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The Sites

Israel and Palestine – In Jerusalem

Israel and Palestine – Outside Jerusalem

Jordan

Egypt

Extras

Kidron Valley

Jerusalem

The Kidron Valley, a place of olive groves, ancient tombs and misnamed funerary monuments, divides Jerusalem’s Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives.

Kidron Valley

Olive trees in the Kidron Valley, with the Pillar of Absalom in the centre distance (Seetheholyland.net)

Once a deep ravine channelling a seasonal stream, it provided a defensive border to the original City of David — and a route to the wilderness for King David when he fled from his rebellious son Absalom (2 Samuel 15:23).

Jesus often traversed the Kidron on his way to the village of Bethany, his favourite place of rest and refuge.

After the Last Supper, he crossed the valley with his disciples to the garden of Gethsemane. Then, after he was betrayed, he was brought back the same way to the house of the high priest.

Kidron Valley

The Pillar of Absalom, with the wall of the Temple Mount on the right (Seetheholyland.net)

By the light of the Passover moon, the whitewashed tombs cut into the valley’s rock-face would have provided a stark reminder to Jesus that on the following day his own body would be laid in a tomb.

Since the 4th century, an identification of the Kidron with the Valley of Jehoshaphat (a name meaning “Yahweh shall judge”) mentioned in the book of Joel (3:2,12) has led to the belief that it will be the place of final judgement.

 

Valley descends to the Dead Sea

Across the street from the Church of All Nations at Gethsemane, a paved path leads southward to the floor of the Kidron Valley. On the right is the Greek Orthodox Church of St Stephen.

In the northerly direction, the valley continues for 35 kilometres, descending steeply through the Judaean wilderness past Mar Saba monastery to the Dead Sea.

Olive trees give this part of the valley a pastoral character.

Kidron Valley

The path to the Kidron Valley, with the Pillar of Absalom in the centre (Yoav Dothan)

On the right looms the wall of the Temple Mount, with the sealed double portals of the Golden Gate standing out. On the left, the world’s largest Jewish cemetery stretches up the Mount of Olives. Further on, the Arab village of Silwan clings to the cliffside.

The cemetery’s location follows the Jewish belief that the long-awaited Messiah will pass through the Golden Gate to begin the resurrection of the dead.

In reaction to this belief, Muslims established a cemetery in front of the gate to block the Messiah’s path — and this may also be why the Ottoman ruler Suleiman the Magnificent sealed the gate in 1541.

Kidron Valley

The sealed portals of the Golden Gate in the wall of the Temple Mount (Seetheholyland.net)

During the Second Temple period a high, two-tiered bridge spanned the Kidron Valley from the Temple Mount to the Mount of Olives. Across this bridge on the Day of Atonement each year a goat symbolically bearing the sins of the people — the original scapegoat — was led into the wilderness.

The Golden Gate may have been where Jesus entered the city on Palm Sunday. It was probably also the Beautiful Gate of Acts 3:1-10, where the apostle Peter healed a lame beggar.

 

Monuments face the Temple Mount

Proceeding along the Kidron Valley, three monuments stand out on the left, each facing towards the Temple Mount. All have been attributed to biblical figures, but they are really tombs of prominent citizens of Jerusalem in the Second Temple period.

Kidron Valley

The Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives (Seetheholyland.net)

In order, they are:

•  Pillar of Absalom. The tallest (22 metres) and most ornate of the Kidron Valley monuments, it is hewn out of the limestone rock face, with an elegant pinnacle shaped like a Moroccan tagine cooking pot.

The traditional association with Absalom — who died centuries before it was built — is because this rebellious son of King David erected for himself a memorial pillar in the King’s Valley (2 Samuel 18:18).

In 2003 a Byzantine Greek inscription was found on the south side, naming it the tomb of Zechariah the father of John the Baptist, but the authenticity of this identification is uncertain.

Behind the Pillar of Absalom is a 1st-century burial cave called the Tomb of Jehoshaphat, the fourth king of Judah (who died centuries before it existed). It is notable for the carved triangular pediment above its entrance.

Kidron Valley

The Pillar of Absalom in the Kidron Valley (© Israel Ministry of Tourism)

•  Tomb of the Sons of Hezir. About 50 metres south of the Pillar of Absalom, this has two Greek Doric columns supporting a frieze with an inscription identifying it as belonging to the priestly family of the Bene Hezir.

A mistaken tradition says it is the tomb of James the Just, the first bishop of Jerusalem, who was thrown off the highest corner of the Temple Mount, then stoned and clubbed to death. In earlier times a chapel in the area honoured this early martyr.

•  Tomb of Zechariah. A few metres further south, this freestanding cube carved out of bedrock is decorated on each side with Ionic columns and is topped by a sharply pointed pyramid. Again, the identification is unreliable.

In the time of Jesus, these monuments would have been whitewashed. Perhaps they inspired his outburst: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.” (Matthew 23:27)

Kidron stream carries sewage

Kidron Valley

The Tomb of the Sons of Hezir (left) and the Tomb of Zechariah (Seetheholyland.net)

In modern times the Kidron has become one of the most polluted valleys in Israel. The Kidron stream still flows (except in summer), but it now carries most of Jerusalem’s sewage. Fortunately, the stretch near the city is piped underground.

