Sunday, June 21, 2015

Jerusalem: In Search of the Maccabees

Jerusalem: In Search of the Maccabees
By Jacqueline Schaalje
As is well known, the Jewish holiday of Chanukah is based on historic events. From the year 180 BCE until 161 BCE the Maccabees rebelled against the Syrian king Antiochus IV who persecuted the Jews. At the end of the period, after the rebels had conquered Judah and Jerusalem, the Temple was re-inaugurated.
Generations-long struggles against the Syrian hegemony followed, at the end of which emerged the first Israeli kings, the Hasmonean dynasty (2nd to 1stCentury BCE). They were the descendants of the Maccabees.
The Hasmoneans were special kings. They were unique not only because they are the first kings of Israel whose historicity is undoubted, but also because they combined three functions: that of secular, military and religious leadership. This made the Hasmoneans, in a way, holy kings. In no other period of Israeli history did this combination of the different spheres in one function recur.
It would be nice if the Maccabees and the Hasmonean kings would have left any archaeological remains. But they are mostly disappointing. Although throughout Israel traces are found of the Hasmonean kings, who built palaces and strongholds and extended Jerusalem, a great deal lie buried under later buildings. The winter palace of the Hasmonean kings has been dug up in Jericho. This had swimming pools and ritual baths (mikves). In Jerusalem and the area around the Temple, where the story of Chanukah takes place, only a few things have been laid bare.
The history of the Maccabean rebellion cannot be verified at all by archaeology, but is related in the Books Maccabees I and II. These books do not form part of the Bible, but they belong to a number of texts which are called apocryphal books.
As far as the archaeology of the Maccabeans goes, there are a few remains on the Eastern hill of Jerusalem (the city of David), where the shrunken population had retreated after the destruction of the city by the Babylonians. The Maccabeans seem to have built a new city wall. Antiochus IV destroyed Maccabean Jerusalem during the rebellion. The rest eroded. To keep the rebels in check Antiochus built the Acra, a huge citadel, in Jerusalem, which housed Greek troops (I Makk. 1:29-33, II Makk. 5:24-6). The Acra must have been near to the Temple, but its location has not been found. The Akra was in turn subdued again by the Maccabeans in 142 BCE.
wall from Maccabean period
Not a single feature remained of the Temple as it stood in the year 180 BCE when the five Maccabi brothers and their father Matthatias started their protest against the intolerant measures of Antiochus IV. The only description of this temple is of a 250 meter square structure in the Mishnah ("Middoth"), which was written at a much later date.
However, parts of an older wall are visible in the Eastern wall of the temple complex. Visitors taking a stroll on the road leading behind the Temple, will find a breach between older stones on the right and the Herodian stones on the left. In other words, the Herodian stones seem added to an older structure. It is thought that the older stones are from the Hasmonean Temple extension. Some scientists think that the Hasmoneans covered the Syrian Acra with this extension.
After the time of the Hasmoneans, king Herod erected a bigger and more magnificent Temple, of which the Western and Southern walls are still standing. He extended the Southern terrace of the Temple complex, and by doing this structures of the Hasmonean times disappeared under it. Today they must be lying under the El Aqsa Mosque, whose presence obstructs further research of this site.
The Herodian remains still give an indication of what the Temple must have looked like, also in the older periods before it. The digs around the South-West corner are open to visitors from the entrance just inside the Dung Gate to the Ancient city. During the weekend the place is an attraction for Jewish tour groups, armed with maps or Temple models.
Probably broad features of this side of the Temple also existed in the time of the Hasmoneans, for instance that the main entrance to the Temple must have lain on the South. The entrance is indicated by steps, double and triple gates (now closed), and the presence of ritual baths, or mikve, in which visitors to the Temple immersed in order to ritually clean themselves before entering the Temple complex.
