Proposal: Cable Car to Dung Gate

From the Jerusalem Post:

A special Knesset session of the Jerusalem Lobby on Wednesday was dedicated to exploring the feasibility of a cable car leading to the Old City, which supporters claim will improve accessibility for tourists with disabilities and reduce traffic. “I remember the cable car on Mount Zion during the War of Independence,” Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said at the opening of the session. “There are things that seem impossible – like a cable car passing over us – because they require more effort on behalf of future generations.” Rivlin added that the traffic from the 150,000 tourists per month in the Old City creates “unbearable crowding” that also stops Jerusalemites from moving freely around their city. Rivlin proposed an economic feasibility study to examine the cost of such an initiative in greater detail. According to a plan from the Transportation Ministry, a cable car could carry up to 4,000 passengers an hour, eliminating the need for some of the 3,000 buses that drive in and around the Old City each month. The plan also stipulated that the cable car would be environmentally friendly and would not harm the view or surroundings of the historic area. The cable car would stretch across the Kidron Valley, from the building that houses the Government Printing Office on Rehov Miriam Hashmonaite, to the Dung Gate. The 1,030-meter-long ride would take approximately 3 minutes, 30 seconds.

The full story is here. I perceive a few obstacles and I wouldn’t rush to buy stock in the company just yet. As best as I can determine, the cable car would begin near the old train station (Miriam HaHashmonait is on its south end and intersects with Hebron Road). In that case, the cable car does not pass over the Kidron Valley at all, but travelers would cross over the Hinnom Valley. A more impressive route would be several hundred meters above the Old City. Jerusalem-cable-car-route Possible cable car route over Hinnom Valley; screenshot from Google Earth


Israel’s 250 National Parks and Nature Reserves

I would not have guessed that there are so many. In an area the size of New Jersey, the land of Israel is blessed with an extraordinary amount of natural beauty and variety. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs describes the abundance in an article posted yesterday.

Looking at Israel on a map, it’s hard to imagine how hundreds of nature reserves could fit into this tiny country along with 7.7 million people. In fact, the roster of about 250 designated Israeli nature reserves and national parks – covering more than a million acres of land — is growing every year.
In addition to well-known sites such as Masada, Ein Gedi, the Hula Valley or Caesarea, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) oversees close to 20 sites each in the Golan Heights/Upper Galilee, Negev/Eilat and Sea of Galilee/Mount Carmel regions; a dozen in central Israel; eight in the Judean Desert and Dead Sea area; and a handful in Judea and Samaria. Overnight camping facilities are available in 26 of Israel’s national parks.
These areas represent an unusually wide variety of landscapes and climates for a single country. In the far north is Mount Hermon with its snow-capped peaks in the winter. In the west is the green Mediterranean-fed landscape and wetlands. In the south are arid expanses of desert. Israel also is home to two unique natural wonders: the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth; and Makhtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater), the world’s largest natural crater.

The article continues here.

What is your favorite national park or nature reserve in Israel? We’ve put together a little poll in which you can give your opinion. Since we cannot list all 250 parks, we have chosen ten of our favorites. Feel free to suggest others in the comments.
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You can see a list of some of the parks in each region of the country (numbered listed in parentheses):

En Gedi Nahal David with waterfalls, tb052307908

En Gedi Nature Reserve

Oil Spill in Nahal Zin

The Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline was damaged today during work by heavy machinery. From Haaretz:

A large amount of gas leaked into the Nahal Tzin Nature Preserve in the Negev after a major Eilat pipeline burst on Wednesday. The leak caused major damage to the southern Israel nature preserve’s wildlife. The pipe burst when the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company (EAPC) was performing maintenance work in the Tzin Valley. While EAPAC was working in the nature preserve, a pipeline collapsed, resulting in the leakage of a large amount of crude oil into Nahal Tzin. The leak may have caused damage to the nature preserve’s water sources. Eli Amitai, the director-general of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, has called on all available teams from the authority to arrive on the scene of the leak as soon as possible. They have already successfully prevented the further spread of the oil-leak and efforts are currently underway to clean up the preserve. The area surrounding the Nahal Tzin Nature Preserve has been closed off to hikers.

