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!

In an allegorical, 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.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Right of return and the curse of the aberrant covenant

Separation barrier dividing Israel
“...and your descendants shall inherit the gates of their enemies”. The meaning of this verse from Gen. 22:16-18 remained cryptic to me until I stumbled across a shocking explanation that unlocked the mystery. First; this promise was made to Abraham for overcoming his natural instinct to fulfill the will of God and offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Second; prior context is important because the binding of Isaac and offering is introduced by the statement  “...and it was after these events”. What events?

The events refer to the inter-tribal pact Abraham made with Abi Melech (Father King) in Aza (modern Gaza) allowing Abi Melech’s living descendants to stay in the land, importantly  Gaza, Hebron and Shalem (Jerusalem). Immediately after offering Isaac, Sarah died and Abraham returned to Hebron to bury his wife. Notwithstanding Abraham’s  inheritance of the land through his direct descendant Shem or Malchi Tzedek (King of Justice), he upheld the pact. He negotiated with Abi Melech’s relative Ephron, King of the Hittites to buy the grave-cave plot in Hebron known as Machpelah. Later, after Isaac’s water wells were destroyed by Abi Melech’s shepherds, for a renewed promise of peace Isaac extended Abraham's pact to include the living and future descendants of Abi Melech.

Fast forward 400 years to the time Israel returned from Egypt. Then, a tumultuous 300 years followed when Israel was mostly preoccupied settling their land. It is known as the time of Israel’s appointed judges, one of whom was Samson. Most people know the famous story of Samson and his Philistine wife Delilah, in which she convinced him to reveal his hair as the secret source of his strength. When he was sleeping she cut it, which led to imprisonment and death during his redemptive act, the destruction of the idolatrous Philistine temple of Dagon in Gaza.

In one other lesser known story that occurred immediately before Samson met Delilah, he ripped out the heavy doors held between the stone gates of the Philistine city and marched them on his shoulders to the mountain opposite Hebron, a distance of 60 Kilometers. We are not told much more about this episode, so it puzzled me for some time as I paged through various books looking for clues. We can suppose that the mountain opposite Hebron was Kiryat Arba or Alonei Mamre the original dwelling place of Abraham. So, what was Samson trying to demonstrate by his obvious and purposeful actions?     

We know Samson was a nazarite from birth, totally committed to God and the appointed leader of the rear guard tribe Dan. We also know that Dan was the last tribe to settle its allotted land, but that due to Philistine resistance, reinforced by the earlier covenants with Abraham and Isaac they were unable to conquer it. Similar resistance was met in Hebron and Jerusalem, which Israel’s tribes were also unable to conquer. Further, the other tribes, who had previously joined the collective struggle of re-occupation abandoned their effort to support the last tribe Dan. This forced the burgeoning tribe to look for land and in their transient state their leaders restlessly sought solutions ultimately part re-locating in Laish, near today’s Golan Heights.

The recurring theme through the stories of Samson are of strength and resistance almost tangential is his role as highest judge of the tribes. Carrying the gate of Gaza representing the region allotted to tribe Dan, Samson was crying out in desperation that his tribe and his nation confront the effect of the aberrant covenant of Abraham and Isaac by defeating their Philistine enemy. In protest he marched the door of Gaza to the home of Abraham, reminding the nation that they had not yet fulfilled their obligation to settle the entire land, Samson was protesting Israel’s continuing and erroneous regard for the aberrant covenant.    

“...and it was after these events”  Abraham demonstrated his faith by offering Isaac “...and your descendants shall inherit the gates of their enemies”, but not in Samson’s time! Dejected he leaked his secret to Delilah, destroyed the temple of Dagon where he died.  Approximately 300 years later David first ruled as King of Judaea in Hebron before he infiltrated the walled city of Jerusalem and obtained influence over Abi Melech’s descendant, the incumbent Jeubusite King, Araunah. Progressively King David increased his dominance eventually uniting Israels disparate tribes, however he too was distracted, unable to rectify the allotment of tribe Dan by conquering Gaza.  