The baths consist of a basin similar to modern baths, and an extra pool next to it, with stairs leading down; the mikve. Because the water of the mikve had to be streaming water, coming from a stream or river, often a smaller otzar was added which contained some fresh water. Between the reservoir and the mikve a hole in the wall could lead water from the fresh bath into the mikve. A small amount of fresh water could make the whole amount of water acceptable for ritual purposes.
Mikves are a typical phenomenon from Hasmonean times. They are found in several places in Israel, and also in the Jewish Quarter of the old city of Jerusalem, although the last ones are from a later period. In Hasmonean times the city's habitation moved again to the Western hill, where now lies the old city.
menorah from ancient times
Six houses were uncovered in the Jewish Quarter and accommodated in the Wohl Archaeological Museum (in Hurvah Square). The houses are Herodian, so from after the Hamonean times. However pottery from the Hasmonean period was found under the floor of the largest Herodian mansion. This shows that in the Hasmonean period the site was also inhabited, but these buildings cannot be recovered. Some scientists think that the Hasmonean palace was on the spot.
The houses, more like villas actually, testify to the great wealth of the inhabitants. This is not only evident from the spacious and large number of rooms, but also from the ample amount of baths. Curiously they look exactly like the ritual baths as are seen at the South wall of the Temple: with reservoirs for rain water, next to mikves with running down steps. Because of the baths, many interpreters think that the houses were inhabited by Temple priests.
Other scientists dispute this and propose that richer secular citizens had mikves in their houses. Ritual cleanliness seems indeed to have been important; the households of this period used kitchen utensils from cut stone, because these were non-absorbent and easy to keep clean. In the Wohl museum these are also on display.
Interesting about the baths is further that they were a Greek invention. Hellenistic ideas entered the Near Eastern world since the conquest of Alexander the Great in 332 BCE. After Alexander's death Greek rulers controlled Syria, of which Israel was a province. Antiochus IV was one of the descendants of these Greek rulers.
The Greek influence was gradually absorbed throughout the country. Greek cities were established and inhabited by Greeks. All over the country Greek troops were stationed, and institutions like theatres, baths, gyms (gymnasia) appeared, and also temples dedicated to Greek gods.
Jerusalem was at first left to rule by herself. The Temple's High Priest stood at the head of the Jewish Council, and was entrusted with the task to collect taxes. These were extremely high, and contributed to the growth of an anti-Hellenistic attitude among the Jewish population, who had first been in favour of Hellenistic rule.
Conflicts arose when Jerusalem became prey to measures which made her lose her Jewish exclusiveness. This is also the point in the story of the Maccabean rebellion in which king Antiochus IV tried to rededicate the Temple to worship of Zeus (I Makk. 1:54), and tried to steal money from the Temple (I Macc. 1:20-24). The Temple not only housed money from the Temple but it also served as bank for private customers.
Further Antiochus issued an edict in which Jewish religious practices were forbidden (I Makk.1:41). Several stories about Syrian mismanagement in general are related in both Books of Maccabees. On the other hand they record that a part of the population in Judah was in favour of the new developments: Jewish athletes trained in the newly opened gymnasium in Jeru, naked; but this probably caused a scandal among conservative Jews (II Macc. 4:7-8).
Another scandal was that the function of High Priest, which had only been open to Zadokites, became available upon auction by the Syrian king: the highest bidder would gain the title. The money to pay the Syrian king would come from increased taxes. Members of the pro-Hellenistic families in Jerusalem reached to the office of High Priest several times, because they had the most wealth and power.
The Hellenistic faction in Judah became progressively more wealthy with time, while peasants, lower priests and small craftsmen did not share in the goodies. This meant that Judah had to get rid of the Syrian kings, and install their own rulers.
All these frictions in the society of Judah together formed the background of the Maccabean rebellion, which is often interpreted as being a protest of the Jews against the Hellenistic domination. Although Greek influences were on the one hand enthusiastically embraced in Judah, the population also sought to be independent from the Greeks and their favourites.
When the Hasmonean kings finally succeeded in ousting the Greek rulers in Israel, religious tolerance was re-installed. The territory of the country was extended, to the Mediterranean coast and in the South until the Red Sea, where the harbour enabled international trade.
