Thursday, February 8, 2018

Peeling back Jerusalem's most ancient layers...

I set out a theory and proof that ancient occupiers of the sparse hills of Jerusalem, with significant help from their regional allies constructed the Massive Fortified Corridor (MFC), adjacent to the Gihon Spring specifically to discourage Israel's return.

A conclusive theory of Jerusalem's Middle Bronze (MB) to Iron Age period continues to evade archaeologists and historians. One study by Hillel Geva tracks the development of Jerusalem's population and provides an excellent overview of the areas the city expanded to through the ages. I will use the breadcrumbs of population growth, as found in Middle Bronze age archaeology to reconstruct the first period of the city’s development.

Bewildering is the absence of any archaeological trace of a Middle Bronze western city wall in the presence of the MFC (East) adjacent to the Gihon Spring. Perhaps even more complex is the scant evidence of a complete eastern city wall, one that should have certainly left traces at intervals.  I will demonstrate that the MFC was not constructed to protect water as per common logic, but to serve another motive.

The massive Middle Bronze II (MB II) fortress erected around the Gihon Spring undoubtedly required a major economic effort and substantial manpower (Boas-Vedder 2001; Reich 2011: 248–261). This does not mean that the inhabitants of the city were necessarily the builders of the massive structures; much of the manpower may have been recruited from the hinterland (Geva 2014).

Israel Finkelstein shares the view that the MBII fortress and area around the Gihon Spring remained somewhat independent of the expanded city. The old mound of Jerusalem was located on the Temple Mount (Ophel) and activity on the City of David ridge (the southeastern hill of Jerusalem) was restricted to the area around the Gihon Spring (Finkelstein, Koch and Lipschits 2011) In other words he supports the view that a MB II city wall, which has not yet been discovered, may not have existed at that time.

Figure 1 - Middle Bronze II - Warren Shaft System, Fortification and Gihon Spring. To align see (E) in the image below.
Coming out of the upper tunnel (Tunnel VI) moving to the eastern slope, a traveler finds himself outside (north) of the MFC rather than on the path leading into it, as one would expect if the corridor had already been built before the Warren Shaft System (WSS). This indicates that parts of the WSS existed and part built before the MFC. Since the corridor is known to be Canaanite in age, it follows that the WSS must also be of Canaanite age. (Dan Gill 2011)

With increases in the city's population and geopolitical changes in the region, this regionally sponsored hill eventually became one of the City-States that ruled in the region. In the face of the prevailing political rivalries from within and without, city rulers embarked on a comprehensive, state-funded, integrated program to protect the city and its vital water resources. Presumably, the city walls, the spring tower and MFC, as well as the Siloam Channel, were built during these stages. (Dan Gill 2011)

This invokes many questions, particularly related to evidence the Parker-Vincent expedition of 1909 uncovered, much of which has been principally ignored by Israel's modern archaeologists.

Figure 2 - Parker and Vincent map with photo overlay, sitting at position [K-21-b] (above)
An amateur researcher would be hard pressed to find any archaeological reference to Jerusalem's oldest private cave dwelling, but for a 1909-1911 photo of Parker and Vincent. This photo exposes [K-21-b] on the Vincent map, a private cave dwelling elevated ~20m above the valley floor on the eastern slope of Mount Moriah, south of the Gihon Spring. The cave dwelling (K) dates back to the early bronze age. It is barely referenced by Ronny Reich in his recent book Excavating the City of David - Where Jerusalem's History Began. Vincent also discovered pottery and tombs in the vicinity that were dated to 3000 B.C.E. . None of the finds date later than the Early Bronze Age.

I rely on the hypothesis that this initial private cave dwelling was developed by and for important occupants because of its substantial size and features relative to the period of its construction. On this and evidence discovered in the immediate areas around this cave dwelling, I reconstructed the development logic of population growth in the area.