Almost 3000 years have passed since Israel relinquished the opportunity to fully realize the benefits of their entire land. In 2005 the order by Arik Sharon to dismantle Gush Katif and the towns built around Gaza by Jewish families was the last real opportunity to overcome the curse of the aberrant covenants that continues to prevent Israel from its rightful return to Gaza, Hebron and parts of Jerusalem. Perhaps Israel will once again merit a leader that is capable to finally rectify the past and strong enough to resist foreign diplomatic offers of security for fragile short term peace. Inevitably we must look forward to a generation that will be united in its demand for full restoration of the Israel’s inheritance to restore the rights of all its tribes and bring order to its land. Maybe that will that be Generation 5800?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Come into My garden...

Red finger at the apex of cemetery pointing to Gihon Spring 
Jewish scholars related the 'neck' to the Temple's location in Jerusalem. King Solomon's Song of Songs (4:4) can be translated from its Hebrew origin to: "Your neck is the tower of David, built as an ornament." Rabbi Chaim Vital, a student of 15th century Rabbi, Yitzchak Luria, known as The Ari quoted this verse to explain the secret meaning of Exodus 12:40 which describes the children of Israel as they left their state of exile; "And the dwelling of the Israelite's in Egypt was 430 years."

To elucidate Rabbi Vital attributes five disciplines that distinguish God from His inconceivable state to that in the natural order. Rabbi Vital explains that God uses His name "Elo(h)im" which connotes discipline to represent His natural manifestation. Because Hebrew letters are also numerical, the value of this name equals 86. Rabbi Vital brings this together by multiplying the 5 states of discipline by 86 which equals 430. Moreover, 86, God's constricted state also numerically equates with the Hebrew word - 'hateva' meaning "The Nature."  

A few lines after the Song of Songs quote relating the tower of David to 'the neck', the following line appears; "I have come into My garden, My sister, My bride". Rabbi Menachem Schneerson known as - The Rebbe, drew inspiration from this for his inaugural recital, Basi LeGani, the last work by his father-in-law before his death. A year after, The Rebbe presented his recital on his acceptance as the seventh and final Rebbe of Lubavitch. Basi LeGani describes the brilliance of release from exile relating its realization to the Temple in which God's name, in His ultimate 'inconceivable' state, is exclusively revealed. For an individual, the physical Temple would simultaneously be the exclusive spiritual place in which God, in His ultimate, inclusive state revealed one's truest, most soulful purpose in the physical world. 

The neck is the body's constricted conduit between the head and the heart. At the front it houses, vessels for speech, nourishment, blood and breath (known as Joseph), at the rear the protective spine feeds brain signals to the heart and body (known as Pharaoh). In the time it takes for the brain's signal to pass through the neck Jewish mystics suggest the transfer of thought to physical action is exposed to potential disruption. For example, synchronizing quickly formed brain signals to form speech/words in the larynx and mouth is often problematic. Overcoming this potential shortcoming is a free choice, moreover it is a choice in which one's state-of-mind is critical to the outcome. 

In these verses, the Hebrew word used for the neck's ornament is 'talpiot', which is allegorically expressed by the sages as a contraction of two words that mean, "the heap (that was and will again be) beautiful" or "the mount (which and to which) all mouths (will) pray." The mystical interpretation of the ornament as an adornment to the neck could fill many books, but I wish to focus here only on its related geo-physical implication. 

In Jerusalem's City of David there exists a 'heap' or 'mound,' the subject of much excavation over the past 30 years. Today, this heap is known as the 'tower' and it is built over Jerusalem's only perennial spring known as Gihon. Recent excavations at this location revealed archaeological features so powerful they could literally rock the world. The findings contain bronze-age bedrock structures extensively used for sacrificial worship and, fortified to protect their sanctity. Around these structures Jerusalem grew into the city it is today. 

