Tag Archives: synagogue

Hurva Synagogue views

The Hurva was the main Ashkenazi synagogue of the Old City and stood as a landmark for almost 100 years until it was blown up by the Jordanian Legion after they had captured the Jewish quarter on May 27, 1948. It took until 2005 to decide to rebuild the synagogue which was completed in March 2010. I visited it shortly afterwards on a Shabbat morning for services. Make sure to go down into the basement (by the washrooms) to see the discovery of a mikveh (ritual bath) from the Second Temple period and an east-west Byzantine street. The second time I joined a weekday tour of the synagogue but we weren’t allowed into the main sanctuary. The guide was only able to show us the inside of the synagogue from the women’s balcony but we were allowed to go up to the roof. The Hurva synagogue is the only site that I am not permitted to bring people (therefore I skip the Hurva and tell its fascinating story outside) – that privilege goes to local guides that work for the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and you have to reserve a place in advance.

One of the highlights was the view of Jerusalem from the balcony around the dome. Here are 5 photos (shooting clockwise) taken from the height of the dome: 1) looking towards the Christian quarter, domes and bell tower of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, bell tower of German Church of Redeemer and dome of Alexander Nyevsky Church, 2) view over the Jewish and Muslim quarters with Mount Scopus in the background, 3) Dome of the Rock, Mormon University and Augusta Victoria, 4) dome of Al Aqsa Mosque and Jewish cemetery on Mount of Olives 5) view towards Armon HaNatziv, Mount Zion, Dormition Abbey, Armenian quarter.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mosaics at Inn of Good Samaritan

On the main highway <1> between Jerusalem and Jericho is a site identified with the Inn of the Good Samaritan (mentioned in the parable in Luke 10:25-37). Remains from the first century BCE to the first century CE were found throughout the area. Abundant finds from this period include pottery, clay lamps, glass vessels, metal implements and numerous coins attesting to intensive activity that befits an inn for Jewish and then Christian pilgrims and travelers making their way between Galilee and Jerusalem.

Byzantine artifacts

In the Ottoman period, a rectangular structure was built over the southern wall of the Crusader fortress. This building underwent numerous alterations and was restored after being damaged during WWI. It served as a roadside inn guarding the Jerusalem-Jericho road from attacks by brigands as it had for centuries.

Since the parable of the good Samaritan includes men of three faiths, the newly opened museum has chosen to display the mosaic floors and other artifacts found in churches and Jewish and Samaritan synagogues in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. It is fascinating to see the similarities and differences among the images displayed in mosaic.

Mosaic Khirbet Huriya

The art of mosaic began in the Greek world around the 4th C BCE and reached Israel during the Hellenistic period. It continued to develop and by the end of the Second Temple and Roman periods simple, plain and geometric mosaics became more ornate, complex with representations of flora and fauna, people, instruments, religious symbols. It became the chief means of paving public buildings, private homes, bath houses, churches and synagogues.

Mosaic floor

Places Nearby

Take the cutoff to Maale Adumim to visit the Martyrius monastery (there is a combined entrance ticket; note you need to phone in advance), the largest in the Judean desert. Inside the complex the main church was paved with colorful mosaics in geometric patterns interspersed with pictures of animals; the refectory floor, discovered intact, is covered with mosaics in geometrical designs and the kitchen was also paved with mosaics.

On the opposite side of the road along Wadi Qelt visit one of Herod’s fortresses, named after his mother, Cypros. There are 2 bath houses with remains of mosaic floors.

If you are planning a trip down to the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi don’t forget to take a few minutes to check out the mosaic floor in the synagogue (your entrance ticket to the nature reserve is good for the antiquities park). The synagogue has a detailed 18 line inscription in Hebrew and Aramaic including the 12 signs of the zodiac (indicated by their names but not depicted graphically as in most other synagogues of the same period, eg. Tiberia, Bet Alfa, Tzippori). The central hall has 4 birds within a medallion, peacocks grasping a bunch of grapes, a menora and geometric patterns.

Tour of Herodium and Herod’s Tomb

herodium mountain top palace fortress panorama

Panoramic view looking down into Herod’s palace-fortress

A guided tour of an archaeological site like Herodium can be a unique birthday present for a friend or family member. It was a hot and sunny day but there was a cool breeze on the mountaintop and you could understand one reason why Herod would have chosen this site.