Parker and Vincent excavated K as well as extensions L, M and passage N, adjacent to the more recently excavated area east of L, K, J and P. This area south of the, Rock-cut Pool(Fig. 1) forms an elevated platform ~3m above the top step that leads (on its eastern end) into the Round Chamber (Fig.1) also marking the lowest part of the expanded Rock-Cut Pool.

Figure 3 - Lower section of Parker and Vincent overlay map on Reich-Shukron Figure 1 map
Figure 3 is a complete context map of the entire complex including important elements missed by the  Parker-Vincent excavation. The Middle Bronze age is a critical period in the development of this site, but the areas missed by Parker-Vincent, those (south) adjacent to G were excavated by Shukron and these most recent excavations (the circled area) are fundamental elements in the logic of these staged progressions.

The birds eye view, demonstrated by Figure 3 is the entire complex that includes the impassable access corridor rising from lower elevation J-P to the temple complex on high ridge G-H. In area F excavation reached the bedrock and exposed a number of steep bedrock steps, on several of which were potsherds from Middle Bronze Age IIB. (Shukron, Uziel, Szanton 2013).

The descending section of the east-west corridor marked XVIII, at lower elevation P-XXI appears to have been disconnected such that the eastern end (as it approaches P) terminates as a sheer rock face that renders the upper part of the corridor inaccessible. The missing section may have once connected this steep corridor between lower and upper elevation. (see image below)

The impassable, disconnected corridor. Lower-eastern section has been reconstructed to connect P with G
Following the logical path from C to E to G (including via external passage at E) a well thought-out plan was implemented to improve upon natural karstic elements and combine them into an accessible  water supply system that became known as Warrens Shaft, (Dan Gill). Although the complex of rooms excavated at G were completed by 2011, no archaeologist report has ever been published, but the temple features of this complex overwhelmingly support its spiritual importance.

Returning to the Rock-cut pool of Figure 1, the MBII channel and Round Chamber preceded the expansion of the pool to its present day boundaries (Reich attributes this expansion to the Iron Age). The eastern stepped access into the expanded pool and more humble Round Chamber suggests the Chambers original elevation may have once been level with adjacent plateau's north and south (as indicated, by red outlines in Figure 4 below).

Figure 4 - Shukron, Uziel, Szandton excavations enhanced and labeled
Looking (south) over the Round Chamber, tourist walkway sunken into Rock-cut Pool.
Fallen boulders (right-west) illustrated green in Figure 4
Figure 5 - Indicative depth of original Round Chamber edge (north-east) level with northern adjacent plateau
and entry of MBII Tunnel III
Round chamber entry of Iron Age Tunnel IV (left) and MBII Tunnel III (right)

The expansion of the Round Chamber into the Rock-cut pool and disconnect of the lower section of corridor P-G would have rendered the P plateau and cave dwelling K inaccessible from its opposite northern plateau (that supports the remains of MFC - Fig.5). Further, the high ridge of area G would have become inaccessible from any of the lower reaches on the eastern slope of Mount Moriah and the Kidron Valley. This or any renovation may have occurred at a date later than MBII, perhaps very Late Bronze (LB) or Iron Age (IA) (Reich). Although Uziel lead research to carbon date construction to the Iron Age 800-900 B.C.E, there remains evidence that progression of construction to completion at only the northern end may have occurred in this time.

It would have been convenient to quarry and extract the rock surrounding the Round Chamber to form the Rock-cut Pool in order to construct the MFC on its adjacent northern plateau. Was this part of their thinking? The deep chasm of the Rock-cut pool cut access  and the added fortification corridor divided the entire mountain south placing more emphasis on northerly expansion of the city. This is further evidenced by the existence of wall constructs that blocked access along Parker corridor XIX at the point the fortification corridor abutted city walls that were constructed in the Late Bronze or early Iron Age.

Having been slowly established during the Bronze Age on the lower, southern end of the eastern face of Mount Moriah, people, who were now more technically capable were on the move to expand the walls of the city north as the Iron Age was gathering pace. If we accept the hypothesis that this was the pattern by which Jerusalem became more populated then we can understand this atypical development model for a location so prominent in history. Atypical because countless archaeologists who have worked on or studied these excavations coalesce that water protection was the motivation for fortification around the Gihon Spring, but I suggest this was not the case.