Because of increasing trade and prosperity the population grew fast. It is estimated that the population of Jerusalem grew from around 5500 till 300.000 during the Hasmonean period. In Jerusalem the growth is evident from extensions of the city.
Parts of the new and wider Hasmonean wall can still be admired in the Jewish Quarter of the old city. Three parts of the wall are found in the Cardo. In the observation points it is seen that the Hasmonean wall interacted with the older Israelite walls and towers, and made use of the older structures.
A piece of the Hasmonean Northern wall lies a little bit more North of the Cardo (inside a small museum at the end of Halahot Street). Its position shows that by the end of the 1st Century BCE the size of Jerusalem was more modest than the current old city.
Next to nothing is known about how the common inhabitants lived in Hasmonean times, but a number of people were very rich. This shows from the villa-like residences in the Jewish Quarter but also from graves found in the surrounding hills.
In all of the remains a strong Greek influence is evident. A typical trait from the Hasmonean era is that the ample decorations do not make use of figurative images. It is not known for sure why this stricture existed: maybe it was caused by a literal interpretation of the second Mosaic law not to worship images. Or it could be a reaction against the Hellenistic love of nude statues, and statues of Greek gods, which were unacceptable for conservative Jews.
The decorations are of palm leaf, pomegranate or star, etc. Specific Jewish images, like menorah, were also avoided. These became in vogue again during and after the last Hasmonean king, Matthatias (40-37 BCE).
It looks as if the Hasmonean kings purposely reckoned with the Greek as well as the Jewish inhabitants of Israel. For instance, they issued two types of coins: one sort in Hebrew and the religious title of the king (as High Priest), the other bore the name of the king in Greek and his secular title.

From the archaeology of the time, it becomes clear that Greek as well as Jewish influences were important. This shows an interesting light on the Chanukah story, which is after all a story about the Jewish protest against Hellenistic power in Judah. The Maccabees and their descendants lived during the Greek culture, as was the rest of the antique world, but they did not become Greeks.

The Tabernacle and the Temple, Mystically Speaking
By Avi Lazerson
After the Jewish people came out of Egypt and wandered in the desert for forty years, G-d commanded them to build a dwelling place for the Divine Presence. This building was a temporary structure that was dismantled and re-assembled at each of the many camps while the Jews tarried in the desert. Its construction consisted of wooden walls with a ceiling over the Holy of Holies made of various animal skins. The flooring was the ground on which it resided. The Tabernacle (or Mishkan, in Hebrew) lasted close to a thousand years, from the time of leaving Egypt, through the time of Joshua's conquering the land, and the various prophets until the time of King Solomon, who built the first Temple.
The Temple, both the first and second were made of stone. It did not include any animal products, i.e. skins, or wood, save for the roof support which was concealed by plaster. In fact, it was forbidden to build the Temple with wood, these concealed heavy wooden beams which were necessary for the support of the roof were the only wood used in the Temple.
Although it is common to say that the requirements of construction were simply a matter of convenience, it would be simplistic of us to believe that this is the only reason. We know that besides the simple meanings and explanations of everything that appears in the Torah, there are deeper meanings and explanations. Also in the case of the construction of the Tabernacle and the Temple, deeper meanings are known.
According to our mystical traditions, we know that the world is divided into four levels: Inanimate, plant, animal and man. The level of inanimate is considered to be the lowest, for it neither moves nor grows. The next level above this is plant, while plant life does grow it also possess limited movement. Animal life is even loftier, besides growth, it has almost unlimited movement and a limited ability to communicate. Man, being the crown of creation, has both growth and unlimited movement, plus the ability to communicate sophisticated ideas.