Rubbish dumps also abound in the valley, continuing a practice referred to several times in the Bible. As long ago as seven centuries before Jesus, when King Hezekiah cleansed the Temple, his priests “brought out all the unclean things that they found in the temple of the Lord . . . and the Levites took them and carried them out to the Wadi Kidron” (2 Chronicles 29:16).

 

In Scripture

Kidron Valley

Polluted Kidron stream flowing past Mar Saba monastery in the Judaean desert (Seetheholyland.net)

King David flees from Absalom: 2 Samuel 15:23

Absalom builds his own monument: 2 Samuel 18:18

Judgement in the Valley of Jehoshaphat: Joel 3:2, 12

Jesus enters the city on Palm Sunday: Matthew 21:1-11

Jesus crosses the Kidron Valley: John 18: 1

Peter heals a lame man at the Beautiful Gate: Acts 3:1-10

 

 

References

Bourbon, Fabio, and Lavagno, Enrico: The Holy Land Archaeological Guide to Israel, Sinai and Jordan (White Star, 2009)
Bourbon, Fabio: Yesterday and Today: The Holy Land: Lithographs and Diaries by David Roberts, R.A. (Swan Hill, 1997)
Charlesworth, James H.: The Millennium Guide for Pilgrims to the Holy Land (BIBAL Press, 2000)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Mackowski, Richard M.: Jerusalem: City of Jesus (William B. Eerdmans, 1980)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: Keys to Jerusalem (Oxford University Press, 2012)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Prag, Kay: Jerusalem: Blue Guide (A. & C. Black, 1989)
Walker, Peter: In the Steps of Jesus (Zondervan, 2006)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

External links

Tomb of Avshalom (BibleWalks)
Zechariah Tomb (BibleWalks)
Bnei-Hezir tombs (BibleWalks)

City of David

Jerusalem

 

The original inhabitants of Jerusalem lived not on the site of today’s Old City, but on a narrow ridge descending south from the present Temple Mount.

City of David

City of David in Model of Ancient Jerusalem at Israel Museum, with Pool of Siloam at left (Seetheholyland.net)

This is where King David captured the fortress of a Canaanite tribe, the Jebusites, 1000 years before Christ. On this slender spur — about 5 hectares (12 acres) in area — David established his capital and pitched a tent to house the Ark of the Covenant.

The site possessed the natural defences of the Hinnom valley to the south, the Kidron Valley to the east, and the Tyropoeon Valley (now largely filled in by the debris of centuries) to the west. And it had fresh water from the Gihon Spring gushing at its foot.

Besides David and his son Solomon, this would have been the stamping ground of kings Hezekiah and Josiah and the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah.

Standing on the observation platform of the City of David archaeological park, it is easy to see how David could have looked down from the roof of his palace and spied the beautiful Bathsheba bathing (2 Samuel 11: 2).

Excavations are intense and controversial

Today the area is pitted with archaeological digs as intensive efforts continue to uncover evidence of David’s city. While there are claims that parts of David’s palace have been uncovered, archaeologists are generally unconvinced (and David’s tomb remains elusive).

City of David

Stepped-stone structure in City of David (Seetheholyland.net)

The excavations have also attracted controversy. Though the City of David is a national park, it is run by a private Jewish settler organisation, the Elad Foundation, which also funds its archaeological work. Tensions have arisen as excavations and park facilities spread down the slope of the Kidron Valley and into properties of the predominantly Arab village of Silwan.

At the summit of the excavated area is a massive stepped-stone structure. Dating from before the 10th century BC, it is believed to have served as a retaining wall for David’s palace or the Canaanite fortress that preceded it.

Later, when Solomon had built the first Temple on Mount Moriah (now the Temple Mount), stately homes for Jerusalem’s elite and royal functionaries were built on the stepped-stone structure. Their opulent character is indicated by artifacts including cosmetics and remains of furniture made of wood imported from Syria.

City of David

Stone toilet in house at City of David (Seetheholyland.net)

One four-room building immediately below the stepped-stone structure, called the House of Ahi’el (because the owner’s name was found on a pottery fragment), had an external stone staircase leading to a second storey. In one room a limestone toilet seat was embedded in the plaster floor, with a cesspit beneath it.

 

Clay seals bear names from the Bible

There was also an official archive in old Jerusalem. Its papyrus documents went up in flames with the rest of the royal quarter when the Babylonians destroyed the city in 586 BC, but dozens of clay seals survived.

Some of the seals bear names known from the Bible, such as Gemariah son of Shaphan, a high-ranking official in the court of King Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 36: 9-12), and Azariah son of Hilkiah, a priest who served in the Temple at the time of the exile to Babylon (1 Chronicles 9:10).

City of David

Looking down from the City of David observation platform, with the Mount of Olives Jewish cemetery across the Kidron Valley (Seetheholyland.net)

Another clay seal found in the City of David contains the name of Bethlehem — the first mention of this ancient city outside of the Bible.

At the base of the Temple Mount are the remains of a Byzantine monastery, with adjacent winery and hospice for pilgrims. This is probably the “monastery of virgins” described by the 6th-century pilgrim Theodosius.

 

Water source was fortified

The importance of water to Jerusalem’s early residents is evident from the elaborate tunnels and fortifications they established to access, manage and defend it.

City of David

Artist’s impression of Jebusite fortifications around Gihon Spring (Seetheholyland.net)

Crucial to the city’s survival was the Gihon Spring — shown on some old maps as the Virgin’s Spring, a name that may owe its origin to an earlier Jewish name, the Well of Miriam (the sister of Moses). Since Miriam is Hebrew for Mary, this could explain an unlikely Christian legend that the Virgin Mary washed Jesus’ swaddling clothes here.

