BiblePlaces Newsletter
Vol 5, #2 - May 15, 2006

This newsletter has been on somewhat of an unexpected hiatus during the spring.  I cannot deny that I resisted the urge to write a newsletter, but failed to resist the urge to travel and photograph.  If forced to choose, I'd rather see the sites, especially in the springtime.  The results are good, including the featured photographs in today's newsletter, all of which were taken a few days ago.

For more frequent updates, check out the BiblePlaces Blog.  The intent there is to be more than a news reel, but to add a touch of humor (occasionally) and a touch of color (always).

The new website Life in the Holy Land is getting better all the time, with dozens of new pages added in the last couple of weeks.  See below for a continuation of the free CD offer. 

This month's featured photographs may open your eyes to just how much there is to see in Israel.  On a typical tour, Jericho will be one of many stops of the day (if they even stop at all!).  There is so much more, and we have some suggestions to keep you exploring the city all day long.

Todd Bolen
Assoc. Professor, The Master's College
Israel Bible Extension (IBEX), Judean Hills, Israel


News from Israel

Go Under to Tour Herod's Harbor

A new underwater archaeological park is now open at Caesarea.  Visitors can tour one of three routes with diving equipment or a fourth with snorkeling gear.  The supplied waterproof maps locate 36 stops for the divers to view.  On display are remains of Herod's engineering genius, including statue pedestals and the foundations of a lighthouse, promenade, and breakwater.  In addition, a Roman shipwreck and anchors are visible.  For more information, see the Times Online, the Middle East Times, or Israel21C.

Will Masada Fall Again?

The Iranian president recently prophesied that Israel "will vanish," and now Israeli engineers are suggesting that the nation's monument of Jewish resistance may not be able to withstand the effects of earthquakes and erosion.  Scientists from the Ben Gurion University of the Negev and the University of California at Berkeley are beginning a four-year study to measure the effects of seismic tremors, temperature, humidity, and tidal pull on the mountain.  Meanwhile, restoration of the northern palace continues, with plans to put the original wall paintings in a special display offsite.  A full report is in the Jerusalem Post.

From the BiblePlaces Blog...

A quiz - what do you know about this photo?

Did Jesus have cold feet?  Including a great photo of "Jesus" walking on the water....

Flash floods in the Judean wilderness with spectacular photos by Ferrell Jenkins...
Dry Wet

An update on the Israel Museum and its new Jerusalem model...

My attempt at an April Fool's joke...

Some of my favorite photos...

And more...

Special Offer: Free CD

I'm still looking for links to the new website, Life in the Holy Land.  "No links" means "no visitors" which means our work has been in vain.  Since the last newsletter, we've added dozens of new pages, including David and Goliath, the Jordan River, Jaffa, the Karnak Temple, Paul in Damascus, Peter and Cornelius, and the Holy Fire Ceremony.  If you have a website (or blog) and add a link to Life in the Holy Land, we'll send you a free CD.  Or ask your friend, school, or church to add a link to their site.  If you do, send me 1) the website where the link has been added; 2) your choice of CD; 3) your mailing address.  And if you don't add a link, take a look around the site anyway - there's some great stuff to explore!


Featured BiblePlaces Photos: A Day in Jericho

Those tourists lucky enough to visit Jericho at all usually stop only at the tell with ruins from the Old Testament period. Those willing to brave the heat might even climb up the tell and view the Neolithic tower, evidence that Jericho is "the world's oldest city." And then, perhaps they'll read the story of Joshua's conquest of the city before jumping on the bus and heading off. But there is more. Much more.

Jericho is similar to Jerusalem in that people have always been attracted to it. The warm climate and the abundant springs have made it a place of nearly continuous inhabitation from 8,000 B.C. until today. Canaanites, Israelites, Jewish people in the time of Jesus, the Umayyad rulers, Crusaders, and the Arabs of today not only called it home but left behind marvelous remains. Perhaps in the future, you'll have more than the typical hour to visit Jericho and you'll be able to see just how large and impressive the city was. Until then, here is a glimpse…

Each photo is linked to a higher-resolution version which may be used freely for personal and educational purposes.  Commercial use requires separate permission.  These photos, plus a bonus, are also available for download in a PowerPoint file (2.1 MB).  For more high-quality, high-resolution photographs and illustrations of biblical sites, purchase the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands or the Historic Views of the Holy Land series. 