The effort to quarry the Rock-cut Pool and construct adjacent fortification corridors that cut the eastern slope, separating south from north was herculean (Boas-Vedder 2001 and Reich 2011). Regional labor, at subsidized cost would have been imported to the city, but only if the ~900 inhabitants (Geva) of MB Mount Moriah had good reason to inspire and undertake such significant development. Note: The Rock-cut pool is cut deeper on the southern, northern and western edge. Storing water was not the reason for these deep cuts because the eastern edge, perhaps as much as ~2m lower dictated the highest water level in the pool.

Given Dan Gill's observation "...that Coming out of the upper tunnel (Tunnel VI) to the eastern slope, a traveler finds himself outside (to the north) of the MFC rather than on a path leading into it...", protecting water does not seem to have been the objective of the MFC construction. Although Early Bronze developments may have cast the die, at any reasonable MB, LB or IA date, geopolitical objectives must have been strongly aligned to inspire regional powers to support the construction of such a substantial infrastructure push to the north.

In summary we have structural evidence of;

1. a deep cut quarry on 3 sides of the Rock-cut Pool leading to Round Chamber
2. access impasse from rock plateau supporting MFC to plateau of cave dwelling K
3. eastern city wall's or foundations but not western
4. fortification corridor blocking XIX and abutting an eastern city wall north of G
5. disconnected corridor joining P with G
6. misalignment of fortification corridor south of and adjacent to the Gihon Spring water source

On the high ridge at G the stone-cut, beam, oil press is juxtaposed with the undisturbed matzevah or massebah and rock frame (see matzevah image below) that was placed directly on the bedrock at some point after the stone-cut rooms had been completed.

A 2013 excavation along XIII west of G unveiled a weight which may have been used for the oil, beam press as depicted

Dating of the rooms carved on the high ridge could be as far back as Early Bronze IV such that the  development chronology on the mountain may resemble the following.

1. Early Bronze I
 – 3300-3050 B.C.E. – sparse, periodic settlement
2. Early Bronze II-III
 – 3050-2030 B.C.E. sparse, prolonged settlement including private dwelling K
3. Early Bronze IV/Middle Bronze I
 -2300-2000 B.C.E. - permanent settlement, bedrock chiseling at high ridge
4. Middle Bronze IIA 2000-1750 B.C.E
. – expanded settlement, early use of area G high ridge, expansion of WSS, Gihon tunnels
5. Middle Bronze IIB-C 1750-1550 B.C.E.
 – excavation of Round Chamber and expanded area G features constructed on the high ridge
6. Late Bronze I – 1550-1400 B.C.E.
 – development on east face, commencement of city walls
7. Late Bronze IIA-B 1400-1200 B.C.E.
 – commence construction of city walls, Rock-cut Pool and MFC
8. Iron Age I 1200-1000 B.C.E.
 – completion of MFC, expansion along valley floor,  tower and city walls
9. Iron Age II – 1000 – 586 B.C.E.
 – water system rearrangement, internal city construction, expansion North and eastern outer wall

At some point after the construction of rock-cut rooms at G, perhaps MBI or MBII the matzevah discovered by Shukron would have been constructed on the bedrock at G.

Matzevah at G
An inventory of items located north to south in 4 rock-cut chambers at G (see southwest corner in Figure 4) include;

1. beam, oil press (external east wall of animal pen)
2. small animal pen (room enclosure)
3. altar platform, grain press, liquids channel leading to pit (tunnel exit west)
4. animal ties (thread through rock corners)
5. matzevah (see picture above)
6. grain press, oil press, V markings in bedrock floor (exit tunnel west)

Eli Shukron in the now famous room with V markings  - exit tunnel west in the north west corner of room
The significant rock-cut and matzevah features in the chambers at G indicate, at least MB use as a temple for high volume worship. Its large scale construction on the high ridge overlooking the Kidron Valley once announced its importance. The scant population of Mount Moriah cannot be have motivated such a significant rock-cut construction, therefore it is more likely it's location and cultural importance attracted people from the region that motivated its construction. Given the dominant nature of this early element of the scheme in Figure 3 especially its relationship to the southern end, it is surprising that the Rock-cut Pool and MFC cut the eastern slope, obfuscating access to area G's rock-cut  rooms.