As far back as 1800 BC, the Jebusites fortified the Gihon with massive guard towers. They cut a system of tunnels from within their city walls to a rock-cut pool, also fortified, that received water through a feeder channel from the spring.

Visitors can now traverse some of this subterranean water system, known as Warren’s Shaft (after the British engineer who discovered it in 1867).

City of David

Descent into Hezekiah’s Tunnel (Seetheholyland.net)

They can also walk from the Gihon Spring through the 530-metre Hezekiah’s Tunnel. King Hezekiah’s workmen dug this in the 7th century BC to bring water to the Pool of Siloam inside his city, in preparation for an impending siege by the Assyrians.

If this dark and winding tunnel, with water thigh-high in places, is too daunting, an adjacent Canaanite tunnel provides a well-lit and dry-shod alternative.

 

Herodian street was used by Jewish pilgrims

From the Pool of Siloam, visitors can walk on a section of the Herodian street — now also below ground level — that hundreds of thousands of Jews used three times a year to ascend to the Temple during pilgrim feasts. Jesus almost certainly walked this way.

City of David

Excavated section of Herodian street that led from Pool of Siloam to Temple Mount (Seetheholyland.net)

Beneath the level of this street is another tunnel — the drain that took stormwater and sewage from the Old City to the Kidron Valley in Roman times.

Now cleaned out, this tunnel enables visitors to walk 700 metres uphill, along the edge of the Tyropoeon Valley and under the Old City wall, to an exit near the Western Wall.

Among the items discovered in this tunnel were a rare gold bell, perhaps once sewn to a high priest’s garment, and an ancient silver shekel, customarily used to pay the half-shekel head tax to the Temple.

A more sombre find was a Roman sword, with its leather sheath partly intact.

As the Romans overtook Jerusalem in AD 70 during the First Jewish-Roman War, with the Temple in flames, the last of the Jewish rebels hid in the sewers. “Those in the sewers were ferreted out, the ground was torn up, and all who were trapped were killed,” reported the historian Flavius Josephus.

 

City of David

Drainage channel that took stormwater and sewage from Old City (Seetheholyland.net)

In Scripture:

David captures Jerusalem: 2 Samuel 5:6-7

David sees Bathsheba bathing: 2 Samuel 11:2

Hezekiah brings water into the city: 2 Kings 20:20

 

Administered by: Elad Foundation

Open: Sun-Thur, winter 8am-5pm; summer 8am-7pm; Fri, winter 8am-2pm, summer 8am-4pm. Closed on Saturdays and holidays; early closing on holiday eves.

 

References

Bar-Am, Aviva: “City of David — Gone but not forgotten”, Jerusalem Post, January 25, 2010
Bourbon, Fabio, and Lavagno, Enrico: The Holy Land Archaeological Guide to Israel, Sinai and Jordan (White Star, 2009)
Charlesworth, James H.: The Millennium Guide for Pilgrims to the Holy Land (BIBAL Press, 2000)
Finkelstein, Israel: “In the Eye of Jerusalem’s Archaeological Storm”, Forward, May 6, 2011
Hasson, Nir: “Jerusalem’s time tunnels”, Haaretz, April 24, 2011
Hasson, Nir: “Digging completed on tunnel under Old City walls in East Jerusalem”, Haaretz, January 25, 2011
Kochav, Sarah: Israel: A Journey Through the Art and History of the Holy Land (Steimatzky, 2008)
Mazar, Eilat: “Temple Mount Excavations Unearth the Monastery of the Virgins”, Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2004
Stiles, Wayne: “Sights and Insights: The oldest part of J’lem”, Jerusalem Post, February 27, 2012
West, Jane Cahill: “Jerusalem’s Stepped-Stone Structure”, in Ten Top Archaeological Discoveries (Biblical Archaeology Society, 2011)
Yonah, Bob: “Archaeologists find first proof of ancient Bethlehem”, Jerusalem Post, May 23, 2012
Yudin, Joe: “Off the Beaten Track: City of David”, Jerusalem Post, March 29, 2012

 

External links
City of David (Ir David Foundation)
The City of David (The Jewish Magazine)
Jerusalem — the City of David (Jewish Virtual Library)
City of David (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Walking through the Herodian sewer in Jerusalem (Leen Ritmeyer)

Field of Boaz

West Bank

 

The romantic story of the Moabite woman Ruth, who is remembered for one of the most celebrated statements of devotion in the Old Testament, is linked to a field near Bethlehem.

Field of Boaz

Field of Boaz with buildings encroaching (© Lissa Caldwell)

The Field of Boaz is east of the Palestinian town of Beit Sahour, in the fertile plain that descends to the Dead Sea. Now increasingly hemmed in by buildings, it lies in a shallow valley north of the Shepherds’ Field Greek Orthodox Church.

As the Book of Ruth recounts, Ruth was a daughter-in-law of Naomi, a Bethlehem woman who had gone with her husband and two sons to the land of Moab (east of the Dead Sea) to escape a famine.

Naomi’s husband died and her sons married Moabite women. Then, after about 10 years, both of the sons died.

