The Guardian has an article ostensibly about Jerusalem, but which seems to have been the result of a tour with archaeologist Gabriel Barkay. This is one of those articles that reminds you not to believe everything that you read. Among the errors in the first two paragraphs, Barkay worked in Silwan (not the City of David) in 1968-1970 (not in the 1970s) conducting a survey (not an excavation).

The author writes, “In the 1970s, he led a group of school children on a tour of first Temple tombs above the Valley of Hinnom….” The year was 1979 and he was conducting an archaeological excavation, not leading a tour. Some school children did join the excavation as volunteers, but I can hardly imagine Barkay leading some tour when “one of the pupils started hammering at a stone slab which suddenly gave way” – yikes! Not exactly how one should do archaeology, but, of course, it didn’t happen that way at all. Instead of this sloppy journalism, I recommend an article on Barkay that was published last year in Haaretz starting here and continuing here.

Gabriel Barkay and Michael Avi-Yonah, 1968
Unpublished photo from a forthcoming BiblePlaces.com photo CD

Statistics may be boring to many, but a survey conducted by Dr. Maya Hoshen relating to the history of the population of the historic Old City of Jerusalem revealed that in 2004 the residents within the main part of the walls numbered 131,400 – “out of whom 16,200 were Jewish (12%), 115,200 Arabs (88%). 93% of the Arab population was Muslim, the rest Christian” (Kol Ha’Ir, August 11). In other words, of the Arab population of the Old City, only 7% were Christians.
Source: Caspari Center Media Review

UPDATE (9/12): The above numbers are incorrect. According to data from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics from 2003 (as cited in a Peace Now report), the Old City population is 35,372 people, not 131,000! The Muslim percentage is about 77%. The report gives other interesting statistics of the population of each quarter.

With 35,372 residents and a total area of about 900 dunams, Jerusalem’s Old City is one of the most densely populated areas in Israel, and the Muslim Quarter is the most densely populated area of the Old City. Population density varies dramatically within the Old City; details for each quarter, and for Jerusalem as a whole, are as follows:

Jerusalem: Jerusalem (not including the Old City) is about 125,398 dunams in size, with 657,845 residents, for a population density of about 5 persons per dunam.

The Jewish Quarter: The Jewish Quarter is 122 dunams in size and has 2,387 inhabitants, for a population density of around 20 persons per dunam. Of these residents, 1,811 are Jewish, 560 are Muslim, 12 are Christian, and 4 are “unclassified.” According to a 2002 report by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel studies, the Muslim population is composed of around 100 families living mainly on the edge of the Quarter, in homes that were designated for expropriation after 1967, but never actually taken from their owners.

The Christian Quarter: The Christian Quarter is 192 dunams in size and has 5,276 residents, for a population density of around 28 persons per dunam. Of these residents, 3888 are Christian, 1,242 are Muslim, 143 are Jewish, and 3 are “unclassified.”

The Armenian Quarter: The Armenian Quarter is 126 dunams in size and has 2,461 residents, for a population density of around 20 persons per dunam. Of these residents, 1205 are Christian, 748 are Jewish, 504 are Muslims, and 4 are “unclassified.”

The Muslim Quarter: The Muslim Quarter has a population of 25,248 residents and is 461 dunams in size, of which about 142 dunams is taken up by the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif – an area not available for residence. This yields an overall population density (for the habitable 319 dunams) of about 79 persons per dunam. Of these residents, 23,461 are Muslim, 431 are Jewish, 1354 are Christian, and 2 are “unclassified.”

HT: Carl Rasmussen of Holy Land Photos for catching the error.


A gunman opened fire in the Roman theater of Amman, Jordan on Monday, killing one and wounding six other tourists. Attacks on tourists in moderate Arab nations are usually motivated by a desire to hurt the government and economy by scaring tourists away. A similar episode, but larger in scale, was the terrorist take-over of the Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor, Egypt in 1997.

Amman was the capital of the biblical Ammonites and was known as Rabbath-Ammon. The Bible describes David’s capture of the city during the time of his sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11:16-17). Uriah was killed when he came too close to the walls. By the New Testament period, the site was known as Philadelphia, and it was a large and impressive city of the Decapolis.

Roman theater in Amman

According to National Geographic, there was little or no damage to Lebanese antiquities from the recent war with Israel. The NG photo gallery gives 6 photos of sites including Baalbek, Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos, with some explanation about their historical significance and the lack of damage to the archaeological remains. For more photographs of these sites from a long time ago, see Baalbek, Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli, and Tyre at our sister site, LifeintheHolyLand.com.

Tyre in the 1890s

You could be forgiven for thinking that a new problem has been discovered and a rapid response is underway from the Sunday Times article, “Race is on to save the Dead Sea.” In fact, a Red Sea-Dead Sea aqueduct has been considered by Israel and Jordan for at least a decade. Whether or not the current discussions are more serious is difficult to know. The article notes that the flow of the Jordan River into the Dead Sea is 7% of what it was before the countries began diverting its flow. The declining level (cited at 1 meter/3 feet per year) is certainly causing problems with sinkholes and unstable terrain.

The article suggests that Jordan is most interested in the project because the bulk of it would be done on their side, with outside financing. Despite the hopes that a joint Arab-Israeli project would increase peace prospects, the way that this project stands the best chance of succeeding is if it is largely constructed by one country or the other.

Dead Sea: the shoreline just keeps getting farther and farther away.

The Israeli government is planning on investing $5 million in the development of an archaeological park in Tiberias. Excavations have been ongoing in the city under the direction of Yizhar Hirschfeld, and the new funding will go towards the excavation of the Roman theater, according to a note in Haaretz.

The theater was discovered in 1990 and was a surprise to archaeologists because no ancient sources mention the building. Tiberias was founded by Herod Antipas in 19 A.D., and scholars believe the theater was built in the 2nd or 3rd centuries and remained in use through the Byzantine period. The theater is located at the foot of Mount Berenice and has an estimated seating capacity of 5,000.

Last year Hirschfeld published a handbook about Tiberias, which pulls all of the sources about the city together into a single, easy-to-read work: Roman, Byzantine, and Early Muslim Tiberias: A Handbook of Primary Sources. The book is available for $20 from the excavator or from Amazon for double the cost. Proceeds from sales go to the archaeological excavation.

Visible remains of Tiberias theater