March Newsletter

I sent out the latest issue of the BiblePlaces Newsletter this morning.  If you didn’t receive it, check your spam folder or subscribe here.  New subscribers won’t get the March issue by email, but you can view it online here.

The new CD this month is People of Palestine, and it includes a wide variety of fascinating photographs of individuals, couples, and groups from the early 1900s.  The American Colony photographers recorded the lives of Jews and Arabs, Christians and Muslims, as well as Samaritans, Druze, and foreigners.  Of the last category, none were quite as obvious as this guy, seen near the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem in January.

Foreigner near Damascus Gate, tb010910292 Foreigner in Jerusalem

Man with Goat Arrested before Passover

The Passover celebration began last night, and yesterday afternoon police arrested a man allegedly preparing in an illegal way.  From the Jerusalem Post:

Jerusalem District police officers detained extreme right-wing activist Noam Federman Monday afternoon, after he was caught driving his vehicle with a kid – a young, male goat – in his car.
Federman is suspected of intending to ritually slaughter the animal in the recently renovated Hurva Synagogue located near the Temple Mount in the Old City.
Police said right wing activists threatened repeatedly this week to come up to the Temple Mount and conduct ritual slaughter there during the Pessah holiday. They also suspect Federman was planning to slaughter the animal on the Temple Mount proper, and not in the synagogue.
Federman was taken in for interrogation and the innocent animal was transferred to the Agricultural Development Unit in the Agriculture Ministry.

This article raises several questions in my mind.  How did police know the goat was in Federman’s car?  Is there a law against having a goat in your car?  Is there a law against having a goat in your car with certain intentions in your mind?  How does the reporter know that the animal is innocent?

The full story is here.


Qumran Caves 1 and 2

One of the most common questions I am asked when at Qumran is the location of the Dead Sea Scrolls caves.  There are 11 caves, discovered between 1947 and 1956, and some are in the limestone cliffs while others are in the marl terrace next to the site.  Fortunately for tour guides, one of the caves is easily visible from Qumran and visitors snap their shot of Cave 4 and leave happy.

Most guides do not know where the other caves are.  They don’t need to know.  Access is either difficult or impossible, in the case of the marl terrace caves (4, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10).  The caves in the limestone cliffs require a hike, are unmarked, and are not easy to find even if you’ve been there before.  Finding photographs of many of the caves is also difficult, though I tried to change that in the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands (and see now, Hanan Eshel’s Qumran, though even there one of the cave photographs is mis-identified and the photo of another is reversed).

The cave that the more intrepid would like to find is Cave 1.  Two of my colleagues and I spent half a day in the late 90s climbing all over the cliffs in the picture below. We had given up when the last of us spotted it on his way back to the car.  But that didn’t make it any easier to find the next time I went looking.  Years later I took a friend, and when he went back with a group in tow, he couldn’t find it.

If finding Cave 1 (or 2) is something that has haunted you, hopefully this blog post and photos will help.  If you prefer this in a printable pdf file that you can take with you on your next trip, you can download that here.

Qumran Caves 1 and 2 area, tb052308448 marked
This is the most important photograph, for it gives you a frame of reference.  The photo was taken from the road leading north from Qumran to the settlement of Kallia.  The view is obviously to the west.
  Qumran area of Cave 1, tb051106999 marked
You cannot see Cave 1 from the road, or from anywhere approaching the cave, because it is hidden behind a large rocky outcropping and the cave faces south.  The key to finding it is to look for the large rock that juts out on the right side of the draw (circled above).

I do not recommend climbing to Cave 1.  The terrain is very difficult, and you will probably get hurt if you try.  I highly recommend you consult with your lawyer first, and if he releases me, my family, and all of my current and former friends from any and all liability, then you can attempt it, if you are accompanied by your medical doctor.

Qumran Cave 1, tb052308450

In the unlikely event one should attempt it, you would climb past the rocky outcropping and just behind it, on the right, you would see Cave 1 (pictured above).  The original cave is the hole on top. 

Excavators cut away the area below in order to make the larger entrance today.  Inside Cave 1 were found the seven original Dead Sea Scrolls: Isaiah A, Isaiah B, Manual of Discipline, War of Sons of Light, Thanksgiving Scroll, Genesis Apocryphon and Habakkuk Commentary.  The cave has been excavated and no traces of any finds can be seen today.

Qumran Cave 2 from below, tb052308457

Cave 2 is a bit like a silver medal at the Olympics, and it doesn’t excite most people.  But if want to be able to see a cave without climbing up the dangerous mountainside, you can see Cave 2 from the perspective shown above.  Again, use the reference photo above to get in the area, and then this photo to narrow in on the precise cave (center top).  As with Cave 1, climbing to Cave 2 is difficult and not recommended.