When I guide Herodium I often start in the Old City to show people the remains of the buildings at the Wohl museum and the stones of the walls and streets from the Herodion period along the western wall below Robinson’s Arch. Also, the Herodion stones forming the base of the tower at the Roman Gate are impressive. Seeing examples of Herod’s architecture help people know what to look for when we get to Herodium.

Last summer, I participated for a few days in the latest excavations that Ehud Netzer is leading on the eastern side of the mountain, excavating the tomb area. We were working on the pool and besides many pottery shards we found some catapult stones (size of snowballs, not to be confused with the larger ones rolled down from the walls by the Jewish rebels) and some coins from the Great Revolt.

Excavations are continuing and they’ve excavated a much larger area now. More of the base of the mausoleum is now exposed. Additional stone architectural details of a very high quality can be seen. These are not of the local soft limestone but a more royal stone, called meleke, that would have been quarried some distance away and brought here. Netzer thinks that the base supported a nefesh or monument, cylindrical in shape, something like Yad Avshalom in the Kidron Valley.

Tomb area at HerodiumThe latest findings are changing our understanding of Herodium. For example, it seems that the earth that was piled up around the mountain palace/fortress is not from the time of Herod but later. Originally, there was a glacis, a sloping wall, that circumvented the mountain.

Glacis at Herodium

Also, the archaeological evidence suggests that the staircase that is described by Josephus “and provided an easy ascent by two hundred steps of the purest white marble” was built later, that originally there was a “snake path” like at Masada. Archaeologists are left with some interesting unanswered questions: When was it done, why and by whom?

I’ve uploaded additional photographs of Herodium to Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/27944012@N06/sets/72157615671440473/

Map of Mahane Yehuda Market

You can tell a lot about a city by whether it has an outdoor market and Jerusalem has a great market. In 1982 for a book called “Israel Sprouts: A Vegetarian Guidebook (to Israel)” I drew a map of Mahane Yehuda to help people find their way around. I scanned that map and added a lot of new information so that it better reflects Mahane Yehuda today – it’s not just a fruit and vegetable market with shops selling dried goods. It has gentrified and there are restaurants and cafes, designer clothes shops, health food stores, artisan bakeries, shops that sell imported cheeses, fine wines, chocolates, halva.

In the 5 years that the map has been on my website, it has been viewed more than 6,000 times. The map is © Shmuel Browns, you are free to use it for personal, non-commercial use as long as you do not modify it. If you have corrections or suggestions please contact me by email.

To help organize the information I’ve separated the information into 3 maps and color coded them, one for restaurants, one for gifts and one for food shopping. To get your FREE copy of the latest maps I’d appreciate it if you would subscribe by entering your email address in the right hand column under FOLLOW BLOG – then just send an email to mahane.yehuda.map at gmail dot com. With these maps in hand you’re ready to head out to explore the shuk on your own or contact me for an insider’s guided tour of Mahane Yehuda. Have fun exploring the shuq.

Some ideas about things to do with the help of this map:

  1. Mid-morning and you went out without breakfast – check out the health food stores on Agrippas Street, buy some fresh fruit, like pineapple, star fruit, kiwis, mangos; try a bureka, a filo pastry with cheese and/or spinach.
  2. Want organic? There is organic produce and products at TevaNet on Agrippas and an organic restaurant on #1 Agas Street, note that Agas is called Banai at Mahane Yehuda Street.
  3. Picnic? Head for one of the stores like Basher or Zedkiyahu and pick up an assortment of cheeses & salads. Get artisan breads at Teller. Wine? Fruit for desert. Walk down Agrippas Street (west, away from town) to the park, Gan Sacher.
  4. Snack – felafel (in our family, the favorite is the brothers Levi on the corner of Mahane Yehuda and Agrippas Street). For hummus try Rachmo, Agas 1 or Azura.
  5. Feel like eating something else – Ichikadana is a vegetarian Indian restaurant on HaEshkol Street, Topolino is a cozy, Italian restaurant, both are family run.
  6. Looking for a present for loved ones back home – check out handicrafts at Roza, pottery at Pri HaAdama, Moroccan crafts at Rika.