 

Ruth’s devotion was rewarded

Field of Boaz

Ruth on the Field of Boaz, by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1828 (National Gallery, London)

Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem, but she urged her daughters-in-law to stay in their homeland of Moab. One of them, Ruth, insisted on going with Naomi.

Ruth said: “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die — there will I be buried . . . .” (Ruth 1:16-17)

Ruth’s devotion was to find its reward. The two women reached Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning. So they would have food to live on, Ruth went to the fields to pick up barley the reapers had left behind for the poor, a practice known as gleaning.

The field she went to was owned by a rich landowner named Boaz, who was kind to her because he had heard of her loyalty to Naomi.

Field of Boaz

Beit Sahour with Jordan in the background (© Lissa Caldwell)

Eventually Ruth and Boaz married and Ruth gave birth to Obed. He became the father of Jesse, who was the father of King David — forefather of Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus Christ. Thus the faithful Ruth was an ancestor of Jesus.

Today, Ruth’s memorable words of devotion to her mother-in-law, “Where you go, I will go . . . .” are used in some marriage services.

 

Other sites in the Bethlehem area:

Bethlehem

Church of the Nativity

Grotto of the Nativity

St Jerome’s Cave

Church of St Catherine of Alexandria

Milk Grotto

Shepherds’ Field

Tomb of Rachel

Herodium

 

In Scripture:

Ruth and Naomi: Ruth 1:1-22

Ruth meets Boaz: Ruth 2:1—4:17

 

 

 

References

Bowker, John: The Complete Bible Handbook (Dorling Kindersley, 1998)
Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P.: The Holy Land: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Israel, Jordan and the Sinai (Continuum Publishing, 1996)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)

 

 

 

Tombs of the Patriarchs

West Bank

 

Tombs of the Patriarchs

Tombs of the Patriarchs at Hebron (Seetheholyland.net)

The Tombs of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron is the burial place of three biblical couplesAbraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah.

The second holiest site in Judaism (after the Western Wall in Jerusalem), it is also sacred to the other two Abrahamic faiths, Christianity and Islam.

It was the patriarch Abraham who bought the property when his wife Sarah died, around 2000 years before Christ was born. Genesis 23 tells how Abraham, then living nearby at Mamre, bought the land containing the Cave of Machpelah to use as a burial place. He paid Ephron the Hittite the full market price — 400 shekels of silver.

Today the site is the dominant feature of central Hebron, thanks to the fortress-like wall Herod the Great built around it in the same style of ashlar masonry that he used for the Temple Mount enclosure in Jerusalem.

Tombs of the Patriarchs

Cenotaph of Abraham in Tombs of the Patriarchs (Eric Stoltz)

Herod left the interior open to the sky. The ruins of a Byzantine church built inside the wall around 570 were converted by Muslims into a mosque in the 7th century, rebuilt as a church by the Crusaders in the 12th century, then reconverted into a mosque by the sultan Saladin later in the same century.

Most of the enclosure is now roofed. Inside, six cenotaphs covered with decorated tapestries represent the tombs of the patriarchs. The actual burial places of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah are in the cave beneath, to which access is not permitted.

 

Scene of God’s covenant with Abraham

Set in the Judean Mountains about 30 kilometres south of Jerusalem, Hebron stands 930 metres above sea level, making it the highest city in Israel and Palestine. It is also the largest city in the West Bank, with a population in 2007 of around 165,000 Palestinians and several hundred Jewish settlers, and is known for its glassware and pottery.

Tombs of the Patriarchs

City of Hebron, with Tombs of the Patriarchs at left (Marcin Monko)

It was near Hebron that God made a covenant with Abraham, that he would be “the ancestor of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17:4).

Abraham had pitched his tent “by the oaks of Mamre” (Genesis 13:18), 3 kilometres north of Hebron, at a site now in the possession of a small community of Russian Orthodox monks and nuns.

Here Abraham offered hospitality to three strangers, who told him his wife Sarah — then aged 90 — would have a son (Genesis 18:10-14).

When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, about 700 years after Abraham, the men he sent to spy out the land of Canaan returned from the Hebron area with a cluster of grapes so heavy that two men carried it on a pole between them — an image that is now the logo of the Israel Ministry of Tourism.

Later, King David ruled Judah from Hebron for seven and a half years before moving his capital to Jerusalem.

Emulating Abraham’s hospitality, early Muslim rulers of Hebron provided free bread and lentils each day to pilgrims and the poor.

Complex is in three sections

Tombs of the Patriarchs

Herod’s stonework on Tombs of the Patriarchs (Seetheholyland.net)

Herod’s mighty wall around the Tombs of the Patriarchs avoids the appearance of heaviness by clever visual deceptions. Each course of stone blocks is set back about 1.5 centimetres on the one below it, and the upper margin is wider than the others.

The corners of the edifice — called Haram al-Khalil (Shrine of the Friend [of God]) in Arabic — are oriented to the four points of the compass.

Inside, amid a confusing mix of minarets, domes, arches, columns and corridors of various styles and periods, the complex is divided into three main sections, each with the cenotaphs of a patriarch and his wife.

The main entrance, to the Muslim area, is up a long flight of steps beside the northwest Herodian wall, then east through the Djaouliyeh mosque (added outside the wall in the 14th century) and right to enter the enclosure.

Straight ahead, in the centre of the complex, are octagonal rooms containing the cenotaph of Sarah and, further on, the cenotaph of Abraham. Each of these domed monuments has a richly embroidered cover, light green for Sarah and darker green for Abraham.

