Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Bethel - Cause of Israel's Greatest Disaster?

Red routes through Benjamin's land connected west-east, north-south explaining the "quarters" in Joshua 18:14-15
Benjamin's land includes Jerusalem, once called Luz or BeitEl (Bethel) it was occupied by Jebusites at the time the Israel's tribal boundaries were allotted. Benjamin's land served as a major traffic junction for people traversing the Judean ridge. The geophysical details are clearly described in the video below:

The precise location of Bethel (which is Luz according to Genesis 28:19  and Joshua 18:13) remains a major point of contention among academics and Biblical scholars. Luz being synonymous with Bethel may not seem that significant, but it has caused and continues to cause Israel's greatest disasters. Rivalry is the heart of this dynamic millennial problem. The problem is relevant because  Bethel in the north significantly distorts our understanding of Torah, especially when it is prioritized over the location of Luz-Bethel-Jerusalem on Judah's boundary. The problem originates on Benjamin's northern boundary with Ephraim (see Bethel in the map). Replace the name "Jerusalem" with "Bethel" and you will immediately notice the mirror image problem for two of Israel's most competitive tribes at their dueling Bethel locations.

What's the big deal you may ask?  Around 250 years before the tribal allotment of land, Jacob had returned to Luz where he made a covenant and took the name Israel (Genesis 35:10).  During Israels ~250 year exile in Egypt and the dessert, the location of Jacob's covenant was obfuscated. Importantly that location would ultimately be the site of the permanent altar and temple, as such it would be extremely prestigious and economically lucrative. But, no-one knew whether it was on the northern or southern boundary of Benjamin.

The Book of Joshua, was completed by the end of his life some ~220 years after Israel took his name. It set the guidance that would demarcate land, but in Joshua's absence it was open to interpretation and became food for rivals. The tribes were preoccupied defending and settling their respective land, but they could not penetrate the fortress that had been built and occupied by Jebusites at Luz. It would be another 300 years before the fortress would be captured by King David. During this long period without rivalry from Luz in the south, Bethel north of Benjamin became entrenched. 

Recent discoveries at Jerusalem's City of David could be southern Bethel-Luz. They include:

High ridge plan[3] at the Gihon Spring in City of David ancient Jerusalem - Oil and grain press, altar, covenant stone
Matzevah or the covenant stone was anointed with oil, perhaps the location of Jacob's assumption of his name Israel

The site that may be Jacob's covenant was obfuscated, but who did it, why was it preserved so well and when? After a decade of research I still have a hard time deciphering the available information. Its clear to me the Jebusites aided by Emorites, Hittites, Amorites and Moabites were motivate to built Israel's tallest fortress over the Gihon Spring. Most likely to prevent Israel returning to Jerusalem. Their plan was successful and lasted ~400 years. Whether King David re-discovered it remains open for debate, however archaeological evidence indicates the entire area (shown in the plan above) was buried with soft soil to preserve it. During sand sifting (from above the bedrock) a bullae was discovered from the Kings period. I hypothesize the area on the bedrock was first re-discovered by Hezekiah at the time he built the stone cut channel from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam.  

Northern Bethel as the site of Jacob's covenant was exploited by Jeroboam who used it to split the entire nation. To do so he played with the historical ambiguity. He built his palace in Shechem, built Peneul (and most likely several other sites) and a temple in Bethel of the north specifically to prevent Israel's northern tribes proceeding south to Jerusalem where his rival, Solomon's son Rehoboam presided (1Kings 12:25). 

Jerusalem's Holy Basis [In chronological order] - [1] Gihon Spring, cave dwelling, Salem (Genesis 7:1) high ridge with altar, oil and grain press. [2] Abraham pitched his tent East of Bethel, West of Ai. (Genesis 12:8) [3] Luz-Bethel high ridge addition of matzevah, upper Gihon pool, fortress and city walls. [4a] Ai destroyed. [4b] Joshua's ambush party (Joshua 8:14) remained in Kidron Valley. [4c] Joshua's troops attack over valley to Ai [5] Palace of King David
The image above describes the features that resolve the ambiguity of Jacob's Bethel. It may turn out that the matzevah above the Gihon Spring is truly Jacob's and that the location was indeed obfuscated. If true, it would significantly re-orient scholars to re-consider all they know about the geography that has caused so much confusion. Finally we would restore Jacob to his rightful place, where he originally took the name Israel, where his father was bound by his grandfather who was the link to Israel's ancestral inheritance.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Earthquake at Zion!