Although the rock is considered to be the lowest level and man the highest level, still we must realize that there are aspects in the lower level that the higher levels do not possess. We see also that in addition to the above mentioned aspects that the lower level "feeds" into the higher. The inanimate requires no support from the higher levels, yet it gives freely from itself to the higher levels. Plant life dissolves the rock and assimilates it into itself transforming it into plant. The plant also serves the level above it which can not exist from rock, by becoming food for the animal level. In this manner, even the rock which has been utilized by becoming plant is digested by the animal and assimilated in its body. Man, who can not eat all plants, is able to eat these animals thereby assimilating in his body all of the lower levels.
The mystics relate this to the different expressions in the Torah, sometimes the Torah writes "heavens and earth" and other times it reverses the order, "earth and heavens." Now we know that nothing is ever with out a reason in the Torah, after all the Torah is the divine wisdom of G-d as revealed to man on earth. What is the reason that the heaven sometimes precedes the earth and other times it follows it?
The reason is this: When a person creates something, prior to its physical creation, it must be preceded by thought and consideration. As an example, when a man desires to build a house he must first have the desire to build it. After this initial desire, he must think about the house in its plans and features. Next he must hire architects, engineers, who will make plans and contractors who will take these plans and build the house. After the house is constructed he will then move in.
Before actual construction, the man must get various permits from the various city authorities to permit him to build the house. He must show them plans and they must be approved. As the house is being constructed land must be moved and dug, various elements such as foundations, and piping lines must be laid even before the actual building can transpire. Finally the building is built and the inside decorated to the man's taste. At the end, the man will finally move in to the house.
As we analyze these steps, we see that the desired goal of the man was only realized in the last step. Although this last step - the completion of the house, was actually the first desire, it was the last to materialize. In order to reach this goal, the man had to reverse everything and consider what was needed to build the house. In terms of thought, the plans and permits were the first consideration, followed by the hiring of the contractors and the subsequent building; the decoration of the house was left for the end.
The same is true about the heavens and the earth. In terms of creation, the heavens including the upper worlds, were created first. In actual construction, the earth was created last. But if we think in terms of the desired product, the earth with its inhabitants were first in thought, only afterwards the necessity of creating the upper worlds, the heavens became relevant.
The Tabernacle was built with the order of the world in mind. The highest was on top and the lowest on the bottom. The animal skins were the coverings of the roof; the wood served as the walls, while the inanimate stone served as the floor. The Temple, however, was built with a different concept in mind - that of the future revelation in which that aspect of G-dliness that abounds through out the world will reveal itself to man and man will perceive with his eyes the glory of G-d through out all of creation. The inanimate will reveal through itself the powers of G-d.
Now we only perceive the inanimate rock as something to step upon. And so it is, that rock has that aspect of complete nullification to the desires of G-d. It gives and never takes; unlike those levels above it that take and give; rock never takes. G-d also never takes, He only gives.

Soon the Third Temple will be re-built on Mount Moriah, in the heart of Jerusalem by the righteous Messiah. This Temple will never be destroyed, but rather, together with all the advances in modern technology will reveal the greatness of G-d to all mankind and begin a new era of peace and brotherhood.

Tombs in Jerusalem's Valleys
By Jacqueline Schaalje
If the Temple Mount is Heaven, then the valleys around it represent the opposite. The valleys surrounding Jerusalem's Old City have long been associated with Hell and the Last Judgment. According to sources in the Bible and elsewhere, and archaeological finds, the Kidron and Hinnom Valleys were a busy burying ground. Hundreds of graves, mostly from the Second Temple Period and belonging to wealthy Jews, lie scattered here. A number of these have been excavated. Work on this is still continuing.
Kidron Valley
The Kidron Valley, actually a wadi as it consists of a dry river bed, cuts along the Old City on the east and north side. On the east lies the Mount of Olives, which has one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries. On the north, Mount Scopus gently slopes upwards.
The Kidron valley was thought to be the place of the last Judgment due to the combination of quotes by two prophets. The visionary Joel wrote that the final reckoning of God would be in the valley of Jehoshaphat. It was also simply the name of one of the kings of Judah, who was buried in the valley and gave it its name. Zechariah thought that the day of reckoning would take place on the Mount of Olives. People who let themselves be interred there hoped to be the first in line to be received by God's redeeming justice.