Caves 3, 6, and 11 are all easier to reach, so these may be a better option for you.  Knowledge of the location of these caves is more widespread, so I will forego writing out directions to those.


Weekend Roundup

Where are all the biblical texts between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Aleppo Codex (10th century)? 

James Charlesworth has dubbed this “The Period of Great Silence.”  Recently, however, scholars identified that two fragments, located oceans apart, belong to a single text of Exodus 15 from the 6th-8th centuries.  The fascinating story is featured in this week’s Jerusalem Post Magazine.

The Economist has an article on polynomial texture mapping, which allows scientists to study ancient objects by a careful use of photography and lighting from different angles.  The result is that you can see features not otherwise observable.  I’ve seen it in action and it is phenomenal.

Leon Mauldin has started a new blog featuring photos from his recent Turkey and Greece trip.

Criticism of Jerusalem archaeologists is not new, but at least this Reuters article has interviewed both sides.

A rocket hit the archaeological site of Ur in Iraq this week.

There’s a half-price sale now for John Beck, The Land of Milk and Honey: An Introduction to the Geography of Israel, 2006 ($21 at Amazon, now $10 from the publisher). I haven’t read the book, but you can see a 6-page pdf sample at the website.

A couple of good Zondervan resources are now 50% off until April 15.  The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Old Testament is available for $125 and the Zondervan 
Encyclopedia of the Bible is for sale for $140.  You must use source code 980683 for each.  Shipping is free.  (UPDATE: At the moment, Amazon’s price on the Encyclopedia is $138 with shipping.  My guess is that won’t last.  You can track Amazon’s price here.)

HT: Joe Lauer


Interviews with Monson and Barkay

The LandMinds show at Israel National Radio (Arutz-7) has two interviews this week that may interest readers.  Each interview is 48 minutes and may be downloaded in mp3 format.

James Monson describes his years living in Israel and the creation of maps for students of Bible. 

Monson was one of the creators of the long-lived Student Map Manual, and for the past decade he has been creating resources for Biblical Backgrounds, Inc.  His influence on students of historical geography can hardly be overstated. 

Gabriel Barkay discusses his work over the past decade sifting the material illegally removed from the Temple Mount.  He also answers questions on a variety of archaeological subjects.

I don’t have time to listen to these interviews in full before posting this notice, but I expect that both interviews are fascinating and worth the time.

Readers may be interested in following the LandMinds show regularly:

LandMinds broadcasts live on every Wednesday evening from 5-7pm Israel time, 10-12 EST, 3-5pm in the UK, and rebroadcast during the week. You can also listen live with your iPhone!

HT: Yehuda Group


PA Requests Dead Sea Tourist Resort

The Palestinian Authority wants to build a new city south of Jericho along with a resort on the Dead Sea shore. From Arutz-7:

The Palestinian Authority has asked Israel for permission to build a huge tourist haven on the shore of the Dead Sea, according to reports in Persian Gulf press. If approved, the project would give the Arab entity a solid foothold in the Jordan Valley region, considered critical for Israel’s security even by many centrists. Netanyahu has said that the IDF would have to be stationed along this area even in the event of a Palestinian state.
The plan calls for a $1.4 billion investment in a tourist resort project on the Dead Sea shore and another $700 million investment in the creation of an Arab city south of Jericho. Most of the area that the PA is requesting is currently under full Israeli control and not in the area controlled by the PA, giving rise to speculation that the desire for annexation of Israeli controlled land is behind the plan.

The complete story is here.


Mount Zion Vandalism, Filmmakers in Galilee

The Caspari Center Media Review has two unrelated stories that may be of interest to readers here:

Signposts and directions to the Cenacle [Upper Room on Mount Zion] were defaced by anonymous vandals this past week, adding insult to the injury felt by Christian tourists faced with the piles of refuse and rubbish it contains and making it difficult for them to find their way to the site (Yediot Yerushalayim, March 19).
Other Christian sites are no more attractive to pilgrims, according to a report in Ma’ariv (March 21). According to Yuval Peled, who accompanied a group of Italians who had come to film the Galilee in which Jesus grew up, lived, and taught, “After two or three days of shooting, they abruptly announced that they were leaving. ‘They told us, “You’ve destroyed the story for us, with all the pollution, electricity wires, and infrastructure. This isn’t what we were taught about the place where Jesus grew up,”‘ he recalls. The crew, which had planned to broadcast the film on Italian television – the country considered to be the capital of Christianity – told us that here, in the most authentic place in which the founder of their religion lived, we had destroyed their associations [to it] with pollution and infrastructure. Out of disappointment and despair, they left, and went to shoot the film in Tuscany.”

This sounds like a bit of an overreaction to me.  I don’t like the pollution and wires either, but Galilee is remarkably primitive.  Imagine what the lakeshore would be like if it was in the U.S.