The Crack IMG_2803.jpg
The original cement crack - looking north

In 2009 when Benjamin Netanyahu was coming to power in Israel, excavation on the high ridge west of the Gihon Spring revealed a most important artifact.

The Crack 2013-07-24 12.34.28.jpg
After the first few months digging
Permission to excavate began with a crack that threatened a potential landslide. This prompted a rapid approval, so the excavation at Beit Shalem above and west of the high ridge of the Gihon Spring began. Within a few months, the team had made great progress removing rubble below the original crack line.

A 30X8m super-tension retaining wall was built to hold the significant section of Mount Moriah’s eastern slope (below, temple mount seen north). Four years to plan and construct, the wall had to be anchored in bedrock at several points and at each level. Casing each anchor was slow going to avoid penetrating and damaging buried artifacts. Approximately 500 cubic meters of rubble and dirt were ultimately removed for archaeological sifting.

Looking north - Temple Mount seen top left
As the retaining wall descended to 3 meters above the bedrock archaeologists began to discover late iron-age Roman era walls and several pottery artefacts.

Roman era jars and oil lamps found in the top frame of walls that were once rooms - looking west

A collapsed section was well preserved in a narrow passage that had been blocked at its east exit by a ~50cm(w) late iron age (North-South) wall section. At 2m above the bedrock, pottery and other artifacts were found in blackened layer dated to the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE. Below the blackened destruction (seen in the image left) layers may yet reveal artifacts that inform about the periods prior.

The video below was made by the Antiquities Authority to describe some of the latest findings.

The excavation discussed above, is behind (west) of the western wall of the high ridge, top of image below. Of particular interest on the high ridge is the impressive ‘tziun’, ‘matzevah’, monument or covenant, now protected by the steel cabinet. Archaeologists confirm it was once protected by soft earth contained between the west and a dismantled east wall. Earliest indicators perhaps as far back as 4500 years are hewn directly into the bedrock including cave dwelling, altar, oil and flour presses and facilities for animal slaughter. Sunlight now reaches the bedrock, the first time in ~3000 years.

The matzevah, monument looking west (Separation Wall - see next image)

The bedrock at the western excavation (behind the wall in the image above) descends eastward toward the matzevah dropping by about 1.5m to the bedrock on the high ridge complex (seen below). The complex was hewn using basic rock implements. The volume of this ~4x8x2(h) meter complex is significant. All walls of the rooms were retained from the bedrock.

According to Biblical dating matzevot were last used at the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Here placement on the hewn bedrock floor provides some important dating targets to around ~2000 BCE, pre-dating King David by 1000 years.

Immediately east of the high ridge as it descends toward the valley is the rock cut pool leading from the Gihon Spring. Large volumes of fish-bones, bones of kosher animals and pictographic bullae were discovered in its lowest levels.

Upper Gihon Pool.jpg
Rock cut pool - looking north

Pictographic seals discovered in the sediment of the rock cut pool equate in vloume to all the other non-pictographic seals discovered elsewhere in the City of David. Perhaps indicating something akin to important people throwing pennies in a pond or leaving notes in a wall. This raises questions about the dating of seals (bullae) that were contained to the pool compared to those of the period of kings.

The Matzevah in context of the City of David on Mount Moriah is a significant archaeological event. If academic analysis supports that hewn bedrock coincides with biblical Shem then the Matzevah is likely to converge with dating for the story of Jacob (Genesis 28:10-22). This would further validate the high ridge to Isaac and Abraham, when it became known as “the Place” (Ha Makom). As such it will have significant implications for theological and religious interpretation of events relative to first temple construction and third temple location.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Toward a King!

Tisha B'Av meets Tu B'Av 
Jonathan the grandson of Moses is one of Torah’s most complex characters. Perhaps in the tradition of first born sons, Jonathan's connection with his grandfather can be expected to reflect in him the essential trait that we know of Moses.

So what are the qualities of Moses that Jonathan carried into the next generation? What of his grandfather's causes motivated him to struggle for and express in his own life? Tribal structure is a rigid mosaic that strongly influences personalities, against this backdrop I explore Jonathan.

The information I used to write this is from and based on the compilation known as Me’Am Lo’ez as translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan.

After Israel’s re-entry to their land each tribe had conquered and settled their allotment except one. The tribe of Dan had been left to struggle against the Philistines, one of Israel’s greatest opponents, but they failed in their quest.

Meanwhile, Jonathan a priest of the Levite tribe had distanced himself from the decaying priesthood in the Tabernacle of Shiloh, the territory of Ephraim. Nearby, a competing temple had attracted Jonathan to its serenity and Micah, its founder enlisted him as high priest.