At this excavation a small, single monument, a sliver of stone, remarkably (since no other like it has survived) remains standing after more than 3500 years. Supported in a frame of 12 stones, it marks the spot where Jacob slept on the night he left Israel, exiled while fleeing his brother and the spot where he returned to accept the name Israel. Whilst this small stone is indeed monumental, its source (according to Midrash) would have been extracted from the adjacent fully intact altar ramp. This altar was used well before Abraham offered his son Isaac, and that makes the site earth-shattering because, according to the scholarly works, yet contrary to all expectations, it would also mark the spot for Jerusalem's third and final Temple

Topographically, the exposed bedrock of this sacred mountain, visible in its entirety in the bronze-age, would have resembled a head and neck when viewed by Abraham on his southern approach. Additionally, the location of the tower or fortress of of David's citadel at the present excavation would approximate the place on which an ornament adorning the neck would lie. King David re-conquered this mountain on which a fortified city had previously been founded. From the City of David, he planned the first Temple, never knowing, realizing or revealing the true location of its altar. David's son, Solomon, eventually built the Temple where his father planned, on the head of the mountain within the approximate boundaries of today's Temple Mount where the second temple was also built. 

If we pay attention to the overwhelming preponderance of evidence from the Bible's exegesis, the location of the tower of David as the neck's ornament marks "the heap (that was and will again be) beautiful" or "the mount (which and to which) all mouths pray", yet this is the site which King David denied us when determining his temple plans. Reconstructing the evidence, it is likely that, ~200 years after King David, King Hezekiah realized David had moved the site. He discovered this while diverting the water of the Gihon, extending the city walls, and he built around the tower of David to mark, protect and hide this holy site for future generations. In doing so, his grief almost killed him. 

The shocking archaeological revelations at this location will surely be a significant catalyst to change the status quo and existing states of mind just as The Rebbe rescued orthodox Judaism from its post holocaust demise. As such it presents enormous difficulties and challenges especially among religious Jews who are likely to dismiss this revelation reverting to their customary orthodox interpretations of the Temple's location. In many ways our realization of the rectified state-of-mind and its expression is the final redemption in which we all accept that knowledge constitutes a completion of our exiled state. If we learn to embrace all inputs as a holistic convergence, a unification of opposites, we get to experience and realize our ultimate and aggregate potential. 

Mystics and scholars of the Hebrew Torah who left a trail of clues did so to promote this rectified state of exile emphasizing the holistic perspective: A world devoid of happenstance where every occurrence has its Divine purpose. Their writings stare in Israel's face, unequivocally declaring its sole and exclusive, indigenous right to the garden, the land of its people. Other than for momentary abandonment's through exile, because of aggression against Israel, since the time of Joshua more than 3000 years ago Jerusalem has been kept by Jews. Now Israel and its leaders must boldly pursue its inherent, often unexpected wisdom to dismiss with conviction foreign leaders who demand Israel's exiled state continues. Now is the time to finally take its rightful place as the nation by whom other nations are inspired and to complete the glorious mission started by Jacob so many years ago.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Gedaliah who, the determined Jew?

Tzitzit (fringes) cut from clothes of tribe Dan soldiers - The Megiddo Ivory
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob re-claimed Canaanite occupied land which amplified tensions among the local tribal kings and regional powers. Ancient Canaanites were never dull, especially on the south coast, which was hotly contested by invaders from north, south and east. Egyptians and Libyans controlled the coastal trade route north through Gaza to Megiddo. Inland, along the flat plains to the northeast competition was against their Hittite families, but after 300 years returning Israelites under Joshua wrested control of most of the land. Then, some 500 years later came the Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians advancing from the north to control access into Egypt and north Africa. Alternative access along the Jordan river and Dead Sea, although important, was often far more hostile.

During their 250 year sojourn, Jacob’s small family grew to a slave-community of millions living in Egypts eastern Nile delta before departing on their 40 year nomadic journey to the promised land. During this time they built a temporary sanctuary and nurtured their fledgling national identity. Their exodus vacated Egypt's Nile delta which became exposed to infiltrators. Torah, the Hebrew Bible, became Israel - the new nation’s constitutional and cultural manifesto. By the time Moses died, he had forged Torah’s principles of law and worship into their collective national psyche, but its open framework enabled fiercely competitive intra-tribal identities to express themselves in priority to apparent national interests.

