Saturday, June 20, 2015

Jerusalem The Temple and The Western Wall Tunnel - The Ark of the Covenant - The Tower of David

Ark of the Covenent 
The Ark of the Covenant

The Temple and The Western Wall Tunnel
By Jacqueline Schaalje
On Yom Kippur the High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem visited the Holy of Holies. It was the only day in the year that he was allowed to enter the sacred inner part of the Temple. In the First Temple period, the time of King Solomon, the Holy of Holies contained the Ark with the Stone Tables of the Torah.
Many visitors in the last 3000 years have been wondering where the Temple stood and where the Holy of Holies would have been. The picture becomes a bit clearer by a visit to the western wall tunnel. The walk underground spans the whole length of the western Temple wall from the time of King Herod.
A visit must begin with a contemplation of the long and tenacious history of the Temple Mount. A bare-rock model at the entrance to the tunnel shows what it is all about: Mount Moriah and the "Foundation Stone", the flattened rock on its top over which the Holy of Holies was founded. The rock is now a part of the Dome of the Rock mosque.
The first Temple was built on Mount Moriah, which is traditionally the place where Abraham offered the life of Isaac. Later King David bought the threshing floor from Arauna and erected an altar (2 Samuel 24:18-25). With the designs that his father already had made, his son Solomon executed the building of the Temple that was meant to be a home for the Ark of the Covenant. No remains have been found of his Temple.
After the First Temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians, a small but fervent group of Jews, called Judeans, returned from their exile in Babylon, and under the leadership of Zerubabel built a new temple. This was once more destroyed by the Syrian king, Antiochus IV, but soon after a new house of reverence was put in place by his enemies, the Maccabees. The Maccabees enlarged the Temple area to the south. Remains of this are seen on the current platform and may also be described in the tractate Middoth in the Mishnah. The king-priests Hasmoneans reigned from this Temple for many years, until the ambitious Herod decided that the Temple complex was still too small and devised a new plan. He also wanted to raise the Temple so visitors from the city would physically feel that they would rise in order to reach the Temple. In order to reach maximum effect he built a huge platform which was superimposed on the natural hills. The Maccabean eastern wall was left intact but all the other sides were extended.
According to Josephus, the Jews of Jerusalem at the time thought that Herod had gone stark mad that he wanted to build a new Temple when the old Temple seemed to function satisfactorily. Before they agreed to erect a new Temple they demanded that all the materials would be ready in advance, and only then would they destroy the old Temple (Josephus, Antiquities 15:380-425, War 5: 184-247). Maybe this story also explains why Herod's Temple walls have endured time, despite the Roman destruction of the actual buildings when they conquered Jerusalem in 70 AD. After their destruction no new plans to build a new Temple have materialized, although there were some drawings which circulated from the Roman time onwards. In later centuries Arabic constructions blocked dreams to erect a new Temple. The western wall was almost completely obscured by Arab buildings which leaned against its stones.
Maybe it sounds like a stupid question, but why actually is the western wall, or as it used to be called, the Wailing Wall, the most important wall of the Temple complex and why do Jews pray almost exclusively on this side?
The answer lies in that the location of the Holy of Holies lay on the western side of the Temple plaza. After the destruction of the Temple and the Holy of Holies Jews have been praying at the western wall for centuries, at the site where the Holy of Holies would have been closest. Its location was opposite the middle of the western wall.
The western wall is the longest wall of the former Temple platform of Herod and nearly stretches 500 meters. Only a length of 70 meters is visible today, which includes the prayer area. The rest of the wall can only be seen underground. As is well known, the western wall plaza has been cleared after 1967, before that Arabic houses and mosques halted only at a distance of four meters.