Leaders of tribe Dan were advancing to conquer and settle more land in the north. On one trip they forcefully raised the serene temple and moved it, with Jonathan to the mountain opposite the valley of Shiloh. Perhaps a statement to the tribes who had not supported them in their original conquest.

On one occasion Jonathan The Levite was traveling the straight line north, with his concubine from Bethlehem in Yehudah through Jerusalem (Jebus) to the area of Shiloh in Ephraim. It was nearing sun set, but he pushed on past Jebus, the walled city until he reached Gibeah in Benjamin a territory sandwiched between rivals Yehudah and Ephraim.

The residents of Gibeah were unfriendly and refused him accommodation until one man opened his heart. That night certain townsfolk violently threatened the old man and his guests physically demanding the concubine be released to them. Jonathan capitulated, the concubine was gang raped and left to die in the cold night at the front door of the man’s house.   

Jonathan was incensed especially because the elders refused to hand over the perpetrators or bring them to justice. Jonathan journeyed home, where he cut her body in 12 pieces and sent a piece to each tribal leader demanding they bring Gibeah to justice. This motivated Israel’s first major civil war and men of the tribe of Benjamin were almost entirely wiped out.      

Once the tribal leaders realized what they had done to the tribe of Benjamin they implemented a program to repopulate the tribe, by allowing inter-tribal marriages for the benefit of the women of Benjamin. Today that is the festival of Tu B'Av, which comes 6 days after the temple destruction's on Tisha B'Av.

The corruption of leadership and justice was a battle Jonathan silently witnessed and eventually he rose to crush it. First it was the corrupt priesthood which he abandoned for a more serene existence, despite the antithetical form of worship. Next he was transplanted from serenity to the heart of politically inspired religion. Finally he was stirred to act in the name of his grandfather and unite the tribes against one of their own in the name of justice.

The expression of Moses through his grandsons actions finally motivated the nation to seek a leader who would unite them. That was a job for young Samuel, who had been appointed high priest at the end of the Tabernacle period in Shiloh. His first choice was King Saul of the tribe of Benjamin that had been so brutally affected in the preceding Civil war. In this sense Jonathan’s actions resembled his grandfathers to fight corruption and uphold justice.    

Rivalry between Ephraim and Yehudah had been so fierce, but Yehudah would prevail and the next temples built in Jerusalem. Ephraim’s brother Menashe was represented as instigator and in the writings of Samuel he poetically super-scripted Jonathan son of Gershom son of Menashe.     

The basis of a temple is justice, not rigid law enforced on a people to their detriment as it was in Gibeah nor corrupt practices that suppress leaders who would otherwise benefit the majority. Like Moses, Jonathan struggled for a temple culture that would balance the nation and a justice that would permit and motivate all people to realize their true potential.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Path to Jerusalem's Temple

The persistent divergence that plagued the nation motivated King David to write psalm 127:
If the Lord does not build a house, its builders labor in vain
For the uninitiated, “Lord” arose through the collective behavior of the unified nation of Israel whose builders accomplished God’s work and constructed the nation’s temple in Jerusalem.

Today the accomplishment of such a task requires our common understanding of this critical line from psalm 127. Because the sentence commences ‘if’, I have interpreted it to mean that man must begin, but the build will be in vain “if the Lord does not build”.

What then is required to ensure  building the third and final temple is not in vain?
Belief in collective purpose, national identity, indigenous past, the task ahead and confidence to achieve it. A big ask for a presently disparate nation, but one that has a prescribed, mature set of guidelines for building it and believing in God that builds it. According to Jewish teachings there is no conflict between the two ideas, nor does there have to be.

I understand  many people are unaware of the detailed legal and spiritual construct defining the process, so they may be overwhelmed. Therefore, I will attempt to write this with deference to the defined process and bridge it to the present state of Israel’s reality.

The emotive desire to build a temple is often expressed to satisfy individuals who yearn for it. Sometimes the exuberance so strong that law, process and the journey to its realization is momentarily set aside. The national disciplines required to open the window of real opportunity is enormous, but divergent views, among Jews constantly make the task appear impossible.

How could it be that a body of 71 holy men can establish the global authority they require in order to appoint a Jewish king in modern Israel and build a temple? This is prerequisite, it cannot be changed. It’s made more complicated because a prophet must emerge and identify the physical location of the altar on which Isaac was once bound by his father Abraham. No other location will suffice for the third and final temple, the altar must be at the precise spot.

