Mount of Olives panorama

Mount of Olives panorama
A panoramic view of the Mount of Olives

Monday, May 15, 2017

Last Day: Israel Museum, Hebrew University, and a Possible Emmaus

One of my last views of the Temple Mount and Old City from my final morning run
I started my last day in Jerusalem with what has become my traditional run, though I pushed it all the way up to the BYU Jerusalem Center, where I could take some final pictures and say goodbye to some of the security staff.

Israel Museum

One of the reasons for our trip extension was for my research and class prep for this fall's ANES 310, History and Culture of Ancient Israel. Although I have been through the Israel Museum several times before, Rachel and I went through the archaeological wing very slowly and carefully this morning, taking notes and pictures of important artifacts (not posted here).

When we came out, we went up to the plaza of the Shrine of the Book for iconic pictures between the black monolith representing the Sons of Darkness and the white roof that looks like a Dead Sea Scroll jar.

The view of the Israeli Knesset, or Parliament, over the roof of the Israel Museum

Mount Scopus Campus of the Hebrew University

We spent much of the afternoon with Amanda Brown, an ANES alumna and a member of the Jerusalem Branch, who gave us a tour of the main campus of Hebrew University. Established on Mount Scopus in 1918, its founders included Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud. After the 1948 war, Mount Scopus was cut off from the rest of Israel, and a new campus was established in West Jerusalem. After 1967, the old campus on Mount Scopus was renewed and expanded and now seats most of the Humanities and Liberal Arts programs.

The Hebrew University outdoors "amphitheater" overlooks the Judean Wilderness to the east
I have been on the campus a few times before, but Amanda's tour was pretty thorough. It also was useful since, among other things, Rachel is considering doing a Masters degree here after she graduates from BYU with her major in ANES-Greek New Testament and her minor in Modern Hebrew.

The campus includes a wonderful biblical garden in which is found an archaeological site that I have been meaning to see for years, Nicanor's Tomb. This tomb complex was apparently started by "Nicanor the Door Maker," who may have donated the doors to the temple. It is interesting to me because it provides another example of what the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, where Jesus was buried, might have looked like.

Menachem Ussishkin, an early Zionist, secured the site of Nicanor's Tomb and envisioned that it would be a "national pantheon" for the graves of leading Israeli figures, but only he and Leon Pinsker were buried there.

On our way out of town, Rachel and I stopped at two sites in the current Arab town of Abu Ghosh on the way to Tel Aviv, which is one of the possible sites of Emmaus, on the road to which two disciples encountered the Risen Lord.

The first was the Church of the Resurrection.

The other site we stopped to see before heading to the airport and our flight home was Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant. After the Ark of the Covenant was regained from the Philistines, it went to Bet Shemesh and then to here, Qiryat Ye'arim, until David took it to Jerusalem. The Byzantines built a church here, destroyed first by the Persians and later by the mad Fatimid caliph Hakkim. When a French order started rebuilding it, they found the 5C mosaic. Just as the ark held God's word, so Mary held the Incarnate Word, first in her womb and then in her arms.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Day of Old Testament Sites in the South

This fall I will be teaching ANES 310, History and Culture of Ancient Israel, for the first time. While I am in good control of the Second Temple and Early Christian Periods and have plenty of material for them, I am working gathering more material for the earlier periods. Much of this is being done in the museums here in Jerusalem, but today Rachel and I took a trip to the Shephelah and Negev to visit a few key sites.

Although it is a bit dated now, I took my trusty copy of Jerome Murphy-O'Connor's The Holy Land: An Archaeological Guide.


Tel Lakhish
Lakhish (Hebrew, לכיש; KJV, "Lachish") was an important site in the southern Kingdom of Judah. Throughout most of the kingdom's history, it was the second most important fortress and city after Jerusalem itself. It was one of a string of fortified points in the Shephelah, or low-rolling hills, that controlled the valleys leading up into the Judean highlands.

It was taken first by the Assyrians and then the Babylonians after lengthy and difficult sieges. The Assyrian siege of 701 B.C. is well-depicted by the Lachish Reliefs, which I am taking my study abroad students to see in the British Museum next month. The Babylonian siege is documented by the Lachish Letters, that the local commanders tried to write to Jerusalem.

Details of the Assyrian siege from the Lachish Reliefs

The rich fields below the tel witness why this area was important anciently
Rachel in the gate near where the Lachish Letters were found

Rachel by the well

The ancient sacred area

Be`er Sheba

A replica of the horned altar (original in the Israel Museum). It was destroyed in the reforms of Hezekiah.

Be'er Sheva, or the "Well of Seven" was where Abraham dug a well, Isaac saw the Lord, and Jacob lived. Most of these ruins are from the 8C B.C., right before the Assyrians destroyed the town.

Rachel by the well of Be`er Sheva, which some think was the one dug by Abraham and Isaac.
Chamber gate
Palace or governor's residence

Water system
It was a hot day!

Lunch break!

Don't judge us. Sometimes after a couple weeks in the middle east, one just needs to go to McDonald's. We ate there; we didn't take advantage of the "McDrive."


Arad (Hebrew, תל ערד) was very large Canaanite settlement in the Bronze Age. Then it lay empty for 1500 years. During the Iron Age, it was the site of a Judahite fortress that served as an administrative and religious center.

The Canaanite city was very extensive
Rachel by the Arad cistern, which lay at the center of a large, natural catchment basin---all the water during the rainy season in the city drained into it
It was deep!
I'm standing in front of the double Bronze Age sanctuary
The Canaanite walls are strengthened by semi-circular towers
The Judahite fortress on the highest part of the site boasted an Israelite temple. This sanctuary boasted an outer court with a stone and earth altar, a wide holy place with benches for offerings, and a Holy of Holies with incense stands and a standing stone. It functioned until the reforms of Hezekiah, when the stone and incense altars were buried on their sides, and the entire altar of burnt offerings and the sanctuary were covered with earth.

Rachel in the wide holy place

Here she is standing by the entrance to the Holy of Holies, which is flanked by incense stands

Ending the Day on Ben Yehuda Street in West Jerusalem