Curiously the next Figure 5 scheme of excavation presents corridor 1,2 and 3. We have discussed corridor 1 previously as the east-west disconnected P-G corridor marked XVIII in Figure 3. However, corridor 2 terminates at the western deep cut edge of the Rock-cut pool and corridor 3 terminates prematurely into an apparent dead-end. The evidence suggests access to the water below from the temple on the high ridge at G was important. As demand for access was growing additional corridor excavation may have been undertaken. Nevertheless, these excavations are incomplete and 1,2,3 defined here as corridors may simply follow the bedrock slope to their termination points.

Figure 5 excavation area scheme with G and matzevah as indicated - click to enlarge
Relying on the structural evidence above and stratum data provided in the references used, we must establish credible reasons why;

1. the Round Chamber was quarried to establish the Rock-cut pool
2. lower vital connecting sections of corridor 1 (P-G @ XVIII) were cut and corridor 2 terminated at the western quarry edge of the Rock-cut pool
3. the MFC adjacent to the Gihon Spring was undertaken.

Therefore, I posit the following chronological hypothesis;

1. That Mount Moriah was settled in accordance with 1-3 of the chronology above during EB.
2. That MB I reasons for permanent settlement began to materialize, but that these were not fundamentally based on demand for water, but on soft-cultural, spiritual demands as evidenced by Geva's population estimates.
3. That cave dwelling K and early features of the temple at G began servicing spiritual demands
4. That the Round Chamber and channel from the Gihon Spring were constructed to service increasing transient demand during MB IIA-B
5. That the matzevah was erected during MB IIB-C
6. That eastern walls, the Rock-cut pool and MFC were constructed toward the end of LB

Finally the reason for Rock-cut pool and MFC were entirely geo-political, they served no practical purpose and were entirely required by regional leaders to cut the eastern slope and access to the Bronze Age temple on the high ridge at area G.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Ancient Chronology of Jerusalem's Holy Rock

Believe it or not, you are looking at Mount Moriah and Jerusalem's Temple Mount a deserted mountain nested among others, one rock from top to bottom between an eastern and western valley. On its lower eastern face its first permanent cave dwelling, a living space with three sleeping quarters carved neatly into the mountainside rock. A narrow single access passage carved into the rock provided entry. The dwelling passed through generations, but the mountain, which was periodically occupied remained mostly desolate and the cave empty of inhabitants.

A spiritual practitioner, perhaps an oracle or healer brought visitors. Temporarily dwelling on the mountain they sought advice, prayed, made offerings and moved on. Higher up the slope, a ridge with views to the stream along the eastern valley floor became the meeting place for worshipers and advice seekers.

Artisans chipped away at bedrock that rose from the high ridge on the eastern face until hollow spaces formed depressions in the rock. Then, the depressions were shaped into rooms that were exposed to the sky. More rock-on-rock chipping smoothed vertical walls from the hollowed spaces, until the depressions became rectangular and bedrock walls arose from the bedrock floor. The eastern face of each of three rooms opened to provide access at the descending section of the ridge.

Two rooms preserved access to the rear, rising, undulating bedrock ridge, perhaps to facilitate movement of people, supplies and animals to be sacrificed. A platform in room 3 purposefully spared by the rock-chippers.

Archaeology recently revealed that the openings in the rear of room 1 and room 3 provided access to a rising bedrock as seen in the images below.

