman Road at Beit Ur al–Fauqa (Upper Beth Horon). Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Beit Ur al-Fauqa may not be on everyone’s “radar” but it has been frequently identified as the Biblical site of Upper Beth Horon.  There is also a Beit Ur al-Tahta—biblical Lower Beth Horon.

The Beth Horons of the Bible are twin towns that are located only 2 mi. apart on a ridge guarding the approach to the Hill Country from the Coastal Plain.  They are mentioned 14 times in OT: Joshua pursued the fleeing Amorites passed these towns (Josh 10:9 – 15); they were near Ephraim-Benjamin border, but were in Ephraim (Josh 21:22; 1 Chron 6:68); one, or both, was a Levitical city (Josh 21:22; 1 Chron 6:68); and Solomon rebuilt them to protect one of the approaches to Jerusalem from the W (1 Kgs 9:17; 2 Chron 8:5). (Zondervan Atlas of the Bible, p. 278)

These two cities, ancient and “modern,” are situated on the most important approach from the Coastal Plain of Israel into the Hill Country where Jerusalem and Ramallah are located.  Because of this, they have been fought over and fortified in many periods of history—including the modern period.

Most recently, after the Six Days War in 1967, Israel took control of this ridge and has built Highway 443 along its southern slopes—it runs east-west below and to the south of Beit Ur al-Fauqa.

The Beth Horon ridges as it approaches the Hill Country.  Courtesy of Bill Schlegel Copyright and Contact — Satellite Bible Atlas.

Thus, Rashida Tlaib’s grandmother and extended family is from a very small, but important village that is situated on a very strategic ridge!


For information on Bill Schlege’s Satellite Bible Atlas and 70 free aerial images Click Here.

Advertisements

2 Christmases in Bethlehem

Christmas Number 1 — On December 25 Protestants and Roman Catholics celebrated Christmas.  The festivities in Manger Square in Bethlehem was broadcast worldwide—and some Protestants and Roman Catholics celebrated in “Shepherds’ Field” east of Bethlehem (now filled with homes and shops of the village Beit Sahur).

ShepherdsFieldGrotto01

Grotto/Cave at the Roman Catholic Site of Shepherds’ Field
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

Christmas Number 2 — On January 7, the Greek, Coptic, and Syrian Orthodox and Armenian Churches will celebrate Christmas.

ICHJBT51

The Grotto of the Nativity
Said to be the very spot where Jesus was born
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

ICHJBT68

A Greek Orthodox Priest Celebrating the Eucharist
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

On January 7 the Armenian Orthodox Church will celebrate Christmas.

ICHJBT60

An Armenian Service in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem
Armenians Celebrate Christmas on 7 January
Click On Image to Enlarge/Download

For additional images of Bethlehem Click Here.

Our friends a “Israel’s History – a Picture a Day” have posted 6 photographic images of Bethlehem at Christmas around 1900 under Turkish Rule: grotto, processions, etc.  They are very interesting!

–   –    –    Personal Story Follows    –    –   –

ICHJBT09

Grotto of the Manger — Only 15 feet from the “star”
Said to be the place where the “manger” was
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

In the early 1970’s, when we were living in Israel, Mary and I and John (our two-year old barely–able–to–walk son) were visiting the grotto of the Nativity, Mary and I were looking at a variety of things.  When we turned around, looking for our son John, there he was, blowing out the candles that the faithful had placed by this site—sorry about that!

Bethlehem: Church of the Nativity — The Unveiling!

During Christmas and Advent, Bethlehem—and the Church of the Nativity—are featured on many news broadcasts.

When visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, visitors (rightfully) focus on the “grotto” that is the “traditional” place of the birthplace of Jesus.  Prior to 2013 the Upper Church was a bit dingy and the mosaics on the upper walls and the paintings on the columns/pillars where not too visible.  Since 2013 visitors have been greeted with all kinds of scaffolding and curtains so that not much of the church—that was built by the Emperor Justinian (ruled 527–565)—was visible.