The full story is here. Ynet News reports the story here. In the Bible, the Nahal Zin constituted part of the southern border of the land God gave to Israel (Num 34:3). UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post has more details, including several quotes from Parks officials about the severity of the spill. Nahal Zin from northwest, tb010503588 Nahal Zin


Ossuary of Caiaphas’ Granddaughter Recovered

Caiaphas was the high priest in Jerusalem in the early part of the first century, and he is best known for his role in the trial of Jesus (Matt 26:57-68). This ossuary belonged to his granddaughter and was looted from a tomb in the Elah Valley. The correspondence with New Testament names is interesting. Caiaphas’ son was named Jesus (Yeshua) and his granddaughter Mary (Miriam).
From the Israel Antiquities Authority press release:

Three years ago the Israel Antiquities Authority Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery acquired a decorated ossuary bearing an engraved inscription. The ossuary was discovered by antiquities robbers who plundered an ancient Jewish tomb of the Second Temple period. During the course of the investigation it was determined that the ossuary came from a burial cave in the area of the Valley of Elah, in the Judean Shephelah.
To check the authenticity of the artifact and the significance of the engraved inscription, the Israel Antiquities Authority turned to Dr. Boaz Zissu of the Department of the Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology of Bar Ilan University and Professor Yuval Goren of the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations of the Tel Aviv University.
This week, the two scientists published the results of their research, which summarize the importance of the find and confirm its genuineness. The study appears in the Israel Exploration Journal (Volume 61) published this week by the Israel Exploration Society.
Ossuaries are small stone chests that Jews used for secondary burial of bones; they were quite common in tombs in Israel from the late first century BCE until the beginning of the second century CE. The front of the ossuary that was found is decorated with a stylized floral motif above which is a long Aramaic inscription engraved in Jewish script:

‘Miriam Daughter of Yeshua Son of Caiaphas, Priests [of] Ma’aziah from Beth ’Imri’
(or, an alternative reading:
‘Miriam Daughter of Yeshua Son of Caiaphas, Priest of Ma’aziah from Beth ’Imri’)
In the conclusion of their study Dr. Boaz Zissu and Professor Yuval Goren write, “the prime importance of the inscription lies in the reference to the ancestry of the deceased – Miriam daughter of Yeshua – to the Caiaphas family, indicating the connection to the family of the Ma’aziah course of priests of Beth ’Imri”. Caiaphas is the name of Yeshua’s father, and Miriam’s grandfather. From the wording of the inscription we learn that he belonged to a famous family of priests that was active in the first century CE. One family member, the high priest Yehosef Bar Caiaphas, is especially famous for his involvement in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.
Ma’aziah /Ma’aziahu is the last of the twenty four priestly courses that served in the Temple in Jerusalem. The list of courses, which was formulated during King David’s reign, appears in the Bible in I Chronicles (I Chronicles 24:18). The signatories to the pledge in the days of Nehemiah include among others, “Maʽaziah, Bilgai, Shem’aiah; these are the priests” (Nehemiah 10: 9). This is the first reference to the Maʽaziah course in an epigraphic find from the Second Temple period. For the first time we learn from an inscription that the Caiaphas family was related to the Ma’aziah course.
Since the ossuary in question was not found in a controlled archaeological excavation and because of its special scientific importance, it was subjected to microscopic examinations using an environmental scanning electron microscope/energy dispersive spectrometer (ESEM/EDS), the purpose of which was to evaluate its authenticity. The patina covering the sides was checked, with emphasis on the patina covering the inscription. The examinations determined that the inscription is genuine and ancient.
The Israel Antiquities Authority is distressed by the fact that this important find, which was plundered from its original provenance, was removed from its archeological context, thus it will never be possible to know the full story of the burial cave. Sadly, the robbers’ desire of monetary gain has erased entire pages of the country’s cultural history.