In the depth three magnificent structures can be seen. They can be reached by foot from the Mount of Olives.
The first and most famous one is the Tomb of Avshalom. As is usual with almost all of these tombs, it has received a name that is very far removed from the real purpose and history of the monument. The first 'discovery' that it had something to do with Avshalom was by the medieval writer Benjamin of Tudela, who freely interpreted the text in 2 Samuel 18:18: 'Avshalom in his lifetime set up for himself a pillar that is in the King's Valley." Local Arabs also gave the monument a name, 'Pharaoh's Hat', because the top is conical.

Tomb of Absalom
This elegant shrine has nothing to do with Avshalom, the rebellious son of David. It dates from the first century. In David's time Jerusalem only consisted of a small settlement on the ridge south of the Temple Mount, which is known as the City of David. It was also here that the kings of the First Temple Period were buried, so it would be unlikely to find a grave of David's line in the Kidron valley.
So who was buried in the 20 meters high Avshalom's Tomb then? It probably belonged to the adjacent burial cave of Jehosphahat. The memorial or 'nefesh' is cut in the rock up to the roof and has Ionic columns on its four sides. The grave itself is decorated with vine leaves and bunches of grapes and has eight separate burial chambers. According to the custom of the times, the dead would be lain in one of these chambers. Often the bones were later collected and put in a stone chest with lids, or ossuary. These were also found in great abundance in the valleys. The most impressive ones are on display in the archaeological section of the Israel Museum.
The second tomb is the Tomb of Zechariah, again an incorrect name. It probably served as the nefesh of the tomb below it. This is indicated by the Hebrew inscription on the architrave above the two Doric columns on the lower monument on the south side, which says that it belonged to the priestly family of the Bene Hezir. The second structure on the north side is the actual tomb. The Hezirs worked in the Temple. The name also appears in the Bible: "the seventeenth of Hezir (1 Chronicles 24:15)." They continued serving also in the Second Temple, because they are again mentioned among the functionaries (Nehemiah 10:20).
The Doric columns of the Bene Hezir tomb are carved from the rock. The upper tomb of Zechariah is a square structure with Ionic columns and covered with a roof in the form of a pyramid.
There are other tombs in the Kidron valley, but they are less known, partly because they are in the village of Silwan on a separate hill. This was sometimes called the Mount of Offense; once the heathen Temple for Solomon's wives stood on its summit. The Arab village itself is not a popular tourist spot. It is built on a cemetery of the Iron Age. Some of the graves here are very old, and go back to the ninth century BCE. They were dug by Phoenicians. Their graves, in the middle of the rock, were never used. They are just empty holes.
At a later time Jewish Temple officials designed graves for themselves in Silwan. One of these is known as the Tomb of Pharaoh's Daughter, after a thought that it was a temple which Solomon had built for his Egyptian wife (1 Kings 3:1). It is located in the north of the village, and looks like a house without windows. The structure is similar to the Tomb of Zechariah and consists of a rock-hewn cube with a pyramidal roof on it. Again this memorial is very old and dates from the 8th Century BCE. A hermit who inhabited the tomb in medieval times renovated the building and damaged the Hebrew inscription, of which only two letters remain in the upper left corner.
One other tomb in Silwan is very interesting for its inscriptions, which has been brought to the British Museum. One text says that it is the sepulcher of "Yahu who is over the house. There is no silver and no gold here but his bones and the bones of his slave-wife with him. Cursed be the man who will open this." The tomb is identified as belonging to Shebna, one of the diplomats sent by Judean king Hezekia to make peace with the Assyrians in 701 BCE (2 Kings 18:18, Isaiah 36:3, 22:15-25).