View of the interior of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in April 2016—during the process of restoration.

The Italians and Palestinians were/are involved in the still ongoing restoration project of the Church of the Nativity—that began ca. 2013.

However, in 2018, much of the restoration project is in the process of being unveiled—with stunning results!

View of the restored mosaics along the north wall of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.  The register depicts the Council of Antioch—AD 277. Click on image to enlarge and/or Download.

The large register, below the windows, depicts the key decisions of six provincial councils.

The one in the center, inscribed in Greek within a church, is from the Council of Antioch (AD 277). The name “Antioch” is spelled out above the church—6 letters to the left of the dome and three to the right. The text reads: “the Holy Synod of Antioch in Syria of 33 bishops took place before the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea against Paul of Samosata who held that Christ was a mere man. The Holy Synod expelled him as a heretic.”

Note the angels between the windows. At the foot of the one third from the right, is the name of the artist—”Basilius Pictor.”

“The mosaic decorations on the walls of the nave date to the restoration of 1165–9.  Each side had three registers: the detailed description made by the Franciscan Qaresmius in 1628 enables us to complete the missing sections.” (Murphy–O’Connor, pp. 235-36).

Restored mosaic on the south wall of the Church of the Nativity. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

View of one of the restored mosaics on the south wall of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.  The mosaics on the south wall commemorate the decisions of the six ecumenical councils.  I believe that the broken part on the left depicts the Council of Nicea (325) while the complete one in the center the Council of Constantinople (381).

In the upper portion note the image of a saint with a Greek inscription and below it Crusader graffiti. Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

View of one of a restored column in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. In the upper portion note the image of a saint and below it Crusader graffiti.

Most of the red limestone pillars, quarried near Bethlehem, served in the fourth century church. From 1130, the Crusaders decorated the upper part of the pillars with painting of saints whose names appear in Latin and Greek.

For additional views of the restored mosaics and columns Click Here.


Commentary from Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome. The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide From Earliest Times to 1700. Revised and expanded Fifth ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, p. 236.

Murder of a Jewish High Priest at NT Jericho

For the few tour/academic groups that visit New Testament Jericho usually, because of time constraints, the main (northern) site is viewed from the south of the Wadi Qilt, but an exploratory walk on the north side of the wadi does pay dividends.

One of the distinctive structures north of the wadi is a double pool that was built in conjunction with the Hasmonean Palace during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus (103–76 BCE).  It was refurbished by Herod the Great.

ICJVJRNT06

View of the double swimming pool where the handsome, eighteen year old, Hasmonean High Priest, Aristobulus III was murdered by Herod’s colleagues. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Each pool measures 42 x 60 ft. and each is 10 ft. deep.  Note the staircases that lead down into the north (near) and south (far) basins.  A wide wall separates the two basins.

It was probably here, in 35 BC, that the brother-in-law of Herod, the young High Priest Aristobulus III, “accidently” drowned while “playing” with some of Herod’s youth.  His death marked the end of potential Hasmonean take over of Herod’s throne.

(53) Upon all this Herod resolved to complete what he had intended against the young man [Aristobulus III]. When therefore the festival was over, and he was feasting at Jericho with Alexandra, who entertained him there, he was then very pleasant with the young man, and drew him into a lonely place, and at the same time played with him in a juvenile and ludicrous manner.

(54) Now the nature of that place was hotter than ordinary; so they went out in a body, and of a sudden, and in a vein of madness; and as they stood by the fish ponds, of which there were large ones about the house, they went to cool themselves [by bathing], because it was in the midst of a hot day.

(55) At first they were only spectators of Herod’s servants and acquaintances as they were swimming; but after a while, the young man, at the instigation of Herod, went into the water among them, while such of Herod’s acquaintances as he had appointed to do it, dipped him as he was swimming, and plunged him under water, in the dark of the evening, as if it had been done in sport only; nor did they desist till he was entirely suffocated.