Tombs of the Patriarchs

Cenotaphs of Rebekah and Isaac (Seetheholyland.net)

In a corner just past Abraham’s room, a shrine displays a stone said to bear a footprint left by Adam as he left the Garden of Eden.

A wide door between these two cenotaphs leads to the Great Mosque, containing the cenotaphs of Isaac (on the right) and Rebekah. The vaulted ceiling, supporting pillars, capitals and upper stained-glass windows are from the Crusader church.

Ahead, on the southeastern wall, a marble-and-mosaic mihrab (prayer niche) faces Mecca. Beside it on the right is an exquisitely carved minbar (pulpit) of walnut wood. It was made (without nails) in 1091 for a mosque in Ashkelon and brought to Hebron a century later by Saladin after he burned that city.

Next to the pulpit, a stone canopy covers the sealed entrance to steps descending to the burial Cave of Machpelah.

Directly across the room, another canopy stands over a decorative grate covering a narrow shaft to the cave. Written prayers may be dropped down the shaft.

Tombs of the Patriarchs

Minbar (pulpit) in Great Mosque in Tombs of the Patriarchs (Seetheholyland.net)

Entry to the Jewish area is via an external square building on the southwestern wall. This building houses a Muslim cenotaph of Joseph, one of Jacob’s sons (though Jews and Christians believe he was buried near Nablus).

Inside are synagogues and the cenotaphs of Jacob and Leah, each in an octagonal room. (Jacob’s beloved second wife, Rachel, is remembered at the Tomb of Rachel, on the Jerusalem-Hebron road north of Bethlehem).

Site and city are divided

Friction between Jews and Muslims at Hebron dates back to a 1929 riot in which Arab Muslims sacked the Jewish quarter and massacred 67 of its community.

More recently, in 1994 a Jewish settler entered the Tombs of the Patriarchs during dawn prayers and shot 29 Muslim worshippers (the mihrab still bears bullet marks).

Since then, Jews and Muslims have been restricted to their own areas of this divided site, except that each faith has 10 special days a year on which its members may enter all parts of the building. Pilgrims and tourists may enter both areas.

Tombs of the Patriarchs

Israeli soldier guarding Jewish synagogue in Tombs of the Patriarchs (Seetheholyland.net)

The city of Hebron is also divided into two zones. The larger part is governed by the Palestinian Authority. The remainder, including the town centre and market area, is occupied by Jewish settlers and under Israeli military control.

 

In Scripture

Abram settles by the oaks of Mamre at Hebron: Genesis 13:18

God makes a covenant with Abram and changes his name: Genesis 17:3-5

Three strangers pay a visit to Abraham: Genesis 18:1-16

Abraham haggles with God over the future of Sodom: Genesis 18:17-33

Sarah dies and Abraham buys the Cave of Machpelah: Genesis 23:1-20

Abraham dies and is buried with Sarah: Genesis 25:7-10

Joshua attacks Hebron and kills its inhabitants: Joshua 10:36-37

David is anointed king over Judah at Hebron: 2 Samuel 2:1-4, 11

 

Administered by: Islamic Waqf Foundation

Tel.: 972-2-222 8213/51

Open: Usually 7.30-11.30am, 1-2.30pm, 3.30-5pm; Muslim area closed on Fridays, Jewish area closed on Saturdays. Passport checks apply and it is wise to check the security situation before visiting (the Christian Information Centre in Jerusalem suggests telephoning 02-2227992).

 

References

Beitzel, Barry J.: Biblica, The Bible Atlas: A Social and Historical Journey Through the Lands of the Bible (Global Book Publishing, 2007)
Brownrigg, Ronald: Come, See the Place: A Pilgrim Guide to the Holy Land (Hodder and Stoughton, 1985)
Chadwick, Jeffrey R.: “Discovering Hebron: the City of the Patriarchs Slowly Yields Its Secrets”, Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2005
Dyer, Charles H., and Hatteberg, Gregory A.: The New Christian Traveler’s Guide to the Holy Land (Moody, 2006)
Eber, Shirley, and O’Sullivan, Kevin: Israel and the Occupied Territories: The Rough Guide (Harrap-Columbus, 1989)
Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P.: The Holy Land: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Israel, Jordan and the Sinai (Continuum Publishing, 1996)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Inman, Nick, and McDonald, Ferdie (eds): Jerusalem & the Holy Land (Eyewitness Travel Guide, Dorling Kindersley, 2007)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Prag, Kay: Israel & the Palestinian Territories: Blue Guide (A. & C. Black, 2002)
Shahin, Mariam, and Azar, George: Palestine: A guide (Chastleton Travel, 2005)

 

External links

Hebron (BiblePlaces)
Hebron (VisitPalestine)
Tombs of the Patriarchs, Hebron (Sacred Destinations)

Tomb of King David

Jerusalem

 

One of the holiest sites for Jews is the building on Mount Zion known as the Tomb of King David — the celebrated Old Testament warrior king of Israel who is traditionally credited with composing many of the Psalms.

King David's Tomb after extensive renovations were completed in 2014 (Seetheholyland.net)

King David’s Tomb after extensive renovations were completed in 2013 (Seetheholyland.net)

The Old Testament clearly indicates that David was buried somewhere else. However, the site — directly underneath the Cenacle, where Christians commemorate the Last Supper — remains a place of pilgrimage for Jews, Muslims and Christians.