Scattered in the village and surroundings are a dozen other tombs. They all belonged to rich Jewish families. Some families were not of Judea, but came from the Diaspora. A splendid example can be found more to the north of the Old City, on the way to Mount Scopus. It is located on the corner of Nablus and Salah ed-Din street. The large complex is known as the Tomb of Queen Helena of Adiabene, but earlier visitors thought the facade looked royal enough to associate the monument with the kings of Judah, which is not correct. The decorations are of grape and acanthus leaves.

Sarcophagus of Queen Helena of Adiabene
The grave belonged to queen Helena of northern Mesopotamia. According to the Jewish historian Josephus (Antiquities 20:17-96 and War 45:253) she and her son were converted to Judaism by Jewish merchants in her homeland. Helena then did a pilgrimage to Jerusalem between 46-48 CE, which she found struck by a famine. The queen set out to gather food as far as Egypt and Cyprus.
After these exploits she decided to stay in Jerusalem, where she built a palace. When her son died, in Mesopotamia where he had gone back to rule, Helena followed him and occupied the throne till her own death in 64-65. Her bones were sent with her son's to Jerusalem and were buried in the three pyramids of her burial monument. The sarcophage of the queen, with the name 'Tseddan' is now in the Louvre. It was the only chest that escaped looting. During the troubles of the Second Jewish War it was hidden in a small chamber. In order to bring it to its hiding place the corners of the chest were knocked off.
The tomb should be visited with a flashlight. The deep-lying courtyard outside the monument was a quarry; cutting the stones left the regular steps. Water ran down the steps and ended in cisterns. Outside and just on the inside the water streamed into basins, which can still be seen, to purify the dead.
The actual entrance lies on the north and is blocked with a large stone. First there is a square antechamber, followed by burial chambers entered through narrow halls. The chambers lie on three sides of the central antechamber. Some chambers on the east side of the labyrinthine complex were never finished or used. The minuscule chamber with Helena's sarcophagus was under the floor of a cavity, just after the first chamber north of the antechamber. A secret stairway hid it.

Tomb of Simon the Temple builder
In the same area, just off Nablus street, the tomb can be found of Simon the Temple Builder. This can be deducted from an Aramaic inscription on one of the ossuaries that were found in the construction. Simon probably assisted in building the Second Temple of king Herod.
Hinnom valley
Other tombs were detected in the Hinnom valley. This sunny valley stretches round the southern and western sides of the Old City. It seems unlikely now, but it was traditionally associated with Hell. It was the location of the 'Tophet' (Burner), where children were sacrificed alive to the god Moloch (2 Kings 23:10). It was also the haunting spot of the demon Azazel (Leviticus 16:10). This creature lives on in the Hebrew saying: "go to Azazel", the equivalent of 'go to hell.'
The connection to Azazel comes from a passage in the writings of the Jewish writer Enoch who describes the damned valley. It was burning with a fire, in which the kings and powerful people were cast. They were put into heavy chains of iron. Enoch then asks for whom the chains are meant. He receives the answer: "These are being prepared for the hosts of Azazel so that they may take them and cast them into the abyss of complete condemnation (1 Enoch: 54:1-5)."
Hinnom is translated into Greek as Gehenna. In the Mishnah this dark place is known as the pit of destruction (Avoth 5:19). The idea that it was hell also comes from the contrast with the Temple Mount: it is the highest point in Jerusalem, while the Hinnom valley is the lowest.
There are two well-preserved Jewish tombs from the time of Herod inside the monastery of St. Onuphrius on the southern slope. The first one has been turned into a chapel. Both have perfectly preserved classical facades decorated with varied geometric designs. The monuments have several burial niches with benches on which the dead were laid out.
A little bit more to the south, near Ramban in Alfasi street, is the tomb of Jason. There is no connection with the Greek hero, but in this case the family of the high priests of the Temple is meant. The second book of Maccabees (5:5-10) tells that Jason's family was banned in 172 BCE by Menelaus, a rival priest. The next king Alexander Jannaeus restored them, and made repairs to the family tomb in order to prepare it for the burial of his grandson, who was also called Jason. This man was a naval commander, which is probably why there is a charcoal drawing of two warships in the courtyard. Also an inscription witnesses that Jason sailed to the coast of Egypt. Inside there are eight niches for graves, behind a small opening on the left. To make room for additional burials the bones were later removed to the charnel space in front. The pyramidal roof over the courtyard is a reconstruction. The building has only one column.