Shifting demographics in Israel indicate it is fast becoming a more religions society, any Israeli, will acknowledge this fact. Logically more people in Israel are becoming tolerant of traditional Jewish law on which these precepts are established. Israel’s communities have three forms of representation in their electoral system; a) City b) National and c) Religious. The first two are obvious to anyone who lives in a system by representation, but most are unaware of the religious representation afforded to them by Israel’s electoral process.

Religious representation is afforded from a strange blend of socialism and democracy. Rabbis nominated by communities of a city are selected by Mayors of the City and the Religious Minister. The electoral process is a messy, competitive confluence, but for the most part it works. If a city is liberal or conservative they nominate a slate of representative nominees from which the Mayoral and Religious ministry selections takes place.

The Rabbi’s are elected for life, they retire at 70 and are replaced if they misbehave, resign, retire or pass-on. Every four years there are always a few cities who vie for electoral renewal and the battle for representation is fierce. These Rabbi’s are distinct from the Chief Rabbi’s of Israel who endure a separate election process, but the City or Town Rabbi’s as they are known, constitute a powerful body and among them many individuals stand out.

These representative Rabbi’s hold with them the capacity to demand improving representations on behalf of the communities that elected them. I am a proponent of this existing electoral college and encourage its Rabbis to demand improved representation rights in the national government. The blend of socialism and democracy is well suited to Israel and balanced when well integrated with religious representation. It is from this group I hope Israel’s House of Lords will be formed.

Progression toward this objective will only take place by improving the quality of Rabbi’s and by the entire body being emboldened by the communities that elected them. Once empowered at the national level, they will form a sovereign religious body that is capable of being authoritative on a global scale. As a properly constituted Sanhedrin they will proceed to unify the bodied of religious and secular law and unify national identity.  

This modern, indigenous, representative body can then proceed to empower the nation, appoint a King consent to the prophet and finally complete the house that Jacob promised to build.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Will Jerusalem Proof Be Enough?

If the high ridge above the Gihon Spring was visited by important foreign statesmen more than 4000 years ago, before any city or walls existed it would establish a question for archaeologists: What compelled them to come? The recently discovered chiseled bedrock confirmed that holy practices were once carried out on the high ridge (see last image below), but the time of construction is unknown . Although it was certainly built before the advent of iron instruments, construction could have occurred from circa 3000 years and prior.

Lets hypothetically argue an ancient seal, dated back more than 4000 years was discovered in the immediate layers of earth west and adjacent to the high ridge bedrock. Untouched for thousands of years its location in the chronologically intact layers would infer proof the seal was encased around the time of its last use or placed there at some later stage, but no later than when dust first covered the seal over.

During the past 4 years, excavation at the high ridge removed at least 4 meters from the previous ground level, hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of earth. Each layer has been carefully sifted for objects in the chronological order the earth was deposited.

After the first few months the ground floor was at our head heights

In upper-later layers only plastic, rubber, garbage

Getting interesting in the lower-Iron Age layers

The artifact hoard begins to grow...
Excavating behind the separation wall to the high ridge bedrock below our feet!
The high ridge excavation in the above image started under Eli Shukron around 2008. Surprisingly the construct of the high ridge identified it was once used for holy sacrifices. But, it remains unknown whether or how long prior to King David's occupation of the City, this site was in use. One of the ways to investigate, was to excavate behind the "Separation Wall" (image above) that divides the high ridge east-west, to see if any newly discovered artifacts would be informative.

The hoard of artifacts from the western excavation has already begun to reveal that 1.5-2m above the bedrock once homes were once occupied by residents who cooked kosher style foods. Olive seeds, grape pips and other items have been sent for radio-carbon dating, we await results. Slightly north of the high ridge, a large potters kiln fired pots which were used by occupants of the city to store food, oil and wine. Other discoveries identify the kiln may have been operated for Kings, because some of the clay jar handles are embossed with royal seals. Clay seals used to validate confidentiality of documents have also been discovered. These items now date back to the period of Kings and perhaps even back to the time of King David.

As archaeologists begin to reach layers in the last 0.50 cm above bedrock to the west, things are expected to hot up. They will finally gain access through the two doorways or entrances (image above) to the bedrock beyond. If discoveries there identify with leaders who lived more than 4000 years ago it will establish that this site, well before King David, the walled city, Joshua, Jacob, Isaac or Abraham was important enough for noblemen to visit.

Should we be blessed to obtain such proof, we will be able to piece together the chronological development of the site in context of the Jewish exegesis. From that we may discover that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joshua and David revered it. Before Abraham perhaps even Shem-Malchitzedek, the righteous king received dignitaries who may have left their mark in Salem. With this context, we would truly appreciate why the matzevah remains standing at this site as a beacon pointing to the place Jacob slept when he dreamed of stairs on which angels ascended between earth and heaven.