The Tunnel Alongside the Western Wall

Religious Jews can enter the western wall tunnel from the prayer area, tourist visitors must enter from the north of the western wall plaza. The western wall tunnel was dug after 1967 in several stages, although some parts are older. The last short part was dug under the Netanyahu government and caused an Arab upheaval.
Upon entering, a long vaulted corridor turns eastwards to the Wall. It was built in the early Arab period and served as a secret underground passage. The roof was used to support the Street of the Chain lying above-ground. The arches on the left supported a 12.5 meter broad bridge with an aqueduct in Herod's time which brought water from Solomon's Pools to the Temple. The archway was destroyed by the Zealots who defended Jerusalem against the Romans in 70 CE. Later it was rebuilt again by the Crusaders.
A little further a window looks into a lower-lying Herodian room with original stones in the lower courses of the walls, with a column in the middle.
The last arch of the bridge, "Wilson's Arch", is called after the nineteenth century discoverer. Debris caused by the destruction of the Temple used to fill the whole area. A window illustrates the amount of work archaeologists had clearing the tunnels. In the ground two holes, dug by the American archaeologist Charles Warren during his investigations in the nineteenth century, indicate the height of the bridge with the aqueduct which spanned the Tyropeoen valley between the city and the Temple platform. One hole reaches bedrock after 12.5 meter and the other after only 17.5 meter.
From Wilson's arch the actual western wall tunnel has been dug northwards alongside the Temple wall. A large chamber in the form of a cross formed cisterns for later built Arab houses above, the space has been used to show in a computerized model what the Temple Mount looked like in the time of Herod. In the north-west corner of the mount can be seen that Herod built his platform by cutting in the natural rock of the northern hill. In the other corners the natural hills have been raised in order to support the platform. That there was a hill in the north can also be concluded because the tunnel gently slopes upwards along the route.
On the right of the large chamber the western wall is directly reached. The lower two courses consist of beautiful Herodian stones which have perfectly dressed margins so they fit on top of each other hardly without any gaps. Each higher course is laid back two centimetres from the lower one, to give stability. The stones in itself also look quite stable, measuring different lengths, but their height is always 3.5 meter and thickness is 4 meter according to scans. At our viewpoint the second course is called the "master course" because of there being an enormous stone of 13.5 length. Modern scanning has shown that behind the master course lies a large empty space which was supported by large stable slabs of stone.
Further down the route another computer model shows a possible explanation how the rocks were quarried and lifted to their positions in the Temple walls. Although Herod's walls proved indestructible, the upper layers are missing. These were restored in the Arabic period, when smaller stones were used.
A few meters further to the north there is a blocked passage in the wall. This is the location of "Warren's Gate", named after its discoverer. There were four of these gates in the western wall which led to Herod's Temple. Of course there were more gates in of the other walls. The eastern gate led directly into the courts of the Temple, which was orientated from east to west. The High Priest in the Temple would perform his rituals in the direction of Jerusalem and to the people (who lived on the western hill).
The passage of the western gate was used by Jews during the early Moslem time as a synagogue. Its name "the Cave" proves that it was underground. A spot in the wall and a bench in front of it a few meters onwards indicates the position from where the Foundation Stone in the Temple is revered. According to ancient wisdom, the stone was the position of the "navel of the world" from which life was created. On it the Holy of Holies was placed, which in the time of Solomon contained the Ark of the Covenant. According to a tradition which is told by Maimonides, Solomon already knew that the Temple would be destroyed and devised a place in deep tunnels under the Temple for the Ark to be hidden in time of need. King Josiah placed the Ark in the place that Solomon had prepared (The Book of Temple Service, 17). Another tradition says that the Ark is in Ethiopia. Of course the Ark has never been found because the Temple Mount has never been dug.
Modern science now uses scanning, information in the works of Flavius Josephus and others, and mathematics to determine the location of the Holy of Holies. Its conclusions are similar to the ones of religion. The scientific conclusions are based upon archaeological finds of old stones and marks from the Second Temple . There is some controversy if the Holy of Holies was on the Foundation Stone; i.e. the visible rock in the Dome of the Mosque, or whether the Foundation Stone was the location of the Altar of Burnt Sacrifices. But anyway this leads to the same location for the reverence of the Foundation Stone.
The walk continues along the entire length of the western wall. On the left are cisterns and supports of later Arab buildings which were built against the Temple wall. At a certain point the natural bedrock of the northern hill is reached. The Herodian wall is built on top of the hill. At the bottom the natural rock is convincingly dressed as if they were cut stones.
Where the tunnel widens a Herodian street begins, which ran along the whole length of the western wall (a part may be seen also in the south-west corner). On the left were cisterns from the Hasmonean period. One large polished stone is from Herod's time and functioned as a balustrade so people would not fall into the open pool. The Herodian street has original marble pavement and two columns. Next to the room is a quarry from which Herod took his stones for the Temple.
After that the western wall tunnel proper stops as the northern corner of Herod's Temple wall is reached. The walk continues through a water tunnel that the Hasmoneans dug. It did not have a roof as it was dug from the ground down. Its curves follow the natural outlines of the hill. The canal was covered with flat stones.
Directly to the north of the Temple Herod built the Antonia fortress which was meant to defend Jerusalem. Not a single feature of this fort is retrieved, except for the water pool which is reached after a few minutes. It was a part of the moat around the Antonia fortress. Later the Roman emperor Hadrian turned the area into a marketplace which was supported by large vaults over the pool. In a corner of the pool a Roman staircase led to the street outside.
From the pool a short new tunnel exits to the Muslim Quarter.
Visits to the Western Wall tunnel have to be booked in advance at tel. 02-6271333.