Moses tasked Joshua to conquer the promised land for the 12 tribes of Israel to settle. Joshua accomplished this by leading each tribe through successive victories over 31 regional kings, each a descendant of Canaan son of Egypt’s founder, Mitzrayim the son of Ham. Ham’s brother Shem was granted the land of Canaan by their father Noah. Their brother Yafeth was given land north and east of Canaan in modern Iraq and Iran. The three regions belonging to Ham (Egypt), Shem (dubiously Canaan) and Yafeth (Mesopotamia) constituted the fertile crescent. The division of this valuable continental junction established the basis for significant regional rivalry.

Dan was the last tribe Joshua assisted to settle their land. It was a difficult allocation for the hotly contested (south of modern day Tel Aviv), but important Egyptian coastal trade route through Gaza, Ashkelon and Ashdod. The 64,000 eligible members of Dan were made up from only one family known as the Shuchamites, the descendants of Dan’s son Chushim. Dan's initial land allocation required them to expand south into land occupied by the Philistines (descendants of Mitzrayim’s grandson). However, a previous tribal pact entered by Abraham and Isaac provided Philistine immunity in Gaza and their Hittite and Jebusite cousins obtained immunity in Hevron and Jerusalem. Toward the end of the period of Israel’s Judges (a few hundred years after Joshua), Samson - a judge from the tribe of Dan married a Philistine woman Delilah, which changed the course of history at the time.

Garment of captured Shasu 
presented to foreign king
Absent a new ruler or king there was little cohesiveness among the incongruous tribes of Israel. Dissatisfied and left to fend for themselves, the seniors of tribe Dan snaked a path north through Israel's tribal territories in search of easy to conquer land. During the same period Pharaoh Merenptah was pushing north through Israeli tribal land to attack the northern Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh. Tribal Dan, known to the Egyptians as the Shasu, conquered Laish in Israel’s north and settled the area between the Golan Heights and Damascus. Dan's territory was split between the south west (Gaza) and north east (Golan) of Israel. Dan, the disgruntled rear guard of Israel were exposed to continuous conflict, contact and trade with Israel's foreign invaders and neighbors. Their victories over local kings and dominance over trade routes heightened competition with other, tribes and nations, which led to regional tensions between Egypt and their burgeoning northern Hittite and Assyrian foes. The Hittites and Assyrians, predecessors of the Babylonians and Greeks, descended from Yafeth and shared a common Cuneiform language.

Around a hundred years later King David consolidated Israel’s disparate tribes briefly establishing a united kingdom and paving the way for his son King Solomon to finally realize the dream of Israel at peace with a permanent temple in Jerusalem. However, peace between the tribes endured only Solomon’s reign. Immediately thereafter the northern tribes under Solomon's exiled treasurer Yerovam split from those in the south under Solomon's son Rechavam, so Dan's divided territory and presence straddled the nation. Around 300 years later this national division led to the prophecies of Yeshayahu (Isaiah) and Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) who predicted the destruction of Jerusalem by the Assyrians and its ultimate destruction by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar.

Under the Assyrians Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah, a righteous Jew to rule as his proxy, but he was murdered at a feast set by Ishmael ben Nethaniah of the tribe of Yehuda and the remaining Jews who had not already been exiled to Babylon were killed or fled to Egypt. Orthodox Jews observe the fast of Gedaliah immediately after Rosh HaShana in the 10 days of repentance preceding Yom Kippur, perhaps to recall some or all of Israel's sordid, competitive, self effacing history. The month from which the temple's destruction commenced was eventually named after Tammuz the Babylonian deity for food and agriculture and became the lowest point of the the Hebrew calendar.

Peace does not come easy, not for a lack of trying, but for lack of the unification King David tried so hard to realize in the middle of Israel's history. Now at the end of that history Jews the world over are having to find new and creative ways to consolidate their disparate views as the world compresses and apparent circumstance forces their hand to accept the essential ingredients that unify, forge and strengthen their national identity.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

One Rock!