David’s death at the end of his 40-year reign is recorded in 1 Kings 2:10: “Then David slept with his ancestors and was buried in the city of David.”

Archaeologists have shown that the City of David, also called Zion (or Sion), was the low spur south of the Temple Mount and east of the present Mount Zion.

This area, also known as Ophel, is now known to have been the original Jerusalem — making it much older than what is now called the Old City.

But excavations here since the 1800s have failed to identify the royal tomb. (Another tradition places the burial of David in Bethlehem, but excavations have not revealed the tomb there either.)

 

Temple Mount moved across the valley

Tomb of King David

Statue of King David outside the Tomb of King David (Seetheholyland.net)

How did the confusion over David’s burial place arise? There are two likely reasons.

• First, perhaps at the time Solomon built his Temple, the Temple Mount came to be called Mount Zion. In the first century AD, following the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, the name was transferred to its present location across the Tyropoeon Valley.

Until excavations in the 19th century, archaeologists believed that the city of David was on this hill too.

• In the 10th century a belief that David’s tomb was on the present Mount Zion began to develop among Christian pilgrims, who celebrated David’s memory along with that of St James, the first bishop of Jerusalem.

It was actually the Christian Crusaders who built the present Tomb of David with its large stone cenotaph. However, three of the walls of the room where the cenotaph stands are much older — apparently from a synagogue-church used by first-century Judaeo-Christians, which became known as the Church of the Apostles.

Gradually this memorial came to be accepted as David’s tomb, first by the Jews and later also by Muslims.

Sarcophagus is empty

Tomb of King David

Torah case in niche over Tomb of King David (Picturesfree.org)

Entry to the Tomb of David is through a courtyard which is part of a former Franciscan monastery that was closed in 1551.

The complex has three simple rooms, all without furniture except for wooden benches.

The entrance hall is used as a synagogue. There is a Christian tradition that this is where Christ washed his disciples’ feet during the Last Supper.

The massive cenotaph stands in front of a niche blackened by pilgrims’ candles. Over it is draped a velvet cloth with embroidered stars of David and inscriptions from the Jewish Scriptures. On it are scrolls of the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) in ornate cases.

The cenotaph is an empty sarcophagus. In 1859 an Italian engineer, Ermete Pierotti, investigated the tomb and reported that underneath was a small, shallow and empty cave.

 

Special significance until 1967

The Tomb of David was of special significance to Jews between 1948, when the state of Israel was founded, and 1967.

During this period the Old City was under Jordanian control and there was no access to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. Since Mount Zion was in Israeli control, Jews would come to the Tomb of David to pray.

 

In Scripture:

King David’s last words: 2 Samuel 23:1-7

King David’s death: 1 Kings 2:10

King David’s reign: 1 Chronicles 29:26-30

 

Administered by: Israel Ministry of Religious Services

Tel.: 972-2-5388605

Open: 8am-sunset (closes on Fridays at 2pm Apr-Sep and 1pm Oct-Mar). Men and women are separated. Men should cover their heads (kippahs are provided).

 

 

 

References

Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Inman, Nick, and McDonald, Ferdie (eds): Jerusalem & the Holy Land (Eyewitness Travel Guide, Dorling Kindersley, 2007)
Mackowski, Richard M.: Jerusalem: City of Jesus (William B. Eerdmans, 1980)
Poni, Shachar: “Renovating Royal Tomb” (The Jewish Voice, February 5, 2010)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

External links

King David’s Traditional Tomb (CenturyOne Foundation)
King David’s Tomb (Mount Zion foundation)
Church of the Apostles found on Mt Zion (Century One Foundation)

Mount of Olives

Jerusalem

Mount of Olives

Church of St Mary Magdalene (left) and Church of Dominus Flevit on Mount of Olives (Seetheholyland.net)

The Mount of Olives, one of three hills on a long ridge to the east of Jerusalem, is the location of many biblical events. Rising to more than 800 metres, it offers an unrivalled vista of the Old City and its environs.

The hill, also called Mount Olivet, takes its name from the fact that it was once covered with olive trees.

In the Old Testament, King David fled over the Mount of Olives to escape when his son Absalom rebelled (2 Samuel 15:30).

After King Solomon turned away from God, he built pagan temples there for the gods of his foreign wives (1 Kings 11:7-8).

Ezekiel had a vision of “the glory of the Lord” ascending from the city and stopping on the Mount of Olives (Ezekiel 11:23).

Zechariah prophesied that in the final victory of the forces of good over the forces of evil, the Lord of hosts would “stand on the Mount of Olives” and the mount would be “split in two from east to west” (Zechariah 14:3-4).

 

Jesus knew it well

In the New Testament, Jesus often travelled over the Mount of Olives on the 40-minute walk from the Temple to Bethany. He also went there to pray or to rest.

He went down the mount on his triumphal entry to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, on the way weeping over the city’s future destruction (Luke 19:29-44).

In a major address to his disciples on the mount, he foretold his Second Coming (Matthew 24:27-31).

He prayed there with his disciples the night before he was arrested (Matthew 26:30-56). And he ascended into heaven from there (Acts 1:1-12).

 

A place for pilgrims to sleep

Mount of Olives

Jewish cemetery on Mount of Olives (Seetheholyland.net)

Until the destruction of the Temple, the Mount of Olives was a place where many Jews would sleep out, under the olive trees, during times of pilgrimage.