The Tower of David
By Jacqueline Schaalje
The Citadel of Jerusalem is better known as the Tower of David. Nowadays the fort is distinguished by its Islamic towers and entrance porch, but the Citadel's history goes back way before that. The Jewish historian Josephus first called the fortress the "Citadel of King David." The name "David's Tower" now refers to the minaret on the South side. To make things confusing the term "David's Tower" used to be reserved in the past for the north-east tower, whose origin is Herodian.
The oldest remains of a city wall and stronghold on the site, although not visible to current visitors, lies buried in the bedrock of the underlying hill. They date back to the monarchic period in Israel. King Hezekiah (end of 8th Century BCE) built a wall and towers after the Assyrian invasion of Judah (2 Chronicles 32:5). The wall was 7 meters wide, and constructed of large boulders. This giant wall was damaged during the Babylonian victory over Jerusalem in 587/6 BCE. In subsequent centuries the city shrunk back to the city of David on the eastern hill; consequently there was no need for a defence on the western hill.
The situation changed during the Hasmonean period. The city grew and extended to the western hill again. But although the Hasmonean kings already brought this part of the city inside the walls in the late second Century BCE, it was probably Herod who used the site for the first time to build a fort. Herod also erected his famous palace, which stretched to the south of the modern bastion. According to Josephus, Herod's palace was "wondrous beyond words." The palace was enormous and remains have been found where the Armenian garden is presently situated, which borders the south city wall.
The location was very suitable for a fort, as it was on the top of a hill, and according to Josephus the hill possessed an additional crest. Herod constructed 3 imposing towers to defend the wall, bastion and palace. They were called after his wife Mariamne, his friend Hippicus and his brother Phasael. It is the last tower which is still standing (the upper part of the tower is Islamic).
The palace and citadel remained a site of importance during the history of Israel. When the Romans assumed direct control over Palestine in 6 CE the Roman Procurator (governor) resided in the Herodian palace. According to the New Testament Jesus was judged here. Jewish "rebels" were summoned before the Roman ruler and were scourged and then crucified (as told in Josephus' War). The cruelty was one of the causes of the First Jewish War. In 66 CE Jewish rebels attacked and burnt the palace. According to Josephus "they dug a mine from a great distance and made it totter (War, 2:435)". Destruction layers coming from the attack were found in archaeological remains in the south of the courtyard, where once one of Herod's towers must have stood.
Four years later, the Roman general Titus conquered the city, burnt the Temple, and garrisoned his troops beside the remains of the destroyed palace. The Herodian towers were left standing. The Roman tenth legion camped on the site of Herod's old palace for 200 years.
The site of the fortress was named after the tower of David by the Byzantines, who thought Jerusalem's Western hill was Mount Zion, which was incorrectly identified with the city of David. The citadel was only reconstructed in its full glory in later centuries, exactly when is not known. During the early Arab period the Fatimids lost the citadel and Jerusalem to the Crusaders. The Crusader kings made the fortress their residence, and extended it further to the west. After the defeat of the Crusaders against the Arabic Saladin, the latter took seat in the citadel.
In subsequent centuries the Citadel was destroyed and built up many times. The Mamluk sultan Muhammad constructed the final form of the fortress in the 14th Century CE. He levelled the old city wall which until this time had run straight through the fortress. This division can easily be seen today, especially from a view from one of the towers. The old Hasmonean wall, which was strengthened by Herod and later rulers, runs north-east to south-west through the inner archaeological garden.
During the Mamluk period Jerusalem became neglected, and the Citadel was barely kept. After the Ottoman victory the sultan Suliman the Magnificent (16th Century), who also built the modern city walls, built the monumental entrance to the fortress, and the platform for cannon along the western wall. The Ottoman troops were stationed inside the city walls on the south side of the fortress (the location of Herod's palace). The remains of the Turkish camp are still visible at the base of the wall.
The minaret of the Citadel was built by Muhammad Pasha in the middle of the seventeenth Century. The mosque beside it was repaired by Suliman the Magnificent and was built on top of a Crusader hall. From the roof of the mosque the above-mentioned Turkish barracks can be seen against the wall.