A quick lesson in topography for those who are not familiar. The map of two mountains flattens at the summit, one colored green another blue. The concentric lines surrounding each represents the slope from summit to valley below. This image captures the undulating hills, each with a summit, slope and valley, huddled in Jerusalem’s holy basin.

 Ancient Jerusalem's Holy Basin
The mountain subject of this essay is Mount Moriah with summit colored green, valley boundary in red - it is a single rock, a monolith! On the summit stands the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine to Caliph Omar who conquered Jerusalem in 637 CE.
To its south, Al Aqsa Mosque, further south the Ophel followed by City of David and to its east, the perennial Gihon Spring.

According to Jewish tradition Mount Moriah is the foundation stone of the entire world, yet this tradition was reduced through history and to this day, most people believe the foundation stone to be a rock on the summit somewhere under the Dome of the Rock. This location was designated as the place the Holy of Holies once stood during the period of the first and second temples of Jerusalem. The rectangular area around the summit of Mount Moriah are the remains of the Temple Mount constructed by King Herod toward the end of the second temple era.

I have no doubt King David once built an altar on the summit of Mount Moriah (in the green zone) in accordance with Jewish tradition and no doubt the Holy of Holies of the first and second temples were built on that approximate location within the bounds of the Temple Mount. However, I deeply question whether the King did so to conceal the true location until its rightful time. You see according to Jewish law, then and now, the Holy of Holies obtains its location from the holy altar. For the temple to be a permanent fixture the altar must be located on the place Abraham offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice, the place to which his son Jacob returned and made a covenant to build the House of God.

The tradition of this rock can be traced back to many texts, but one in particular, the story of Jacob recalls Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer (chapter 35); ‘Now Jacob, on his journey from the house of his father, re-experiences that awe, a déjà vu of his father’s binding. Forced to lie down, arrested upon his journey by the sudden sunset, he experiences a primal fear, "How awesome is this place!" (v. 17). The vision of the ‘ladder’ is intended to be a palliative for that fear, a vision of the foundation of the temple, Beit Elokim (House of God), in that place. There Jacob sets up a monument of twelve-stones-fused-into-one to mark the spot.

matzevah light touched.jpg
Matzevah or monument of Jacob's covenant
According to Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer, what did God do? He stretched out His right foot [symbolic of eternity] and sank the stone deep into the earth, as one sets a keystone into an arch. Accordingly, the stone is called, even hashtya, the Foundation Stone, and there is the navel of the world and from there the whole Earth was stretched out [in the Act of Creation], and, upon that stone the temple of God stands.’

The unique stone in the image above is more than 3500 years old and was re-discovered in 2008. Somehow it is stable, sunken into the bedrock and surrounded by small boulders facing east on a high (upper) ridge, on the neck of Mount Moriah, west of the Gihon Spring. It has survived like no other artifact in the City of David. In context, as seen in the image below, it sits in one of four stone carved bedrock chambers exclusively dedicated for holy worship. They contain a grain press an oil press, features for processing small animals and an altar.

High Ridge Art (3).jpg
Upper Ridge West of the Gihon Spring
Archaeologist Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority discovered the stone, known as a matzevah. He recorded it was surrounded by soft, tightly packed earth, it and the entire upper ridge had been purposefully buried (based on other artifacts found in the layers above) by one of the last kings of Judah. Ongoing excavations at the site continue to yield first and second temple items, but soon for the first time in more than 2500 years, the area highlighted in green between the bedrock and this worship complex will be excavated and may inform us of its holy purpose.
Mount Moriah is associated with “HaMakom” meaning “The Place”, but where exactly on the mountain is the place? Where did Jacob locate his matzevah and dream of the ladder that extended to heaven on which angels were climbing up and down. According to tradition it is the head or summit, but according to more mystical sources the place is and will always be the neck. In time we will find out more, but for now the search continues to discover the special purpose of this holy place.