Category Archives: Jerusalem

Jerusalem Park: Lifta

This week we went to Lifta, a ghost town that was an Arab village on the side of a steep hill at the western entrance to Jerusalem. The site has been populated since ancient times because of a natural spring located there. In the Bible, the village is mentioned as Nephtoah (נפתח), on the border between the Israelite tribes of Judah and Benjamin.

Lifta

In the last official land and population survey In 1945 Lifta’s population was 2,250, all Arabs, and the total land area was 8,743 dunams. The farmers of Lifta marketed their produce in Jerusalem’s markets. The population was driven out/fled during the Arab-Jewish hostilities of 1947/48 during the efforts by the Haganah to relieve the siege of Jerusalem. Today 55 of the original (more than 400) stone houses are still standing but the village has never been repopulated.

 

Lifta 2

Lifta is on the edge of the newly developed Jerusalem Park, made up of 4 parks, a greenbelt that extends over some 1,500 hectares (3700 acres), surrounding Jerusalem to the north, west, and south. This is a great place for visitors and Jerusalem residents to explore, with walking trails and bicycle paths. The map shows one of the 4 parks, Emeq HaArazim park, just below Lifta.

The plan is to maintain existing woods and forests including ancient cedar, arazim for which the park is named, and olive groves and to restore and plant orchards and indigenous broad-leafed tree species.

Anemones at Lifta

Further inside the park at Einot Telem, the ancient terrace agriculture typical of the area with its irrigation system will be recreated at the site of a small Jewish settlement – Bet Talma. The land (60 acres, 23 hectares) was purchased in 1906 and a two-story building intended for a soap and oil factory was planned (but not completed). In 1922 five Jewish families settled at Einot Telem, naming their settlement Emek HaArazim (the Valley of the Cedars). The site was abandoned during the 1929 Arab Riots and further settlement attempts were unsuccessful.

Emperor Hadrian returns to Jerusalem

The Roman emperor Publius Aelius Hadrianus returns to Jerusalem after almost 2000 years as the Israel Museum brings together for the first time the only three bronze images of Hadrian that have been found. These portraits are in the Rollockenfrisur style, popular in the Roman provinces and characterized by nine curls which evenly frame the face and are rolled to the left.

Hadrianx3 photo by Eli Posner

Hadrian in bronze, photo by Eli Posner

The head on the left is from the Louvre, provenance unknown. The second head on loan from the British museum was found in 1834 in the River Thames below a bridge. The third on the right is from the Israel museum collection, actually a head and torso found at Tel Shalem, the camp of the Sixth Roman legion in the Bet Shean valley. Also check out the 6 fragments of a three-line inscription in Latin  (11 meters wide) also found at Tel Shalem on display in the Archaeology wing, presumably part of a monumental triumphal arch commemorating the suppression of the Bar Kochba Revolt.

Hadrian Torso

Approximately 160 portraits of Hadrian have survived, mostly in marble and you can find images on the Internet or see a good selection of them (73) at the Following Hadrian site.

So having met Hadrian, what can we understand about the man?
According to some “with his abundant energy, keen intellect, and wide-ranging interests, Hadrian is considered one of the Roman Empire’s more enlightened rulers.” When Jewish sources mention Hadrian it is always with the epitaph “may his bones be crushed” (שחיק עצמות or שחיק טמיא, the Aramaic equivalent), an expression never used even about Vespasian or Titus who destroyed the Second Temple.

There is a difference of opinion among scholars about the cause of the Bar Kochba Revolt and the exhibit leaves the debate undecided. Hadrian visited Jerusalem in 130 CE and found the city in need of rebuilding from its destruction in the Roman Jewish War (66-73 CE). One narrative suggests that at first Hadrian was sympathetic to the Jews and set out to rebuild the city and even the Jewish Temple. It is not clear whether building a foreign, Roman city with a pagan temple to Jupiter on the Temple Mount, the holiest site to Judaism, was the cause of the Bar Kochba Revolt or whether the Revolt pushed Hadrian to obliterate Jerusalem, in place and name, and build Aelia Capitolina.

Hadrian built temples to various Roman gods, a temple to Venus at the traditional site of Jesus’ burial, the holiest site to Christianity. He built a temple to the Hellenistic god Zeus Hypsistos on Mount Gerizim, the site holy to the Samaritans.

Whatever your politics, the exhibit reverberated for me as a commentary on contemporary Israel and the Palestinians.