After the city became once again Jewish, in the 20th Century, for the first time in its history the Citadel was not used anymore for strategic purposes. After archaeological study it was converted into a museum. The exhibition about the history of Jerusalem could not be on a more appropriate place, as the citadel was at once part and the highlight of the history of the city.
To make sense of the remains in the archaeological garden inside the courtyard of the fortress, it is a good idea to first study the exhibitions and film about Jerusalem inside the towers and the former mosque.
Also enlightening is a climb to the towers and ramps in order to look down at the archaeological garden. Turning one's gaze outside results in a magnificent view of the old city. At night this is very impressive: Jerusalem's monuments, including the Citadel itself, are placed in floodlights.
From the north-west tower, which looks down on Jaffa Gate, one looks at the medieval moat, which was filled in the late 19th Century. This tower also provides the best view on the excavations in the courtyard.
There are several ways to reach the courtyard, but through the main entrance is probably the most usual one. This is reached after passing the ornamental gate and the bridge. Both are from the time of Suliman the Magnificent, as Arabic inscriptions indicate.
It is also possible to pass under the bridge, by taking a flight of stairs beside the remains of a Byzantine wall. Following these one enters into the moat. Further south of the bridge used to be a quarry. Another flight of steps leads to a rock-cut water channel. Coins which were found in the plaster date it to the Hasmonean period.
By ascending again one comes through the main entrance, built by the Crusaders but restored by the Mamluks in the 14th Century. The main entrance room is in L-shape: this is so as to slow down possible attackers to the fortress. Original Crusader features are the stone benches in the guardroom and slits for the portcullis. From the hexagonal room the courtyard can be reached.
The curved Hasmonean wall, still reaching an impressive height of about 7 meters and 4 meters thick, divides the courtyard into two parts. This is the First Wall, as described by Josephus. Remains are traced also outside of the Citadel. To the south it runs beneath the present city wall where in ancient times it would have connected to the wall round the city of David. To the east traces of the First Wall are found in the Jewish Quarter; it stretched to the Temple Mount. Houses were built against the inner face of the wall; one of the entrances is still visible. Two towers were also built.
Herod thickened the Hasmonean wall, and added his three towers, of which only the Phasael tower is left, as described above. The Herodian part of the tower still measures 20 meters. The towers were built on an artificial platform to make them more imposing. The platform was made by intersecting walls which were lain over the Hasmonean houses beside the old wall, and the space in between was filled with earth filling. The existing Hasmonean towers were thickened, changed and extended. All of this construction, except for the Herodian new towers, was destroyed during the First Jewish War.
Not much has been found of the long Roman occupation of the site. In the Byzantine period a new wall was built which extended northwards from the Herodian tower; some steps are still visible. The new wall enclosed the old city on the north for the first time; the current northern city wall still follows the same course. The Byzantines also strengthened the existing Hasmonean/Herodian wall.
The Arab occupation after 638 brought significant changes. In following centuries a new round tower was erected, which may be located in the south-eastern corner of the courtyard. Probably this tower stood at the corner of a new wall, which ran north and south. If we assume that the Arabs left the Hasmonean/Herodian wall as their western limit, the outlines of the Arab fort become clear. This was the fortress that fell to the Crusaders in 1099.
The Crusaders clearly found the existing fortress too small to incorporate their royal court. They devised an imposing bastion and palace. Again the Herodian tower was left in place, which surely is a sign of its enduring quality. Also they strengthened again the old towers and the Herodian western wall, by adding a new wall to the west of it. Under the mosque in the south-west corner of the courtyard lies a Crusader chamber, which is reached by two medieval tunnels. One of the tunnels is entered from the courtyard.
The current outer walls and new towers in the north-west and south-east corners are from the later Arabic period. Although exact dates are unknown, inscriptions which were found at the main entrance, date its first construction to the time of sultan Muhammad in 1310. In the Herodian tower a cut at the end of the stairs shows that the Mamluk construction was simply superimposed on the Herodian remains. The smaller upper stones of the tower show a vast contrast with the solid blocks of Herod at the base of the tower; the last are built for eternity.