Matzevah - perhaps the stone Jacob erected, and anointed as his covenant

Monday, June 26, 2017

Of Kings and People

Halacha is the framework that is Jewish law as it emanated through the oral interpretations of Torah. Before Moses the principles of the law applied only to those who grasped it through the mystical revelations of Kabbalah. After Moses, for 2000 years the oral law was applied from generation to generation through the Jewish traditions imbued in daily life. Rabbi’s began to write the oral law into the Mishnah when the widely adopted routine of Jewish life was disrupted during the rise of Christianity.

Since then the law became codified in the the redaction of Gemara and ultimately the Shulchan Aruch (1563), Shulchan Aruch Ha Rav (1812) and Aruch Ha Shulchan (1908). These remain the sealed works that constitute the precise law of codified Jewish life.

During the Industrial Revolution assimilated Jews found it difficult to comply with the all embracing codified life-law. Some post World War One Jewish communities, led by emboldened Rabbi’s chose to adopt altered codes to suit changing life and lifestyles. These became the conservative and reform movements of today’s Judaism.

The State of Israel was established in accordance with codified Jewish law and continues in that tradition. Jewish courts in Israel write legal precedents and leniencies granted are strictly according to and within the established bounds of the written law. Despite various political attempts to alter the orthodox constitutions that comprise these Jewish courts, they remain entrenched in Israel and around the world.

Some communities have struggled to resolve apparent ambiguity or conflicts between civil and Jewish law. Despite the ongoing efforts of Jewish courts to accommodate modernity within legal bounds - marriage, conversion, democracy and deference to legal authority present some of the toughest challenges and often result in polarization and fracture.

An individual member of a community that subscribes to orthodox Jewish law is often confronted by cases that are difficult to reconcile. Recently a civil judge in Sydney Australia ruled in favor of a Rabbi who had earned tenure in his position after 30 years of service. The judge ruled he was wrongfully terminated after some members of the community usurped his authority. The authority vested in the community's Rabbi, according to Jewish law was unchallenged in the proceedings. The judge upheld the authority granted under orthodoxy and awarded for the Rabbi.

Whether you individually agree with all aspects of Jewish law or not, you are entitled and personally responsible for your own actions in the face of the law. However a community (including at least 10 men) cannot rise against the very law that is an extension of the Torah they believe was transmitted through Moses by God. If it does, it deviates from the principles of Moses law and by their actions and belief they morph to a different form of Judaism.

Challenge to an individual’s authority is permitted by law and invited by Jewish tradition, which has served Jewish communities the world over, but community wide rebellion against the law is tantamount to mutiny or treason and that is not permitted.  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Original Ancient Jerusalem - This is Zion!

Allegorically the question was asked "And where did Mount Sinai come from?" Rabbi Yosi said (Midrash Tehilim Mizmor 68) ’it was separated from Mount Moriah, like the hallah* offering from the dough, from the place where Yitzchak, our father was bound. The Holy One said – since Yitzchak was bound upon it, it is fitting that his children receive the Torah upon it. (*dough is separated from the bread baked for Sabbath and burned)

Yitzchak or Isaac was 37 years at his binding. King David returned Moses Ark of the Covenant to Israel, to the City of David, Jerusalem where it was located for 37 years until his son Solomon moved it to its more permanent place in the Holy of Holies of the First Temple.

Jerusalem Temple Mount looking north - green Kidron Valley (middle of picture)

Ancient Jerusalem (looking north) on Mount Moriah before Temple Mount - Kidron Valley below Gihon fortress

Gihon fortress was built by enemies to stop Joshua and Israel. It cut access to holy high ridge 

400 years after Joshua high ridge was restored by King David as temporary home of the Holy Ark

High ridge was used previously for holy worship and ceremony, 1000 years before King David

Current excavation above ground and bedrock below 

On the bedrock - southern room

On the bedrock Matzevah

Matzevah from time of Jacob was protected by a later king with soft sand and false wall

Liquids channel and raised platform of altar for sacrifices (Copyright © 2017 Jennifer Guetta)
This is the only precise location of an altar that we know of on Mount Moriah!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Noah - Two Mountains and Chinese Origins!