Just south of the King David Hotel is the family tomb of King Herod. It is closed by a large stone. Herod himself was not buried here, but at the site of Herodion. The four chambers of beautifully cut stone were found empty, because they were robbed. That Herod had a family tomb in West-Jerusalem is recorded by Josephus (War).

Archaeology in Israel
By Jacqueline Schaalje
Here lies an archaeologist's dream, but one would pass it without noticing. A little more south of Jaffa Gate is a hole in the city wall round Jerusalem's Old City. A sign above a building shed announces a project of the Jerusalem Foundation and building company, Avner Gilad, from Naharia. In the background, the towers of the Citadel, or Museum The Tower of David. Inside the wall, a dusty trail and an iron staircase lead to the entrance of a 19th century building, what was once the kishle or winter barracks for the Turkish soldiers during the Ottoman rule.
Inside, lamps ensure a good view on the vertiginous dig. In the 150 feet long rectangular building, it looks like an impossible ski slope or a place where it is easy to commit a murder, with some gruesome deep pits. The facades are still standing, and the roof has been left undisturbed. The kishle was later used as prison, by the Turks, British and the Jordanians. On the east side there are barred windows, and on the wall are the prisoners' graffiti in English, Arabic and Hebrew.
Muhammed Hawwa, construction manager, and Jon Seligman, chief archaeologist of the Antiquities Authority (IAA) in Jerusalem, have sure footing over the sandbags along the conveyor belt that carries stones and rubble outside. The nine meter deep digs have taken one year before they were rounded off at the beginning of September.
The digs have a twofold goal; first, building an annex of the museum of the Tower of David, meant for teaching living history to schoolchildren. The second goal was digging up the antiquities. Two floors for the museum are planned, which will come on top of the excavation layers. The lower floor will maybe get a boulevard with a glass floor along the archaeological wonders.
Hawwa, short and stocky, from Acco, says that the builders and machinery were employed before in restorations like that of the Crusader castle in Acco. He himself has also worked there, but he thinks the kishle in Jerusalem is the best of all sites. "This is the project of my life," he beams. Although he possesses by now some archaeological skill, he is primarily interested in the maintenance of the antique walls of the building. That is why the Turkish walls were first lain in concrete protections with steal pins, before the digging began.
On the bottom of the excavations Hawwa shows the eastern wall from the Byzantine period (324-640 CE). It had to be made watertight, as it will become the outer wall of the new museum. In antique times walls were not closed with species, but in the best cases the stones close seamlessly. The Byzantines were less skillful in this than master builder Herod. Hawwa admits that his company does not treat the walls in the cheapest way - the part that we are standing in front of costs already 3000 dollars - but it is preferable to using putty and have winter rain enter in a few years. Wherever possible Hawwa uses authentic materials. He shows a stick which looks like marble, made of pink pottery shards from Herod's time.
Bearded Seligman defines the role of the archaeologist ironically: "We always follow the tractors." Together with a team of builders archaeologists of the IAA have taken on the actual digging. No volunteers this time, because they could fall in a pit. Executor of the project Amit Re'em is in Turkey during the interview so that is why boss Seligman is filling in.
It so happens that the kishle occupies a famous location, where once the palace of Herod stood. From the writings of historian Josephus it was known that it bordered south of the Citadel (Museum Tower of David). But any remains of the palace had not been found before.
It is the second most important building in Jerusalem, after the Temple, from the time of King Herod (37-4 BCE). Herod inhabited it himself, but not permanently, as he owned more residences in Masada, Herodion and Caesarea. Josephus puts his heart in the description of the "wondrous" palace inThe Wars of the Jews. It was larger than the kishle. Book 5, chapter 4 tells of a walled resort, with luxury bedrooms for 100 guests. The vessels were of gold and silver. It was like a garden of Eden; it had numerous porticoes where the inhabitants and guests could breathe fresh air, while white doves sat in their tills. The groves were fed by a network of deep canals and underground cisterns which collected rainwater. The water was tapped from copper statues.