The features chiseled into the bedrock are confirmed to have been made by rock implements.  Other features carved into the bedrock floor may have been added after the walls and complex was completed. At some point after completion, a matzevah (massebah) was placed onto the bedrock,  between the walls of room 2. This matzevah has been standing in its place on the bedrock of the high ridge ever since it was erected.

How long did bedrock room 2 exist before the matzevah was placed? Did room 2 serve an initial purpose other than for the placement of the matzevah? To answer some of these questions we  explore the cave dwelling and ridge complex to chronologically estimate construction.

Room 1 and adjacent room 2, being tidied by Eli Shukron who rediscovered it in 2008

The earliest small rudimentary cave dwelling on the lower eastern face was first re-discovered by Colonel Montague Parker between 1909-1911. In the only published picture of the cave he is seen sitting with his assistant. Although this cave was preceded by other paleolithic sites on the eastern face, this chalcolithic era cave is relatively sophisticated. 

The living area of the cave dwelling and 3 sleeping quarters can be see in K 19,20,21 (bottom left)  of the map that Parker compiled during his excavations. The rectangular area marks the site of present excavations on the high ridge and the circled area the focus of this article. 

More substantial constructions followed the cave on the high ridge. Later, in the Bronze age water was channeled from the natural Gihon Spring on the eastern face to the rock cut upper Gihon pool. The pool, immediately adjacent and below the cave dwelling was constructed specifically to hold water and spill excess to the stream along the valley floor. These are featured in the image below, left of the red line and are the earliest additions after the high ridge construction. Exclusively bones of kosher animals and many pictorial bullae were discovered in the pool.

Significantly and curiously the next major construction appears to be the fortress over the Gihon Spring (House) and the walls surrounding the city. The features left of the red line, which were rediscovered by Eli Shukron and Ronnie Reich in 2008 are not rendered in the next artist impression and many public renderings fail to recognize their significance and include them. The time of construction for features right of the red line is thought to be late Bronze age. Although the Upper Gihon pool is not shown below, for some time water continued to flow into it and into the stream along the valley floor. But that may have changed at some point after construction. 

The archaeology clarifies that water sourced from the Gihon Spring was not the object of the significant fortress construction. The image below demonstrates that water was channeled from the Gihon (left) to the later lower pool structure right of rock "B" and from there it flowed to the valley floor. Once this became the default channel, the previous route may have been blocked to prevent water entering the upper Gihon pool, but excess to the valley floor continued to flow freely.

The map below demonstrates the rock-cut upper Gihon pool (grey box) was first fed by Tunnel III. Channel II indicates the by-pass discussed in the image above, which flowed water to the newer lower Gihon pool (see Pool Wall). It also shows the Fortification (cream color) made of large boulders constructed on top and adjacent to the older grey rock-cut bedrock elements.

Water does not appear to have been the motivating reason for construction of the very significant fortification over the Gihon Spring. Its massive boulders neatly arranged up the steep eastern face  butt against and hide the north end of the high ridge. Further, the construction completely blocked access to the high ridge and prioritized water flow to the lower Gihon pool, most likely blocking water flow to the upper pool.

Inspiration for this most significant, multi-nation, labor intensive construction favors obfuscation of the high ridge, upper Gihon pool and cave dwelling complex on the eastern face of Mount Moriah. The imposing double wall features of the Gihon fortification terminated high above the valley floor, at the high ridge cutting access to the southern slope and the rooms that once featured so heavily on the mountain face.

According to comments by Eli Shukron the entire high ridge and particularly the areas around the matzevah were preserved with soft sand for thousands of years, where everything else required excavations of rocks and rough rubble. Therefore the high ridge areas were carefully buried for preservation.

Whether or not the high ridge was re-discovered or used by King David or by Hezekiah during the construction of his channel remains unknown. However, matzevot (like the matzevah on the high ridge) were not permitted to be erected after the period of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Well before Herod, Solomon or Joshua, there was a matzevah erected on the eastern slope of Mount Moriah in a location that was a substantial home and place used for regular holy worship.

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 (massebah) 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 (massebah) 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