Only one construction in the courtyard could not be dated until now: in the northern part a row of small stones form a low rough wall. This could be either Roman or Herodian, but its function remains a mystery.

Do the original Ten Commandments still exist?
By Zev Kassman
  There is good reason to believe that not only the original Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, but also a jar of manna, from which the Jews ate during the forty years they traversed the desert prior to coming into the land of Israel still exists buried under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. (see the Rambam, Mishna Torah, Hilchot Beit HaBecheirah 4:1 and see Tractate Yoma, 53b) These, plus the legendary staff of Aaron the High Priest and a jar of oil to be used in anointing the next king, the new high priest and perhaps the Messiah.
  When King Solomon built the first Temple, he constructed according to a prophecy. Each compartment and area was designated for specific purposes and function. Along with the Temple as we know it, an underground passage was created. This passage was made of winding passageways which extended deep under the Temple Mount.
  During the four hundred and ten years that the first Temple stood and functioned, the golden ark which housed the original Ten Commandments rested in the area of the Temple Compound called the Holy of Holies. This was an area that only the High Priest was permitted to enter and only on Yom Kippur. When King Josiah, who lived during the final years that the Temple stood, saw the impending tragedy that loomed, he commanded that the four items be taken into hiding. This was some 22 year before the actual destruction of the Temple.
  King Josiah was considered a righteous king. He foresaw the imminent destruction coming. When he ordered the precious ark and artifacts taken out of the designated resting place in the Holy of Holies, they were taken out with out knowledge of the population. (see Second Chronicles, 35:3) This means that the Ark was not removed from the Temple through a door way or entrance, but rather by opening a secret underground passage that had been in the Temple since its creation.
  During the destruction and pillage of the Temple, the gold and silver vessels were removed and taken to Babylon as booty. There has never been any record of the whereabouts of the ark and it's holy contents. Although Nebuchadnezar, the king of Babylon, and his subsequent successors used the vessels from the Temple, they did not have the ark.
  When the second Temple was built, new vessels were made. However, the Holy of Holies existed albeit, with out the ark and it's contents. Yet even though there was a Holy of Holies in the second Temple and even though the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies to perform the service of Yom Kippur, the ark and the Ten Commandments were not there. Reason is given that in truth the spot on which the Holy of Holies was built was over the secret resting place down deep in the ground under the floor of the Temple. The ark was never brought out of it's hiding place, rather it rests there in hidden slumber waiting for the time of the final Temple, the third and according to tradition last Temple to be built. Then and only then will the ark be removed and brought to it's final and supreme resting place where it and the jar of manna, the jar of the oil and the staff of Aaron will be a source of inspiration for all mankind.
  Today there is an interesting phenomenon on the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount now houses two Mosques. One is called the Mosque of Omar and the second is called the Dome of the Rock. The center piece, so to speak of the Dome of the Rock is that in the middle of the mosque a gigantic rock sits. There are many Muslim traditions regarding this rock, however there are those who speculate that perhaps this gigantic rock which is too big too be moved covers the entrance to the secret tunnel.

  Perhaps now it is only speculation, however a time soon will come when investigators will be permitted to dig and examine the areas below the Temple Mount. What will be the out come of such a discovery? One thing for sure, nothing this big as ever before been uncovered.

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