The Tell

Click picture for higher-resolution version.

Like most other ancient cities in the Levant, Jericho was built and destroyed numerous times on the same site, creating a large earthen mound. One of the earliest explorers, Charles Warren, did not understand the nature of tells and concluded that this tell was the ruin of an ancient castle. One of his excavation shafts in 1868 missed revealing the Neolithic tower by just 3 feet (1 m). Since his time, the tell has been studied by numerous archaeologists, resulting in various controversies over their conclusions.


Herodian Hippodrome

Click picture for higher-resolution version.

Though Jericho was cursed by Joshua and its reoccupation forbidden, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt the city in the days of Ahab (1 Kings 16:34). Following the exile in Babylon, returning Jews settled here and established a center of Jewish life that apparently endured for more than a thousand years. The Hasmonean kings erected palaces here in the 1st century B.C., and Herod the Great expanded the royal compound significantly. In addition to his multiple palaces, sunken garden, swimming pools, and bathhouse, Herod built a large hippodrome. Josephus tells of Herod gathering the leading men of his kingdom at the hippodrome, to be slaughtered upon his death to ensure that there would be mourning throughout the land. This racecourse is unique in the ancient world because it was joined to a theater at one end.


Monastery of Temptation

Click picture for higher-resolution version.

Jesus passed through the city of Jericho on numerous occasions as he traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem. Jewish inhabitants of the city included Bartimaeus and Zaccheus, and Jesus' recorded healings here were not only physical but also spiritual. Tradition has associated Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River with a place near Jericho, and with that has grown up the tradition that Jesus' temptation occurred in this area. But Scripture does not give a location more specific than "the wilderness," and it's hardly likely that Jesus would have been so near a population center like Jericho in his time of testing.


Second Temple Period Cemetery

Click picture for higher-resolution version.

You might deduce from the Zaccheus story (Luke 19) that the city of Jericho had some wealthy inhabitants in the 1st century A.D. Archaeologists have studied the cemetery from that time and found impressive remains. They surveyed and excavated more than 100 tombs, with remains of wooden sarcophagi and stone ossuaries. There were inscriptions in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and one family apparently was nicknamed "Goliath." In the above tomb, I counted at least 19 burial shafts (loculi, or kokhim) in a single chamber.


The Ancient Synagogue

Click picture for higher-resolution version.

About a year ago, it was reported that the ancient synagogue in Jericho had been destroyed by Arab vandals. In my recent visit, there was no evidence of harm to the ancient remains, and the synagogue appeared to be well-protected by the Palestinian authorities. The beautiful mosaic floor includes an Aramaic dedicatory inscription, a depiction of the Ark of the Law, a seven-branched menorah, a lulav, and a shofar. In addition, the centerpiece (shown above) has a Hebrew inscription, shalom al yisrael, "peace upon Israel." This synagogue was in use from the 6th to the 8th centuries A.D.


Hisham's Palace

Click picture for higher-resolution version.

Ironically, the period of Jerusalem's (and Jericho's) greatness under Muslim rule was during a time when the rulers of the Holy Land did not control the sites of Mecca and Medina. Instead, therefore, much attention and investment was given by the Umayyad Dynasty to Jerusalem and Jericho.  They constructed the Dome of the Rock, Al Aqsa Mosque, and numerous palaces. During the reign of el-Hisham (724-743), either he or his successor el-Walid built an elaborate palace about one mile northeast of the tell of Jericho. Known popularly as "Hisham's Palace," the complex includes a bath, a mosque, and a residence. The bathhouse is paved with beautiful mosaics, the most stunning of which is in the reception hall (diwan). The complex was apparently never completed because of the assassination of el-Walid in 744; a few years later, the site was destroyed by a massive earthquake.



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All contents (c) 2006 Todd Bolen.  Text and photographs may be used for personal and educational use.  Commercial use requires written permission.