Tisha b’Av

Yesterday evening marked Tisha b’Av, the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, which commemorates the destruction of the Temple built by King Solomon and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The Babylonians razed Jerusalem and exiled the Jews from their land. But Babylon fell to the Persians shortly thereafter and Cyrus, the Persian king gave permission to the Jews to return and rebuild the Temple. So a remnant of the Jewish people came back to Jerusalem from the Babylonian exile 50 years later and built the Second Temple, a much more modest structure. A young person living in Jerusalem could have seen the splendor of the First Temple, lived through the Babylonian exile and seen the Second Temple.

Almost 500 years later, King Herod built four stone supporting walls around the Temple Mount and filled the area with earth and a series of arches to expand the quadrilateral platform (about 250 meters on each side); the longest supporting wall is 488 meters long. Herod rebuilt the temple, a magnificent structure, decorated with gold and marble that stood 50 meters high. Even the Rabbis who were not great fans of Herod record that “whoever has not seen Herod’s Temple has not seen a beautiful building in his life” (Baba Batra 4a). Herod built a main street with a drainage channel underneath that runs along the length of the western wall and at the southern end a staircase that begins parallel to the street and crosses over the street (like a highway interchange) that led to the Royal basilica; today the remains of the vault that supported the staircase is known as Robinson’s Arch. The same street continues south all the way to the Siloam Pool. The Romans destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem on the 9th of Av in 70CE.

The supporting walls of the Temple Mount are standing to this day and you can walk on the 2000 year old Herodian street and see the large ashlar stones with their signature frames in a pile from when the Romans pushed them off the top of the wall. I sat on the paving stones of the street yesterday evening to read Eicha (the book of Lamentations) and remember the destruction and our return.

Yesterday the Israel Antiquities Authority announced two new finds in a press release.

During the course of work the Israel Antiquities Authority carried out in Jerusalem’s ancient drainage channel, which begins in the Siloam Pool and runs from the City of David to the archaeological garden (near the Western Wall), impressive finds were recently discovered that breathe new life into the story of the destruction of the Second Temple. …

A 2,000 year old iron sword, still in its leather scabbard, was discovered in work the Israel Antiquities Authority is doing in the channel, which served as a hiding refuge for the residents of Jerusalem from the Romans at the time of the Second Temple’s destruction. In addition, parts of the belt that carried the sword were found.

Roman sword made of iron used by soldier stationed in Jerusalem in 66CE. Photo by Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority.

According to the excavation directors Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, “It seems that the sword belonged to an infantryman of the Roman garrison stationed in Israel at the outbreak of the Great Revolt against the Romans in 66 CE. The sword’s fine state of preservation is surprising: not only its length (c. 60 cm), but also the preservation of the leather scabbard (a material that generally disintegrates quickly over time) and some of its decoration”.

A stone object adorned with a rare engraving of a menorah was found in the soil beneath the street, on the side of the drainage channel.

Stone inscribed with five-branched menorah. Photo by Vladirim Naykhin.

According to Shukron and Professor Reich, “Interestingly, even though we are dealing with a depiction of the seven-branched candelabrum, only five branches appear here. The portrayal of the menorah’s base is extremely important because it clarifies what the base of the original menorah looked like, which was apparently tripod shaped”. The fact that the stone object was found at the closest proximity to the Temple Mount to date is also important. The researchers suppose a passerby who saw the menorah with his own eyes and was amazed by its beauty incised his impressions on a stone and afterwards tossed his scrawling to the side of the road, without imagining that his creation would be found 2,000 years later.

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2 thoughts on “Tisha b’Av

  1. Pingback: Tisha b’Av – History of Recent Archaeological Finds by Shmuel Browns | IsraelSeen.com

  2. Pingback: Site Map | Israel Tours | Israel Tour Guide

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