One of my favorite videos documents the now restricted archaeological site at the mountain Jabal Al Lawz.  It is close to the west coast of Saudi Arabia, opposite the Sinai Peninsula in the ancient land the Bible refers to as Midyan. Among the many interesting parallels, the documentary also highlights the split-rock and a unique geophysical remnant at the summit, which is described in the biblical account of the 'metamorphic' events that occurred on Mt. Sinai 3289 years ago.

In an allegorical, the question was asked "And where did Mount Sinai come from?" R’ Yosi said (Midrash Tehilim Mizmor 68)  ’it was separated from Mount Moriah, like the hallah* offering from the dough, from the place where Yitzchak, our father was bound. The Holy One said – since Yitzchak was bound upon it, it is fitting that his children receive the Torah upon it.  *Jewish law requires a small piece of dough be separated and burned, before baking hallah for Sabbath.

On Mount Moriah, some 260 years before the events on Mount Sinai Jacob returned to the mountain of his father's sacrifice to pray that his mission to find a wife and build a family would succeed. There, Jacob experienced his most famous dream.  As he slept a stairway stretched between earth and heaven on which angels ascended and descended. The Radak stated: There are many different opinions among our sages how best to explain this dream. Some say this was a preview to the future revelation at Mount Sinai. The numerical value of the letters in the word סלם 'sulam' or stairway equals 130 the same as that of the word סיני 'Sinai'. This is the same value as the letter Ayin, when fully expressed and is half of 260 which equates to 'Ha-Moriah' - 'The Moriah'. In Psalms121, the word for “the mountains” in Hebrew is 'heharim'. When the Hebrew letters of heharim are rearranged, they spell 'Ha-Moriah' - The Temple Mountain in Jerusalem.

In Genesis, Noach 10:17 the lineage of man is expressed and refers one branch, the children of Canaan as  "וְאֶת־הַסִּינִֽי" - "and The Sini" spelled identically to the word Sinai. To this very day modern Israeli's still refer to the Chinese by this biblical name a most likely continuum since the days of its biblical origin, more than 4500 years ago. The fact the Chinese share this name connection is indicative of their importance in the new world order as Israel re-orients its spheres of influence away from the west toward the east.
Was Jacob dreaming of a stairway like this?
Mount Moriah site of Jacob's Ladder
Underground excavations at Mount Moriah have revealed the existence of a stairway that leads to a platform once used for holy worship and where the matzevah or monument of Jacob is presently located. Perhaps the Chinese will use their economic influence over the Saudi's and Israeli's to open public access to these two most critical sites so that the world will better understand the accuracy of the biblical record. Perhaps China will lead the nations, represented in Kabbalah using the letter Ayin to reconcile their historical persona's and adopt a view free of distortion and in line with the biblical record.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Breaking walls!

For 300 years the armies of Joshua, Judah and finally King David were repeatedly motivated to conquer the impenetrable walled city on Mount Moriah. During those times the walls did not surround the summit of the mountain (north of the city) that is most precious to Jews today. It was only after King David that the summit was used as the platform for Solomon’s temple, the temple mount of the second temple and pen-ultimately the grandiose Herodian temple, the ruins of which remain today. Back then the summit was not the important section of the mountain! So, what made the lower section so important and attractive for such an extended period of time?

You don’t have to venture far in the annals of Jewish history to discover the deep affinity the Israelite tribes had for this location. It was the mountain where Noah’s son Shem practiced his righteousness as the High Priest of Shalem, for which he became known as Melchizedek - Righteous King. Somewhere on this mountain was Shalem, it was later connected with Abraham who named it ‘heavenly awe’ - ‘Yira’, which was joined as Yira-Shalem, eventually Jerusalem. It’s the place Isaac was offered by Abraham as a sacrifice and Jacob dreamed of a stairway to heaven before he re-named the place once known as Luz - Beit El. So where was Shalem and Luz on this mountain well before anything had been built?

The artist impression places the walled city around the ridge of the lower section of the Mount Moriah sandstone monolith ~3700 years back. Around this time the protruding structure from the city wall to the valley floor is thought by archaeologists to have been built. At that stage, as shown there was no temple, no temple mount and the summit of the mountain north of the city, was not included in its walls. 

The archaeology shows the city wall and spring house were significant scale constructions.
The spring house at the valley floor contained the Gihon Spring, the city’s water source, yet according to the archaeology, before any construction its’ water flowed freely into the Kidron valley. The artist's impression is not accurate, particularly the area marked by the black rectangle. The archaeology there reveals that structures (south) adjacent to the protruding wall and spring house had previously been constructed in the bedrock, but they are not represented.