Hadrian’s built a wall to protect empire Israel built a security/separation wall
Keys of Jews who fled their homes to desert , never to return Keys taken by Arab refugees who fled their homes in 1948
Jews revolt against Roman authority Arab intifada against Israeli authority
Bar Kochba writes that Jews of Tekoa who don’t follow his directives will have their homes destroyed Destruction of homes of Arab terrorists
Although a military man Hadrian actually withdrew from territory for peace Israel should withdraw from territories for peace

So once you have met Hadrian at the museum, in the flesh so to speak, what sites are there associated with Hadrian? As your guide, I can take you to these sites and explain the connection:

  • Roman gate under Damascus gate, Bab el Amud
  • Roman square with column and statue of emperor
  • Cardo and secondary cardo from Aelia Capitolina
  • aesclepion expanded into a large temple to Asclepius and Serapis
  • Ecce Homo arch, actually Roman gate to forum
  • Two vaults over Struthion pool to lay street
  • Lithostratus, Roman street
  • Holy Sepulcher site, Roman temple to Venus built by Hadrian
  • LEGIO X FRETENSIS stone outside Jaffa gate
  • quarry in Ir David excavated by Weill that was used for stones to build Aelia Capitolina
  • Caesarea, city and port rebuilt by Hadrian; second aqueduct from Taninim spring
  • Temple on Mount Gerizim

Photo of the Week – Nahal Soreq

Early this morning we drove out of Jerusalem past Ein Karem and Sataf and followed the Soreq valley, the historical route of the train that joined Jaffa to Jerusalem. Suddenly the gauge on the car signaled that the temperature outside was 4ºC. As we looked to the right the valley was filled with mist. We pulled off the highway, parked and climbed the hill to get some elevation and take photographs.

DSC_0106

DSC_0108DSC_0163Then we descended into the valley and mist and got some nice closeups using a macro lens.

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Couldn’t find any spiders but saw their gossamer webs left behind.

DSC_0132

We did a nice hike in Nahal Katlav, from the derelict Bar Giora/Dayr-al-Shaykh train station, and I figured that the time was right to find crocus pushing up through the earth and we did.

Jerusalem under Snow

Some tourists may be surprised to have woken up this morning to Jerusalem covered in a blanket of snow and unprepared for the colder temperatures of a Jerusalem winter. A local guide can ensure that you are prepared, keep warm and find places to go no matter what the weather. This morning was bright and sunny so I went for a walk in the neighborhood and took these photographs, a different view of the city.Hursha in snowWe live in the German Colony and nearby is the old leper hospital built in 1887 by renowned architect Conrad Schick.

Jesus Hilfe leper hospital

Trees in woods

Tree

Strange to have snow fall after the almond trees have blossomed. In our garden, the peach, apricot and apple tree were blossoming when the snow fell. The fields were covered with yellow mustard flowers and red anemone before they were covered by snow.

Silver shekel coins

The silver shekel and half shekel are significant coins for both Jews and Christians as they are mentioned in the Bible. The Hebrew word shekel refers to weight (a shekel is 11 grams or .35 troy ounces) or currency, in fact, it has the same root as the Hebrew to weigh, שקל. In practice, the weight fluctuated between 9 and 17 grams depending on the issuing government, location and time period.

Tyrian shekel

Obverse: Melkart/BaalHerakles. Reverse: Eagle on a ship’s rudder, Greek inscription “Tyre the Holy and Inviolable”

Although independent during the Hasmonean period (from 167 BCE), the Jews had no silver coins of their own and from circa 126 BCE – 66 CE relied on coins issued by the Phoenician city of Tyre. These coins, produced in large quantities, became the standard silver coinage in the areas of Phoenicia and Judaea, replacing the coins of Alexander the Great. The obverse features the representation of Melkart (Baal), the chief diety of the Phoenicians. The reverse shows an Egyptian-style eagle with its right claw resting on a ship’s rudder (referring to Tyre’s port), a club (Melkart is associated with Hercules), the Greek inscription “Tyre the Holy and Inviolable” and a date. The number on the coin is a Greek letter that is added to 126 BCE, Tyre’s independence from Syria, to give the date.

All  Judaean taxes were specified in shekels, for example, the annual Temple Tax for males over 20 was a half shekel. The Jewish leadership decided that the Tyrian coins were plentiful and of good silver quality, and so they prescribed that the various Judaean taxes would be accepted only in Tyrian coins even though the images on the coins went against the prohibitions of the Second Commandment: “You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image or any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on earth below, or in the waters under the earth.