(56) And thus was Aristobulus murdered, having lived no more in all than eighteen years, and kept the high priesthood one year only; which high priesthood Ananelus now recovered again. (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 15:53–56).

This is the same Herod (r. 37–4 B.C.) who murdered his beloved wife Mariamne, a mother-in-law, an uncle, and three of his sons.  The Herod who was alive when Jesus was born (ca. 5 B.C.) and before whom the “Magi” asked “where is he who is born king of the Jews?” and who subsequently slaughtered the infants of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1–3, 16–18).

To view 18 high–resolution images of Herodian Jericho Click Here.

Herod the Great and The Stadium and Theater at Jericho

About half way between Old Testament Jericho and the Second Temple Palaces of Jericho there is a site called Tell es–Samarat.  This tell was partially excavated and the area surveyed by Ehud Netzer.

ICJVJRNT01

View looking south from the top of Tell es–Samarat at the “stadium” of Second Temple Jericho. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

In the foreground is the top of the cavea of the small (3,000 seat) theater that faces south.  The flat area beyond it from the house in the lower right to beyond the hot houses is were the “stadium” of Herodian Jericho was located.  The stadium was bounded on the right (west) by the asphalt road and on the left by a line of green trees.

The first–century Jewish historian Josephus mentions several  important events that happened here.

It was in this stadium (also called an amphitheater) where the sickly Herod reprimanded those responsible for the removal of the eagle from the Temple, where Herod had locked up the Jewish leadership that was to be executed upon his death, and where his death and will were announced to his troops prior to the procession to the Herodium where he was buried (Josephus Antiq. xvii.161, 173–179, 193–195).

Trial in the Theater of Jews for the Removal of the Golden Eagle in the Temple Precincts  (160) . . .  And when the king had ordered them to be bound, he sent them to Jericho, and called together the principal men among the Jews; (161) and when they were come, he made them assemble in the theater, . . .  He then cried out, that these men had not abstained from affronting him, even in his lifetime, but that, in the very daytime, and in the sight of the multitude, they had abused him to that degree, as to fall upon what he had dedicated, and in that way of abuse, had pulled it [the golden Eagle] down to the ground. They pretended, indeed, that they did it to affront him; but if anyone consider the thing truly, they will find that they were guilty of sacrilege against God therein.

ICJVJRNT02

View looking west northwest at the cavea (semi-circular seating area) of the 3,000 seat “theater/odeum” at Tell es–Samarat. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

It was in this area where the sickly Herod reprimanded those responsible for the removal of the eagle from the Temple (see text above), where Herod had locked up the Jewish leadership that was to be executed upon his death (texts below), and where his death and will were announced to his troops prior to the procession to the Herodium where he was buried (Josephus Antiq. xvii.161, 173–179, 193–195).

Herod Commanded the Execution of Jewish Elite so that there would be Mourning at His Death  (173) . . .  and though he [Herod] was near his death, he contrived the following wicked designs. (174) He commanded that all the principal men of the entire Jewish nation wheresoever they lived, should be called to him. . . . And now the king was in a wild rage against them all, the innocent as well as those that had given him ground for accusations; (175) and when they were come, he ordered them all to be shut up in the hippodrome, and sent for his sister Salome, and her husband Alexas, and spoke thus to them:—“I shall die in a little time, so great are my pains; which death ought to be cheerfully borne, and to be welcomed by all men; but what principally troubles me is this, that I shall die without being lamented, and without such mourning as men usually expect at a king’s death.” (176) For that he was not unacquainted with the temper of the Jews, that his death would be a thing very desirable, and exceedingly acceptable to them; because during his lifetime they were ready to revolt from him, and to abuse the donations he had dedicated to God: (177) that it therefore was their business to resolve to afford him some alleviation of his great sorrows on this occasion; for that, if they do not refuse him their consent in what he desires, he shall have a great mourning at his funeral, and such as never any king had before him; for then the whole nation would mourn from their very soul, which otherwise would be done in sport and mockery only. (178) He desired therefore that as soon as they see he hath given up the ghost, they shall place soldiers round the hippodrome, while they do not know that he is dead; and that they shall not declare his death to the multitude till this is done, but that they shall give orders to have those that are in custody shot with their darts; and that this slaughter of them all will cause that he shall not miss to rejoice on a double account; that as he is dying, they will make him secure that his will shall be executed in what he charges them to do; and that he shall have the honor of a memorable mourning at his funeral. (179) So he deplored his condition, with tears in his eyes, . . . and begged of them that they would not hinder him of this honorable mourning at his funeral. So they promised him not to transgress his commands.