Today the City of David organization has physically and virtually reconstructed the spring house and as can be seen in the next image the remaining walls are significant. Some of the one tonne boulders that are stacked from the valley floor up the mountain follow a line of at least 70 meters. It would have required a large workforce of skilled artisans and laborers to develop this structure over a period of several decades.

The missing elements from the artists image are better represented below, on the south side of the thin red line. They include an early Bronze Age cave dwelling ~4500 years old, a series of four rooms on the High ridge and a deep cut (in the bedrock) upper Gihon pool to which water from the spring was once channeled. 

This area marked in the boundary of the black rectangle is the oldest on the mountain. The features were well used by a relatively small number of people. It contains several flour presses that remain carved in the bedrock around the pool. Steps from the pool to the high ridge, which contains significant artifacts once used for holy worship were destroyed. This was probably done to stop the growing numbers of people going up to the high ridge to offer sacrifice. One of the most unique artifacts is a stone monument known as a matzevah used to record a covenant. I hold a view that it is the one erected by Jacob and that established the overwhelming motivation for Israel's 300 year pursuit of this area.

The holy use of the high ridge is just coming to light through archaeology and a review of ancient texts. King David may have been disappointed to discover that the sacred areas on the eastern slope of Mount Moriah were closed by the massive construction that fenced them in. Shalem, Luz and Beit El had been closed down by the occupiers of the city. Before Israel had been exiled to Egypt, this was the place his ancestors had come, but it was no longer serviceable, so during the King’s reign he preserved the area for later generations. That time is now!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Israel, Occult and Jerusalem's Holy Temple

Over the past 12 years I have repeatedly visited Jerusalem’s City of David, often as frequently as 5 or 6 times each year. I have extensively studied the mountain on which it is located and continue to do so. I am fascinated by the evolving nature of discovery as excavations, especially at my favorite site, the oldest on the mountain continue to reveal amazing secrets of its past.

I have come to experience, through a review of Jewish history as influenced by archaeology that my imaginative realization is increasingly complete. Notwithstanding departures from varying opinions, I find myself defending the past from distortion. Perhaps my ambition deters me, but I am compelled by a certain responsibility to push forward regardless.


Mekhilta d'Rabbi Yishmael 14:15:2
...R’ Yosi haGalili said ‘when Israel entered the Red Sea, mount Moriah was already uprooted from its place with Yitchak's altar built upon it and its woodpile in place.

Israel's historical record is replete with fiendish enemies who sought the nation's destruction. Laban, the father in law of Israel’s progenitor Jacob was intent on usurping his future national heritage. On Israel’s exile in Egypt, Pharaoh and his occultist advisors were alarmed at their record population growth and the ethnic cleansing that followed is made abundantly clear. After leaving Egypt following some impressive early war victories Israel amassed on the east bank of the Jordan. The opposing sentiment of the seven Canaanite clans who had occupied Israel’s land was well established. Israel had risen and was coming back to reclaim its land, eternal cities and Jerusalem!

By the time Moses sent his select men to explore the land Israel was expecting to enter, the fortified walls surrounding ancient Jerusalem and at the Gihon Spring, its water source had already been constructed. Some of Moses men complained of massive towers, walls and giants that saw them as mere insects. Indeed having spent a few years wandering the desert, the imposing construction would have been daunting. On the scale of pyramids, the stacked one tonne boulders rose 50 meters from the valley floor, up the steep incline to meet the reinforced stone walls that surrounded the city on the summit of the ridge.

Although the seemingly impenetrable fortress at the Gihon Spring had deflated the report of the explorers, the archaeology reveals it did not protect the water, which flowed freely into the valley floor. Perhaps the fortress protected city folks while they accessed water, but it’s grand scale, specific location, offset to the south of the spring and relativity to other important artifacts on the High Ridge establish a serious intellectual and academic challenge. Why was it built?

To understand this we must briefly consider occultist opposition to Israel through the competitive progeny of Abraham’s father Terah, descendant of Noah’s son Shem. The principal occultists included Og, Laban and Balaam who through Egypt’s Pharaoh (descendant of Noah’s son Ham) and the Moabite king - Balak, cast their influence far and wide. Their astrological skills were extraordinary, Balaam was considered a prophet of the highest order, even beyond Moses.

Abraham and Sarah were fathered by Terah to different wives; Pharaoh fathered Hagar who became Abraham’s second wife; Laban Abraham’s great nephew; Og became Abraham’s right hand man, but later he or his reincarnate rebelled. Balaam, Laban’s reincarnate; and Balak descended from Moses father-in-law, but rebelled to unite Midian and Moab against Israel. Ham’s son Canaan was cursed by Noah and the seven sons of Canaan had occupied most of the land to which Israel was returning. However, if Israel had only one nemesis it was Amalek the nation God commanded them to destroy including women, children and cattle. The Zohar, Israel’s seminal mystical work attributes Balaam and Balak as the principal proponents for motivating the nation - Amalek.