In the New Testament there is the story of how Jesus and Peter paid the Temple Tax (of a ½ shekel) using a shekel coin. “Go thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money. That take, and give unto them for me and thee” (Matthew 17:27). When “Jesus went into the temple of God, and … overthrew the tables of the moneychangers” (Matthew 21:12), he was angry with those who exchanged the local currency for silver Tyrian shekels at exorbitant rates. When Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane to the soldiers “they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver” (Matthew 26:15).

The mint in Tyre produced Tyrian Shekels and half shekels, of 95% silver purity, between the years 127 BCE and 19 BCE when Rome closed the mint in Tyre (this according to scholar and numismatic expert Yaakov Meshorer). Rome began to import an inferior silver coinage from the Far East consisting of 80% pure silver – because of this the coins did not have enough silver to make them a half shekel (of weight) so they were not useable to fulfill the commandment.

The Rabbis appealed to the Emperor for permission to produce a ceremonial coin of sufficient purity to fulfil their religious obligations. They received special dispensation on condition that they continue with the motif of the Tyrian Shekel, so as not to arouse objections within the Roman Empire that the Jews were granted “autonomy” to mint their own coins. These coins were inscribed with the letters KP to the right of the eagle, are dated 18 BCE – 66 CE and were minted in Jerusalem.

Coin issued by Jewish rebels in 68 CE Obverse: Chalice “Shekel, Israel. Year 3”. Reverse: 3 pomegranates “Jerusalem the Holy”

With the beginning of the First Revolt against Rome in 66 CE, the Jews began to mint their own silver coins for the first time to demonstrate sovereignty over their own country. These coins had Jewish symbols, chalice that was the measure of the omer and three pomegranate buds (one of 7 species) and Paleo-Hebrew text, struck over the Tyrian shekels from the Temple. With the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE the minting of these coins was discontinued.

Coin issued by Jewish rebels in 135 CE, text in Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. Obverse: Star over facade of Temple showing Ark of Covenant “Shimon”. Reverse: Lulav/palm branch and etrog “For freedom of Jerusalem”

During the Bar Kokhba revolt against Rome (132-135 CE), the last Jewish coin series in antiquity was issued. On the obverse, the name Shimon in Paleo-Hebrew, the first name of Shimon Ben Kosiba, the leader of the revolt; the star above the image of the Temple refers to the name given to him by Rabbi Akiva, Bar Kochba, son of a star. The silver coins were overstruck on the Roman provincial tetradrachms (mainly from Antioch).

Since 1980, the shekel has been the currency of the modern state of Israel, first the Israeli shekel which due to high inflation in the 1980s was devalued at a ratio of 1000:1 to become in 1986 a New Israeli Shekel ($1=3.5₪) in use to this day.

Related articles

Guiding in the Snow

Thursday it started snowing in Jerusalem and I went for a run on a trail behind the Jerusalem Biblical zoo. Took these two photos that I’ve entitled “Green and red in the Snow”.

Pine in snow Red leaves in snow

Friday it snowed most of the day and I guided a group of university students from California in the Old City. Most of the sites in the city were closed. This is a photograph I took from Yemin Moshe of Mount Zion on my way to meet the group at Jaffa gate.

Mount Zion in Snow

Today we returned to the Old City in the morning hoping to visit the Haram el-Sharif but it was closed. Instead we were able to do a tour of the Western Wall Tunnels. Afterwards although the White Fathers compound was closed we did find four churches on our way to the rooftop view at the Austrian Hospice, only to find it closed too.

Then off to Bethlehem in the afternoon. Even with all the snow we had a great couple of days.

Pepperdine University students

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Like this guide. Having grown up in Canada I know snow.

This inscription can be found on the front of the James Farley Post Office in Manhattan, NYC at 8th Avenue and 33rd Street. The inscription was chosen by William Mitchell Kendall of the firm of McKim, Mead & White, the architects who designed the building in 1912. The sentence appears in the works of Herodotus (in Greek) and describes the expedition of the Greeks against the Persians under Cyrus, about 500 BCE. The Persians operated a system of mounted postal couriers, and the sentence describes the fidelity with which their work was done.