During the Siege of Jerusalem which led to the destruction of the city in AD 70, Roman soldiers from the 10th Legion camped on the mount.

In Jewish tradition, the Messiah will descend the Mount of Olives on Judgement Day and enter Jerusalem through the Golden Gate (the blocked-up double gate in the centre of the eastern wall of the Temple Mount, also known as the Gate of Mercy, or the Beautiful Gate).

For this reason, Jews have always sought to be buried on the slopes of the mount. The area serves as one of Jerusalem’s main cemeteries, with an estimated 150,000 graves.

Among them is a complex of catacombs called the Tombs of the Prophets. It is said to contain the graves of the prophets Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, who lived in the 6th and 5th centuries BC, but the style of tombs belongs to a later time.

From Byzantine times the mount became a place of church-building. By the 6th century it had 24 churches, surrounded by monasteries containing large numbers of monks and nuns.

 

Several major pilgrimage sites

Mount of Olives

Church of All Nations on Mount of Olives (© Tom Callinan / Seetheholyland.net)

The Mount of Olives is the location of several major sites for pilgrims. They include:

• Church of All Nations (Basilica of the Agony): A sombre church at Gethsemane, built over the rock on which Jesus is believed to have prayed in agony the night before he was crucified.

• Church of St Mary Magdalene: A Russian Orthodox church whose seven gilded onion domes, each topped by a tall cross, make it one of Jerusalem’s most picturesque sights.

• Church of Dominus Flevit: A church in the shape of a teardrop, commemorating the Gospel incident in which Jesus wept over the future fate of Jerusalem.

• Church of Pater Noster: Recalling Christ’s teaching of the Lord’s Prayer, this church features translations of the prayer in 140 languages, inscribed on colourful ceramic plaques.

• Dome of the Ascension: A small shrine, now a mosque marking the place where Jesus is believed to have ascended to heaven.

The garden and grotto of Gethsemane: The ancient olive grove identified as the place where Jesus went to pray the night before he was crucified, and the cave where his disciples are believed to have slept.

• Tomb of Mary: A dimly-lit, below-ground church where a Christian tradition says the Mother of Jesus was buried.

Related sites:

Church of All Nations

Church of St Mary Magdalene

Church of Dominus Flevit

Church of Pater Noster

Church of the Ascension

Dome of the Ascension

Gethsemane

Tomb of Mary

 

In Scripture:

King David flees over the Mount of Olives: 2 Samuel 15:30

King Solomon builds pagan temples: 1 Kings 11:7-8

“Glory of the Lord” stops on Mount of Olives: Ezekiel 11:23

Splitting of mount prophesied: Zechariah 14:3-4

Jesus enters Jerusalem: Luke 19:29-44

Jesus foretells his Second Coming: Matthew 24:27-31

Jesus prays before his arrest: Matthew 26:30-56

Jesus ascends into heaven: Acts 1:1-12

 

 

References

Bar-Am, Aviva: Beyond the Walls: Churches of Jerusalem (Ahva Press, 1998)
Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P.: The Holy Land: A Pilgrim’s Guide to Israel, Jordan and the Sinai (Continuum Publishing, 1996)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Mackowski, Richard M.: Jerusalem: City of Jesus (William B. Eerdmans, 1980)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Walker, Peter: In the Steps of Jesus (Zondervan, 2006)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

External links

Mount of Olives (BiblePlaces)
Mount of Olives (Studium Biblicum Franciscanum)

Jerusalem

Israel

Jerusalem

Jerusalem at sunset from Mount of Olives (© Israel Ministry of Tourism)

Jerusalem is revered as a holy city by half the human race.

For Jews it is the city King David made the capital of his kingdom, and where the Temple stood, containing the Ark of the Covenant. For Christians, it is where Christ died, was buried and rose again, and the birthplace of the Church. The Jewish and Christian Bibles mention Jerusalem several hundred times.

For Muslims it is al-Quds (“the Holy”) because they believe Muhammad ascended to heaven from the Temple Mount during his Night Journey.

Set on the Judaean mountains of central Israel, the Old City of Jerusalem is surrounded on three sides by steep valleys: The Hinnom on the south and west, the Kidron on the east. Its history lies in layers metres deep.

Its iconic symbol, the golden-roofed Dome of the Rock, stands on the Temple Mount, also identified as Mount Moriah, where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac.

For modern pilgrims, this city of three faiths exerts a powerful pull, resonating with the Jewish Passover aspiration: “Next year in Jerusalem.”

 

Heritage of three faiths

Jerusalem

Market in the Old City (Seetheholyland.net)

The bustling modern city of Jerusalem, also faced with cream-toned limestone, has spread to the west and north of the Old City.

Modern Jerusalem is not a large city by international standards (its population in 2007 was 747,000, of whom 35,400 lived in the Old City). In the time of Christ its population was between 20,000 and 50,000.

It is a city with an intriguing blend of sights, sounds and smells, especially in the Arab markets of the Old City. The past and present continually rub shoulders. Church bells peal, muezzins call Muslims to prayer, and friars, rabbis and imams hasten by.

Reminders of the heritage of three faiths are never far away — Jerusalem has 1200 synagogues, more than 150 churches (representing 17 denominations) and more than 70 mosques.