I can’t say I have ever thought of Italy as the “capital of Christianity.” 


Hurva Synagogue Photos

The reconstruction of the Hurva Synagogue is not related to the Bible, but it has our interest because it is such a prominent feature in the Old City of Jerusalem.  Until 1948, there were two major synagogues in the Jewish Quarter, but my guess is that most visitors today are unaware of Tiferet Israel.  The remains of this synagogue lie just north of the main staircase leading down to the Western Wall plaza.  Hurva, on the other hand, is well known because of its central and visible location in the Jewish Quarter plaza.  Many tour guides would stop and explain the significance of the lone arch before allowing their listeners to buy a falafel or to shop in the Cardo.

This photo below, part of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection, is a view of the Jewish Quarter from the Temple Mount taken in the early 1900s.  The large building on the left skyline is the Tiferet Israel Synagogue.  The building with the large dome on the right is the Hurva Synagogue. 

The houses in the foreground stand where today the Western Wall prayer plaza is located.

Jewish Quarter from Temple Mount, mat04722 Jewish Quarter, early 1900s

We’ve posted a number of times over the course of the synagogue’s reconstruction, and with its dedication last week we anticipate this will be the final post about it.  We conclude with recent photographs taken by Mindy McKinny. We thank her for permission to share them here.

Hurva synagogue, mm0165

Hurva Synagogue from south

Hurva synagogue light show, mm0244

Hurva Synagogue, sound and light show
Hurva synagogue interior, mm0282 Hurva Synagogue interior

Hurva synagogue interior painting Hebron, mm0274

Hurva Synagogue painting of Tomb of Patriarchs, Hebron

Lecture at UCLA: Ancient Universe of the Queen of Sheba

From the UCLA Newsroom:

If she actually existed, the Queen of Sheba may have been African. Then again, she could have been Arab. While she may have been from Yemen, near today’s city of Ma’rib, she probably was also active in Ethiopia, near the modern city of Aksum. But so far, archaeologists have not found a tomb, palace or temple that can be definitively attributed to the prominent figure from the Hebrew Bible and the Quran. "We know there was an empire that spanned about 1,000 years and had many queens and kings," said Michael Harrower, a postdoctoral fellow at UCLA’s Cotsen Institute of Archaeology. "But we don’t have archaeological evidence for a specific queen that we can say was Sheba. In fact, the biblical character may be a compilation or summary of history of the time." But if archaeology so far has not uncovered the historic Sheba, it has made considerable headway in understanding the 3,000-year-old empire that archaeologists call the Kingdom of Saba — the Arabic name for "Sheba" — whose location and era are consistent with biblical accounts of the queen. On Saturday, April 3, the Cotsen Institute will present a talk at which Harrower and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory principal scientist Ronald Blom will discuss these findings. The free event, which is open to the public, begins at 2 p.m. in the Lenart Auditorium of the Fowler Museum at UCLA, on the Westwood campus. Parking is available in Lot 4 for $10. Showcasing the latest advancements in satellite imagery and computer mapping, "The Ancient Universe of the Queen of Sheba" will explore a 200,000-square-mile-area, stretching east from Ethiopia across the Red Sea into Yemen and Oman on the southern Arabian Peninsula. Topics will include the Kingdom of Saba’s impressive irrigation system, its coveted reserves of frankincense and its long-distance trade routes to the Mediterranean.

The news release continues here.  More information is here.


Cities of Paul Collection

Here’s something that could easily be overlooked.  In 2004 Fortress published a photo CD by Helmut Koester entitled “Cities of Paul, Images and Interpretations: from the Harvard New Testament and Archaeology Project.”  It was and is very pricey ($250), and because of my teaching interests and my own collection, I purchased but never really used the collection.  But if this is of interest to you, you can now purchase it for less.  Kind of.koester

Logos has a pre-publication special on 20 Fortress volumes on Paul.  One of those “volumes” is this photo collection.  If you use Logos and find any of the other books in the set worthwhile, you can save a few dollars by purchasing now for $230 (retail $776).

If I don’t say, someone is bound to ask me my opinion.  I thought I had written something brief about it previously, but I can’t find it now.  In short, the photos are of high resolution, but most look like old slides that have been scanned.  Diagrams are included, which may be quite useful in teaching.  Note that there are only nine sites included: Athens, Olympia, Corinth, Isthmia, Pergamon, Delphi, Philippi, Ephesus, and Thessalonike.  The notes are extensive and valuable.  I think the $250 price tag is too high.  If you’re a Logos user, you’ll likely find many advantages in this new edition.

There are no reviews of the CD at Amazon.  The work is reviewed positively in the Review of Biblical Literature (pdf).