Hatred of Israel was palpable among the member nations of occultist rhetoric. Inevitably Israel’s rising through their holy disposition, miraculous events and motivation to reoccupy their inherited land caused these opponents to strengthen their resolve. Israel’s most holy site, the place Shem-Melchizedek, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob connected to their future progeny was considered to be their source of power and the permanent location of Israel’s future temple in Jerusalem. It’s no wonder Israel’s nemesis co-conspirators wanted to stop them and they acted by encasing the eastern slope of Mount Moriah in a mausoleum of massive boulders.


The archaeology at the Gihon spans Chalcolithic through Iron age and is highly concentrated. I adapted Parker’s map below to highlight each of the layers ascending from the valley floor up the eastern face of Mount Moriah to the structures on the High Ridge.

The double grey ‘Line of the Citadel Twin Wall’ (Area 2) on the map above can be seen in point of view from the photo (below) where Eli Shukron is standing at around 20 meters above the valley floor. Behind him (right of image) is the Gihon Spring House. The distant light in the far background emanates a further 30 meters from the top of the High Ridge. On the left and right (north) remnants of the wall scattered over the bedrock, up to the High Ridge and down to the valley floor, where its foundations remain intact.

Dating significant constructions, the map distinguishes between area 1 and 2 that roughly divide in half. Area 1 is arguably the oldest location on the mountain, the rudimentary Cave Room marked ‘K’ dates to the Early Bronze Age perhaps as old as 5000 years. The deep cut tunnel marked ‘E’ descends into the bedrock below ground ‘Levels’ as marked on the map, it can be attributed to a similar time and may have originated as part of the artesian aquifer on mountain. The area, rooms and artifacts on the High Ridge marked ‘G’ are dated to the middle or late bronze age around 4000-3800 years. Large cut boulders in Area 1 marked “Broken Steps” that once connected the High Ridge (‘G’) to the Upper Gihon Pool below ‘P’ were purposefully destroyed as indicated by the order of their fall. Area 2 is later, more sophisticated dated to around 3700 years including construction of the Citadel Twin Wall.

Notwithstanding the theory of purposeful destruction, surprisingly some of the most sensitive artifacts on the High Ridge were well preserved. The preservation seems to have been facilitated by rock/wall fill discovered between and separating the rooms of area ‘G’ from the point the Citadel Twin Wall meets the High Ridge. This fits with the theory of division of areas 1 from 2. Further passage between the Twin Walls from the High Ridge was discovered to its north, just before the steep tunnel descent at the second ‘E’ (from top) on the map.

Given the Broken Steps and preservation of artifacts on the High Ridge, it appears there was a concerted effort to disconnect the lower levels of area 2 from the High Ridge. We cannot be certain of the time of this separation, but we can be more certain that the Twin Walls were constructed in part to conceal or divert traffic away from the previously constructed High Ridge and its artifacts.   

The High Ridge may have once been used extensively for worship, but by the time the Twin Wall abutting the surrounding city wall was constructed, city folks in the area no longer used it or its use was forbidden. If this theory is correct then no artifacts from periods later than ~3700 are unlikely to be discovered around ‘G’ on the bedrock of the High Ridge. If use and access to the High Ridge were not permitted, it would add further support the theory and evidence that the influence of Israel and its monotheistic practices were being locked out, buried and its holiest site permanently altered. Lead Archaeologist, Eli Shukron noted the packed, soft earth discovered around the rooms on the High Ridge, including ‘G’ appeared to support continued preservation at some time in the post first temple era.

The Twin Wall construction abandoned area ‘G’ on the High Ridge. Once a regularly used holy site was locked outside the city wall and the external, inaccessible south face of the Twin Wall - red line in image above. Access through the Twin Wall was contained to the middle passage. On the valley floor, the previously constructed Upper Gihon Pool could be used, but the steps that one led from the pool to the High Ridge had been broken to disconnect people of the city and anyone who dared attempt the climb.


This important site on the east face of Mount Moriah contains artifacts for holy Jewish Temple worship, but the only temple ever referred at this site and in this time, could be the Beit El (House of God) that Jacob once dedicated to fulfill his covenant. We must struggle with the prospect that the first temple of Solomon and the second of Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah were built in a different location on the mountain.