Jewish Elite Released at Herod’s Death  and the Reading of His Will  Antiq.17.8.2. (193) But then Salome and Alexas, before the king’s death was made known, dismissed those that were shut up in the hippodrome, and told them that the king ordered them to go away to their own lands, and take care of their own affairs, which was esteemed by the nation a great benefit; (194) and now the king’s death was made public, when Salome and Alexas gathered the soldiery together in the amphitheater at Jericho; and the first thing they did was, they read Herod’s letter, written to the soldiery, thanking them for their fidelity and good will to him, and exhorting them to afford his son Archelaus, whom he had appointed for their king, like fidelity and good will. . . .  so there was presently an acclamation made to Archelaus, as king, and the soldiers came by bands, and their commanders with them, and promised the same good will to him, and readiness to serve him, which they had exhibited to Herod; and they prayed God to be assistant to him.

Herod’s Burial Procession from Jericho to the HerodiumAntiq.17.8.3. (196) After this was over, they prepared for his funeral, it being Archelaus’s care that the procession to his father’s sepulchre should be very sumptuous. Accordingly he brought out all his ornaments to adorn the pomp of the funeral. (197) The body was carried upon a golden bier, embroidered with very precious stones of great variety, and it was covered over with purple, as well as the body itself; he had a diadem upon his head, and above it a crown of gold; he also had a sceptre in his right hand. (198) About the bier were his sons and his numerous relations; next to these was the soldiery distinguished according to their several countries and denominations; and they were put into the following order:—First of all went his guards, then the band of Thracians; and after them the Germans; and next the band of Galatians, everyone in their habiliments of war; and behind these marched the whole army in the same manner as they used to go out to war, (199) and as they used to be put in array by their muster-masters and centurions; these were followed by five hundred of his domestics, carrying spices. So they went eight furlongs, to Herodium; for there, by his own command, he was to be buried;—and thus did Herod end his life.

BTW: the only other place in the Roman world where a theater is connected with a stadium is at the beautiful/well–preserved site of Aizanoi in Turkey!

PS: Caution Visiting Tell es–Samarat  The last time we visited this site our group of about 35 was harassed by five 10-12 year old boys who kept touching the women in our group and would not stop—even our Palestinian bus driver tried to intervene, but to no effect.  Unfortunately we had to quickly leave because of this.

See Netzer, Ehud, and Rachel Laureys–Chachy. The Architecture of Herod, the Great Builder. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008, pp. 72–80.

2 Videos of Kenyon’s Excavations at Jericho

Almost all visitors to the Holy Land will visit the site of Tell es–Sultan = OT Jericho of “walls–come–tumbling–down” fame.  Typically, mention is made of Dame Kathleen Kenyon’s excavations, the trenches of which, and the Neolithic Tower are still visible (see end of post).

The folk over at the Non-Professional Archaeological Photographs project have posted two videos of Kenyon’s excavations (1952–1958).  FWIW/IMHO, the simple modern graphics and sound track help set the stage for the “hard core” film and photos.

One is an 8 minute video of the excavation from the “WesternPerspectives.”

This one includes footage of getting to the tell, the daily life of the excavators, the excavation in progress, Kenyon’s personality, a riot in the nearby refuge camp, boat races on the Dead Sea, partying deep into the night, preference for Gin, and rolling the Land Rover she was driving after a party.  Hmm.