The Israel Museum presents collections of arts and archaeology, including the Shrine of the Book containing Dead Sea Scrolls and an outdoor scale model of Jerusalem in AD 66. Exhibits in the Tower of David Museum depict 4000 years of history. The Yad Vashem complex documents the story of the victims of the Holocaust.

 

Old City has four quarters

At Jerusalem’s heart is the Old City, girded by a wall and divided into four “quarters” — named after the dominant ethnic or religious identity of its residents.

Its area is less than a square kilometre, about two-thirds the city’s size in the time of Christ. “Perched on its eternal hills, white and domed and solid, massed together and hooped with high gray walls, the venerable city gleamed in the sun. So small!” wrote Mark Twain in 1869, when settlements outside the walls had just begun to displace shepherds from the Judaean hills.

The Muslim Quarter, largest and most populous of the four, includes the Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. Other sites in the quarter include the Pools of Bethesda and part of the Via Dolorosa.

Jerusalem

Church of the Holy Sepulchre above roofs of the Old City (Seetheholyland.net)

The Christian Quarter contains the rest of the Via Dolorosa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which enshrines the sites of Christ’s death, burial and Resurrection. Headquarters of several Christian denominations are among the 40 religious buildings in the quarter.

The Jewish Quarter adjoins the Western Wall, the sole remnant of the Second Temple plaza, which is Judaism’s holiest place. This quarter is more modern, with sophisticated shopping plazas. Archaeological remains are on display in museums and parks.

The Armenian Quarter provides a reminder that Armenia was the first country to make Christianity the state religion (in 301). It contains the Armenian Orthodox Cathedral of St James and a museum in memory of the 1915-23 Armenian Holocaust.

 

Mount of Olives and Mount Zion

Outside the Old City, to the east is the Mount of Olives, where venerable olive trees still grow in the garden of Gethsemane, the scene of Jesus’ agony the night before he died.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue (Arielhorowitz / he.wikipedia)

The teardrop Church of Dominus Flevit commemorates the Gospel incident in which Jesus wept over Jerusalem’s future fate.

The Church of Pater Noster recalls his teaching of the Lord’s Prayer. The Dome of the Ascension, now a mosque, marks the place where he is believed to have ascended to heaven.

Southwest of the Old City is Mount Zion, the highest point in ancient Jerusalem.

Here is found the Cenacle, believed to be on the site of the Upper Room of the Last Supper. This is also regarded as the site of the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the Council of Jerusalem, where early Church leaders met around AD 50.

The Church of St Peter in Gallicantu marks Jesus’ appearance before the high priest Caiaphas, and the Church of the Dormition commemorates the “falling asleep” of the Virgin Mary.

 

Conquered many times

Jerusalem

Dining out in modern Jerusalem (Seetheholyland.net)

The earliest reference to Jerusalem suggests that its name means “the foundation of [the Syrian god] Shalem”. A more common interpretation is “city of peace”, but peace has remained an elusive goal for most of the city’s history.

Down through the centuries, Jerusalem has been besieged, conquered and destroyed many times. Early settlers called Jebusites lived there around the Gihon Spring when David conquered it around 1000 BC and made it the capital of his kingdom.

During Old Testament times the conquerors included Babylonians (who destroyed the First Temple and exiled Jews to Babylon), Persians, Greeks, Syrians and Romans (who in AD 70 destroyed the Second Temple).

Since the Christian era began, Jerusalem has been ruled by the Roman Empire (first from Rome, then from Byzantium, now Istanbul), Persians, Arab Muslims, Crusaders, Muslims again, Egyptian Mamelukes, Ottoman Turks and, from 1917 to 1948, the British.

After the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, Jerusalem was partitioned between Jordan and the new state of Israel. The Israelis gained control of the predominantly Arab East Jerusalem and Old City during the 1967 Six Day War, but the status of Jerusalem remains a key issue in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

In Scripture:

Abraham prepares to sacrifice Isaac: Genesis 22:1-18

David makes Jerusalem his capital: 2 Samuel 5:4-10

Song of praise and prayer for Jerusalem: Psalm 122

Solomon builds the Temple: 1 Kings 5-6

Jesus enters Jerusalem: Matthew 21:1-11

Jesus is crucified, buried and rises again: Matthew 27:66—28:10; Mark 15:47—16:8; Luke 23:26—24:12; John 19:16—20:10

The coming of the Holy Spirit: Acts 2:1-4

The first Church Council at Jerusalem: Acts 15:1-29

The new Jerusalem: Revelation 21:1-4


References

Bowker, John: The Complete Bible Handbook (Dorling Kindersley, 1998)
Brisco, Thomas: Holman Bible Atlas (Broadman and Holman, 1998)
Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Inman, Nick, and McDonald, Ferdie (eds): Jerusalem & the Holy Land (Eyewitness Travel Guide, Dorling Kindersley, 2007)
McCormick, James R.: Jerusalem and the Holy Land (Rhodes & Eaton, 1997)
Mackowski, Richard M.: Jerusalem: City of Jesus (William B. Eerdmans, 1980)
Martin, James: A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Westminster Press, 1978)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)
Metzger, Bruce M., and Coogan, Michael D.: The Oxford Companion to the Bible (Oxford University Press, 1993)
Walker, Peter: In the Steps of Jesus (Zondervan, 2006)
Wareham, Norman, and Gill, Jill: Every Pilgrim’s Guide to the Holy Land (Canterbury Press, 1996)

 

External links

The Jerusalem Insider’s Guide
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