The Central Post Office on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem is a Mandatory style building built between 1934 and 1938 to the design of the main architect of the public works department of the British Mandate, Austen St. Barbe Harrison and government architect Percy Harold Winter. Harrison also designed the Rockefeller Museum and the British High Commissioner’s residence in Armon HaNatziv.

I have photos of Jerusalem in the snow from last January here.

Israel Roundup

Israel Antiquities Authority Archives Digitized

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) is working on publishing a database of their archives, many of whose documents are suffering from disintegration because of poor paper quality and poor storage facilities in the past. The documents include 19th century letters on excavations at the City of David, plans for the restoration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre after the earthquake of 1927, and the extensive archives of the Rockefeller Museum. Most of the documents are in English (they will receive Hebrew annotation). http://iaa-archives.org.il/

Sifting Excavated Material from Temple Mount

I took clients, a father and 2 children, to the Temple Mount Sifting Project in Emek Tsurim, just below Mount Scopus and everyone really enjoyed it. For those not familiar with the project, it is under the direction of Prof. Gaby Barkai and since 2005 has been working on the massive amount of material (400 truck loads) that was removed from the Temple Mount illegally, after the unsupervised excavation of the entrance to the underground Marwani mosque, in the area of Solomon’s stables. The material was rescued from where it was dumped in the Kidron Valley. It is being steadily sorted and sifted by staff with the help of visitors. You start with an interesting presentation on the history of the Temple Mount, through the Israelite, Second Temple, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic and Crusader periods, followed by hands-on wet-sifting of buckets of raw material for artifacts which you sort into six categories: pottery, worked stone, metal, bone, glass and mosaic tesserae.

Excavations by Institute of Galilean Archaeology

An American-Israeli archeological team unearthed remains of the Jewish village of Sichin at the northern edge of the Tzippori National Park. The town was mentioned by Jewish historian, Josephus, as one of the first Jewish communities in the Galilee during the Second Temple period and later, in the time of the Talmud, as a village of Jewish potters near Tzippori. The excavations revealed the first evidence of the existence of a magnificent synagogue.

Dr. Mordehai Aviam from the Institute for Galilean Archeology, Kinneret College, said:

“It was a great surprise for us, the excavators, to discover seven stone molds for preparing decorated clay oil lamps. One of the lamp fragments manufactured at the site is decorated with a menorah (candelabra) with lulav (ceremonial palm fronds) next to it. According to the clay vessels finds, it seems that the settlement was abandoned in the fourth century CE, apparently after the earthquake which occurred in 363, or possibly as a result of the Gallus revolt which took place in 351, which was centered at Tzippori. The excavations will continue for the coming years, and will try to unearth the synagogue, manufacturing equipment and residential buildings.”

In other news, a joint Israeli-Japanese team uncovered, in the ruins of a Second Temple period Jewish farm-house being excavated in the Nahal Tabor nature reserve, a Canaanite cultic standing stone (like ones at Hazor or Gezer) in secondary usage as part of a door frame. The Canaanite temple, where this object would have originally stood, has not yet been found.

Nimrod Fortress

A second stone, with part of a relief of a lion, symbol of Mamluk Sultan Baybars was uncovered at Nimrod by the Parks Authority (INPA). This relief is approximately 1.1 meters long, 0.7 meters high and 0.6 meters wide (25% larger than the first lion discovered 15 years ago in an excavation by Hartal), with some parts of the lion still intact and visible, though lacking its head, mane and front legs.

Nimrod Lion 2

Photo: INPA

Baybar's Lion, Nimrod Fortress

First Station, at Jerusalem’s original railway station built in 1892, terminus of the Jaffa-Jerusalem Railway, is advertised as the meeting place of food and culture. What we can say is it’s bopping.

FirstStation

One starting point is the visitors center where you can get information, book a Segway or electric bicycle tour and buy souvenirs. There is a Re:bar, frozen yoghurt and shakes, a Vaniglia ice cream, kiosk selling draught beer and snacks and a market building with cheese, produce, wine, pizza, chocolates, etc. There are 4 restaurants, 2 kosher and 2 not, an interesting balance of religion and marketing. The Miznon and Fresh are dairy kosher cafe restaurants; Landwers café and Adom restaurant and wine bar, not kosher, open Shabbat. Events this month include an Eco Sukkah competition and Seventy Faces photography exhibit, part of the Jerusalem Biennale. Check it out. For complete listing see http://www.firststation.co.il/en/