The other video is from “Local Perspectives“—6 minutes long.

This one includes selecting and paying workers, relations with the local refuge camp (remember this is in the 1950’s!), working at the tell, lunch breaks, partying with the locals, questions about (western) women driving and wearing slacks, and even a picture of Father de Vaux!

Tell es–Sultan = OT Jericho, from the west looking southeast.  Palestinian Refuge Camp in foreground—now destroyed.  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Kenyon’s West Trench.

Neolithic Tower.

For 16 High Resolution images of Jericho, including the interior of Elisha’s Spring,  Click Here.

King Herod’s Tomb at the Israel Museum

Besides the naval and nature paintings (secco—on dry plaster) at the Israel Museum that I mentioned in my previous post, fragments from the roof of Herod’s Tomb at the Herodium are also on display in the Israel Museum.

HerodiumTombFragmentsOn the left notice the concave roof and on the right one of the acroteria (urn).  For both of these, compare the style of “Absalom’s Tomb” in the Kidron Valley that is slightly earlier in date than Herod’s Tomb.

pillar-of-absalom

“Absalom’s Pillar” (2 Samuel 18:18) in the Kidron Valley. Note especially the “hat” that is similar to the fragments found at the Herodium.  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Note, this tomb is NOT from the days of David’s son Absalom (2 Sam 18:18), but was probably constructed in the first century B.C.  It is of mixed styles. The conical-shaped roof is Syrian style, while the columns on the lower portion are of the Greek Ionic style.  Behind, and to the left of, the “Pillar of Absalom,” is the so-called “Tomb of Jehoshaphat.” The grave markers scattered in the green grass are from the “modern” Jewish cemetery on the lower slope of the Mount of Olives.

model-of-herod-s-tombThis is the model of the reconstructed Tomb of Herod that is on location at the Herodium.  Note the “pilasters” (rectangular column–like protrusions) on the base portion and the five “acroteria” (urns) on the roof of it—see one of the originals above.  It is evident that those who made this reconstruction based it not only on the archaeological finds, but also on parallels like “Absalom’s Pillar” above and tombs found at Petra.

For permission to use any images please Check Here.

PetraTreasury01

The Treasury (Khasneh) at Petra. Note on the center top the “urn” (like that found at the Herodium) on the top of the tholos (circular structure at the top of the “temple/tomb”).  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The “Treasury” was probably constructed during the reign of the Nabatean ruler Aretas III Philhellene (82-62 B.C.).  Since Herod married a Nabatean woman it is probable that he was familiar with this structure—probably a temple and not actually a tomb.

PetraDeir01

The “Monastery” (Deir; Arabic) at Petra—from slightly after the time of Herod the Great. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The Deir, or monastery, was probably built by the Nabatean ruler Malichus (40–70 A.D.)—thus slightly after the time of Herod.  In the upper center of the monument note the rounded tholos and the “urn” (like the one found at the Herodium) on the top of it.

It is also suggested that it dates to the time of King Rebal II in the early 2nd century A.D.  And because of its two side benches in the interior (and altar), that it was used for the meetings of religious associations.

In summary, the near parallel to the “tomb of Herod at the Herodium” is the “Pillar of Absalom” in the Kidron Valley, but its probable predecessor—known to Herod—was the “Treasury” at Petra, and its successor was the “Deir” at Petra.

Did Ehud Netzer discover the “real tomb” of King Herod?  There are significant researchers who think not.  Although Netzer found a significant mausoleum and fragments of sarcophagi, neither the size of the mausoleum and nor the sarcophagi are overwhelmingly impressive—that is fitting for a king of Herod’s ego/stature (see conveniently the summary of Shanks below—and more on the sarcophagus in the next post).

Shanks, Hershel. “Was Herod’s Tomb Really Found?” Biblical Archaeology Review 40 (2014): 40–48.