City of David and Hezekiah's Tunnel
The first site we visited was, to be honest, a bit controversial. It is a very important archaeological site representing the earliest settlement area, both Canaanite and Israelite, in the Jerusalem area. But today's City of David also lies in what was formerly part of the Arab neighborhood of Silwan.
While today's City of David is outside the current Old City's walls, which are Turkish dating to A.D. 1538 and follow the course of the earlier Hadrianic Roman walls of c. A.D. 135 (but not the more extensive Byzantine walls of Jerusalem's Christian three centuries), it was always the heart of Jewish Jerusalem.
The earlier Canaanite city and the City of David itself were situated on a narrow "thumb" of land extending south from Mount Moriah, later known as the Temple Mount. It had steep valleys on the other three sides---the Central Valley on the west, the Hinnom Valley on the south, and the Qidron Valley on the east. The Qidron Valley continues northward, separating the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives on the east. Interestingly, the City of David and the slightly higher Mount Moriah to its north are NOT the highest of the hills of Jerusalem. The Western Hill (appearing here labeled as "Hezekiah's Extension" and "Mount Zion") and the Mount of Olives to the east are much higher. But the reason that the City of David was chosen for settlement first is because it is the only hill with a good, constant supply of water in the form of the Gihon Spring.
|Davidic-era ruins built on bedrock
There are a lot of interesting First Temple period excavations to look at in this park, though some of them, like the important stone retaining wall of Area G, were not readily viewable because of renovation projects going on in the park. Also, given our friends' interest and our rather tight time schedule, we hurried on to the probably the most interesting part of the City of David, which is Hezekiah's Tunnel.
|East side of the City of David with the "stepped structure," which might have held up Davidic buildings
So we doffed our shoes for water socks or sandals, unzipped our gators (turning field pants into shorts) or rolled up our pants, and plunged into the tunnel and its waters. We then slogged through 533 meters of the winding tunnel with only one flashlight and our a couple of headlamps. It was fun.
The water has, at least since the Byzantine period, emptied into a small-ish pool that recounts the events of John 9, when Jesus healed the man born blind. However, fairly recent excavations have uncovered a much larger pool from the Second Temple Period that better fits the description.
This archaeological tunnel can be taken up to the Davidson Archaeological Park at the base of the Temple Mount, but we exited it a bit early to see the new Givati excavations, which some think may be the remains of the palaces of the Queen of Adiabene.
Mount Zion, the Citadel Museum, and the Church of Alexander Nefsky
After returning to Mount Zion to visit Dormition Abbey (the chapel, unfortunately, was closed), we hurried to the Citadel Museum at Jaffa Gate.
the Citadel, though it is also called the Tower of David. I had taken Elaine here back on October 10, but one of the advantages of living in an area so long and revisiting some of the sites is that one notices things that he or she missed the first time. Going to that link will provide more background of the Citadel, and it also has several video clips that Elaine and I filmed then, including a video tour of Jerusalem from the Phasael Tower.
When the Romans destroyed the city in A.D. 70, they left these three towers standing, together with a section of the western wall, both to serve as a reminder of the strong city that they had taken but also to serve as the legionary camp of the Tenth Legion that they posted amidst the ruins.
|Looking down into the middle of the Citadel
Climbing to the top of the tallest tower, which still bears the name of Herod's brother Phasael, affords great views of Jerusalem, both the Old City to the south, east, and north and modern Israeli West Jerusalem to the west.
We then took a break for lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, The Armenian Tavern.
After lunch, we visited two more churches in the Old City.
|My only pictures of the altar of St. Mark's
|Group pic in "the house down"
|A copy of the church's most sacred icon, traditionally held to have been painted by St. Luke
|Many pass the unobtrusive entrance to Alexander Nevsky
These remains included the triumphal gateway into the Temple of Venus complex built in A.D. 135 by the emperor Hadrian when he re-built Jerusalem as a Roman city. It is believed that the Venus temple was built here to coopt the holy site of the Christians, namely where they had been commemorating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Nearby are the remnants of the earlier Herodian Wall, giving evidence for where the course of the wall was in the time of Jesus. In this wall are the remnants of a city gate, called The Gate of Judgment and believed to be the one through which Jesus passed on his way to Jerusalem. Just to the side of the gateway is a narrow slot that some have tried to argue is the "Eye of the Needle" to which Jesus referred in the Synoptic story of the Rich Young Man. While this might be possible, see this link for a philological and historical discussion of the expression. All of these remnants support the traditional claim of the Holy Sepulchre to be the site at least of the crucifixion, and the original church complex built by Constantine extended at least this far.
|The iconostasis of Alexander Nevsky
Hanging above the sanctuary of Alexander Nevsky is a beautiful series of passion paintings executed by by Russian artist Nikolay Koshelev. If you like the work of Danish Carl Bloch, you will love these paintings, even if my pictures of them are not the best. I only got shots of a handful of the some-18 paintings that illustrate the story from Gethsemane to Resurrection.
|One of the arched gates of Hadrian's Temple of Venus
|Some maintain that the slot to the left of the Gate of Judgment is the "Eye of the Needle"
|The threshold over which Jesus may have passed on his way to Gologotha
Final Sites: The Hidden Gate and the Herodian Family Tomb
Below are pictures of sections of the wall south of the citadel and north of Mount Zion, called "The Builders of Jerusalem Garden." Fascinating, though few tourists ever go here. You need to walk on foot from Jaffa Gate . . ..
As we exited the Citadel, we looked at the different periods of fortifications represented in the stretch of walls that extended to the south. The walls themselves, of course, date back to the Turkish 1538 construction, but there are some foundations and lower courses visible from the Hasmonean, Herodian, and Byzantine periods. It was the Herodian remains that interested me most, because they date to the time of Jesus.
Archaeologist Shimon Gibson, however, maintains in his The Final Days of Jesus: The Archaeological Evidence that the trial would not have been held inside the palace but rather outside, in front of crowds, making this a very important possible location.
|In this drawing, note the steps leading out of the barracks area . . . this is where Jesus would have been presented to the waiting crowds.
Interestingly, the Herodian Family Tomb lies directly across the western valley and can be seen when standing in this gateway area. In other words, Herod may have seen himself and his family living in their palace across the valley from the tomb where deceased members of the family were interred (though Herod himself was buried in his massive Herodion southeast of Bethlehem).
|The top the tomb complex is a bit of light rock n the center of the picture, divided by a pine tree in front of it
|Closer view of the tomb complex as seen from the west gate of Herod's palace
A Final Dinner with Friends
Paul and I ended our Holy Land visit by having dinner with two of my friends, Shon and Jen Hopkins, at the roof restaurant of the Notre Dame of Jerusalem. It had great food and stunning views!