The press release is now online. A small photograph is posted here, and Arutz-7 also has the story in English. The AP has a brief article.

For more details, see the article by Zissu and Goren in the current issue of Israel Exploration Journal.

For information about the ossuary of Caiaphas excavated in Jerusalem in 1990, see this post in the series of “Top Ten Biblical Discoveries in Archaeology.”

UPDATE: Ferrell Jenkins has a link to a larger photo.

UPDATE #2: Jim West has a very high-resolution photo from the archaeologist along with three
other AP images. In the comments on that post, Jack Kilmon suggests that this ossuary belonged to the niece, not the granddaughter, of the NT figure. The Jerusalem Post now has an article based on the press release.

HT: Joseph Lauer


Mughrabi Bridge Construction Delay Recommended

Haaretz carries a story similar to that noted here yesterday in Ynetnews, reporting that Israel is “shocked” that Jordan would lie about their agreement with Israel.

They follow up with another in which the police recommend that construction on the bridge be delayed from next week until September, when presumably the eyes of the world will be on the UN’s debate over statehood for the Palestinians. From Haaretz:

Ever since an earthen ramp leading to the gate collapsed in 2005 and was replaced by a temporary wooden bridge, the security establishment has been dragging its feet over building a more permanent structure to link the Temple Mount entrance to the Western Wall plaza.
In recent weeks security officials have been engaged in feverish debate over when to begin work.
Police officials at the meeting contradicted the municipal officials’ assessment that the current bridge was unsafe, and said it did not need replacing right now.
However the adviser to the Jerusalem District of the police said that any violation of the status quo on the Temple Mount would rally Arab opposition and lead to riots throughout the capital.
The adviser said that it would be best to postpone construction until September when the attention of the Arab would not be focused on Jerusalem because of the expected vote on Palestinian statehood in the United Nations at that time.
Other officials in the police’s Jerusalem District said they believed quiet will prevail in Jerusalem because the East Jerusalem Arab community rejects what they see as disruptive influences like the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement.

The full story is here.

It’s worth remembering that this debate is not about the Temple Mount itself but an external access route to the Temple Mount. Sensitivities in Jerusalem are high. See yesterday’s post for links to the history of this issue.

HT: Joseph Lauer


Jordan and Israel Clash over Bridge to Temple Mount

From Ynet News:

A diplomatic crisis is brewing between Israel and Jordan over the planned renovations of the Mughrabi Gate Bridge, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday.
Plans for razing the old Mughrabi Gate bridge, which leads from the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem to the to the al-Aqsa Mosque and Temple Mount, in favor of a new one have been in the works for a while.
According to the report, the bridge was to be torn down next week, but upon signing the final agreement, Israel was stunned to learn that Jordan, along with Egypt, Iraq and Bahrain, filed a complaint against Israel with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) over the planned renovations.
The motion asks for a UNESCO censure of Israel. Jordan is also demanding that UNESCO order Israel to stop the archeological excavations in the Old City.
In the petition, Amman said it was “concerned over a decision by the Jerusalem Planning and Construction Committee concerning the Mughrabi Gate.”
Jerusalem was reportedly enraged by the move and immediately began trying to thwart it.
Jordan initially denied ever signing any agreement with Israel pertaining to the bridge. It admitted doing so only following US pressure.

The story continues here.
Previous stories (with photos) of the bridge date back to Feb 2010, Dec 2007, Feb 2007, Dec 2006, and earlier.

HT: Joseph Lauer


Biblical Archaeology Conference in Fort Worth

BibleX has word of The Future of Biblical Archaeology Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Riley Center on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is hosting The Future of Biblical Archaeology Conference on Friday, October 14 and Saturday, October 15, 2011. Scheduled speakers include William G. Dever, Steven Ortiz, Tom Davis, James Hardin, Dale W. Manor, Karen Borstad, Laura Mazow, Abby Limmer, Jennie Ebeling, Alysia Fischer, Elizabeth Willett, and Heather Reichstadt.

Registration fees are reduced before September 30. The official website includes information about the speakers, the schedule, and registration.