The current excavations have disclosed two palace walls. The rubble that filled the space between them was cleared in an area of three square feet, showing the naked rock at a depth of about nine feet. The walls are constructed of the easily-recognizable Herodian hewn giant blocks. They probably did not belong to the palace proper, but were the supporting walls for its base, a similar construction that Herod used at the Temple to even the ground, to raise it and to increase the building area. The rock was already quite high of itself. Josephus describes that too: the Citadel, which protected the palace, and the palace itself, were built on a crest.
Earlier excavations in the seventies outside the city wall's wall already disclosed the exit of a water drain belonging to Herod's palace. It transported water from the palace into the Hinnom valley. In the kishle the other end was dug up. The pipe is big enough for humans to creep through. That also happened during the First Jewish War, when Jewish rebels fled the city via the sewers of Herod's palace. The pipe in the kishle could be one of those.
The palace was later destroyed, not by the Romans, but by the Jewish rebels. The Roman procurators had taken up the palace as their residence after the conquest of Palestine in the year 6. Decades of strife passed between the Jews and the Romans. After governor Florus had set up a mass crucifixion of innocent Jews, the First Jewish Rebellion broke out in 66. Jews entered and burnt the palace. Only three defense towers remained partly standing. These are still visible in the Tower of David museum.
After 70, Titus set up his camp for the Tenth Legion in the area of the palace. It controlled Israel from its Jerusalem base for 200 years. Centuries later, a workshop was erected, possibly of a tanner, in the Middle Ages. Nine plastered basins were excavated. Against the east wall Crusader arches are visible. In the western wall it can been seen that the Crusaders fortified and heightened the 15 feet thick Hasmonean city wall. The Arabs, who conquered Jerusalem after them, did the same.
The oldest dig has been left for the end, because there appeared also a late-Israelite wall; of the kings from the Iron Age (until 587 BCE). The wall lies well inside the Herodian and Hasmonean walls. The stones (without species!) are a lot smaller than in the Herodian wall, but they still stand fast.
The archaeological tour is disturbed when a group of prim-looking ladies and gentlemen step inside. They are the fund-raisers of the Jerusalem Foundation, who are taking a look at the location, to be able to sell it better to donators abroad. The work is lying still at the moment. "We spent all the money on the archaeology," says Alberto Piperno, ex-Roman and director of Planning and Construction of the Foundation, a bit sour. That is why nothing was left to build the museum, which will cost another 1.2 million dollars. Next to the kishle, also on territory of the Tower of David, the museum wants to install an auditorium, but that's a later worry. The female fund-raisers think it scary to climb to the depths of the kishle and whisper excitedly with each other whether they would not rather stay on the middle level and look from there. But, you cannot see the final details from there. A little later they climb on the sandbags.
Meanwhile Piperno exchanges the last news with Seligman that they have found a rich English lady who has shown an interest in the project. "Can't we get a coin for the contributor?" asks Piperno. The archaeologist shakes his head. "No." Piperno: "You have found some coins, have you?" Seligman confirms: a gold coin, some silver and bronze, a hoard of copper. Piperno, begging: "It would give such a nice impression to that lady." But Seligman stays firm: "We cannot do that. Believe me, I have received innumerable requests from the American president for coins and shards, but even he does not get anything."
Piperno has one further problem. Where should the emergency exit be? On two walls of the building is the police office, on the other side lies the city wall, and the fourth, short side is that of the entrance. On the roof of the kishle, reached by a short walk over the city wall, it can be seen that the police office also obstructs dreams about further archaeology of Herod's palace: where the low buildings are standing round a courtyard with purple bougainvillea, was exactly the location of the king's residence.


No comments:

Post a Comment