Next year SWBTS will host an “exclusive exhibit” on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible, running from July 2, 2012 to January 11, 2013.


2011 Excavation Blogs

The following is an updated version of last year’s list of excavation blogs. If you know of any additional blogs, please send them along and we’ll add them to this list.

Ashkelon – this is a primarily an educational blog written by one of the supervisors.  The season began June 5 and wraps up on July 15.

Bethsaida – the 25th season wraps up this weekend (May 22 to June 25), but no additional updates will be added to the site this year. New photos will be posted on the excavation’s Facebook page.

Tel Burna – the summer season is underway (June 12-30) and the directors are posting weekly roundups and photos. The archaeologists working here believe that their site is biblical Libnah.

Gath – this continues to be the best excavation blog I know of, thanks to the tireless work of the archaeologist, Aren Maeir.  This year they are excavating July 3-29, but Maeir updates the blog year-round.

Gezer – the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary excavation deserves a blog. The anonymous assistant professor who blogs at The Biblical World is working in the excavation (June 13 to July 15) and he is posting regularly about everything but archaeology. Aren Maeir lectured to the crew on 
Monday; perhaps they’ll learn from his excellent example.

Tall el-Hammam – the official website provides season summaries, but there appears to be no blog updating readers during the winter excavation seasons (upcoming: January 12 to February 23, 2012). Interested parties may wish to contact the leadership in order to receive periodic email updates.

Hazor – excavations began this week (June 19 – July 29), but I am unaware of any blogging about the excavations. The official Tel Hazor Facebook page is rather limited, but perhaps the volunteers will create a Facebook page as they did last year.

Hippos (Susita) – the website indicates that the 2011 season will run July 3-30.  Mark Schuler has a blog for the Concordia University excavations of the Northeast Insula Project.  Other members of the team have blogs listed at

Tell Huqoq – excavations began at this Galilean site under the leadership of Jodi Magness. Volunteer Brad Erickson is posting regular entries about his experience and weekend travels.

Tall Jalul – this year’s excavation concluded last week (June 17), but Owen Chesnut may add updates periodically throughout the year.  Though not as well known, this site is one of the largest in Jordan.

Kabri this is a new blog for the excavations running from June 19 to July 28. To this point five days of photos have been posted and a volunteer has described her experience without resorting to use of the shift key.

Magdala – this year-round excavation may be on a break right now, to judge from the lack of recent blog entries. Universidad Anáhuac México Sur has a new website for the project (in Spanish). You can also follow along by Twitter @magdalaisrael.

Khirbet el-Maqatir – the two-week season ended June 3.  Dig summaries were posted at the blog of the sponsoring organization, the Associates for Biblical Research.

OmritOmrit 2009 and Omrit 2010 have not been succeeded by Omrit 2011, as far as I can tell.

Excavations have been conducted, as Volunteer JJ proves with his onsite fashion photos. A note at this blog suggests the season ended on Friday, with the desired finds found in the balk during clean-up.

Khirbet Qeiyafa – the Elah Fortress website, with all of its photos and summaries, has been deleted. 

The Hebrew University website is infrequently updated.  The excavation season this year is June 12 to July 22.  Blogger Luke Chandler is volunteering in July and may have some reports in the weeks to come. 

Khirbet Summeily – excavations began this week as part of the Tell el-Hesi Joint Archaeological Project, but no field updates are yet available. Volunteer Jared Wilson has a blog in place.

Temple Mount Sifting Project – this blog provides periodic updates on related issues, but daily finds are not reported. 

In addition to the standard blogs and new sources (for major discoveries), a couple of radio 
programs are available online to keep you up to date with interviews with the archaeologists.  These include the The Book and the Spade (Gordon Govier) and LandMinds (Barnea Levi Selavan and Dovid Willner).

What should be added to this list?  If you know of something that is regularly updated (blog, Facebook, or twitter), please post a comment or send me an email (tbolen92 at

Excavating in City of David, tb112603988

Excavations in the City of David