Jewish Book Week in London

Beginning next Saturday, February 26th and lasting for 9 days, the JBW2011 has a sparkling programme. There are two talks that I would love to attend:

Jerusalem, the Biography, by Simon Sebag Montefiore (the great-great nephew of the founder of modern Jerusalem), giving a taster of his new book.

Blackwell’s review of the book reads as follows:

Jerusalem lies at the centre of the world, the capital of three faiths, the prize of many conquerors, the jewel of many empires, and the eye of the storm of today’s battle of civilisations.

But the city lacks a biography. It lacks a secret history. Simon Sebag Montefiore’s epic account is seen through kings, conquerors, emperors and soldiers; Muslims, Jews, Christians, Macedonians, Romans and Greeks; Palestinians and Israelis; from King David via Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, Herod, Caesar, Cleopatra, Jesus and Saladin, to Churchill, King Hussein, Anwar Sadat and Ariel Sharon. Their individual stories combine to form the biography of a city – a gritty, dramatic, violent tale of power, empire, love, vanity, luxury and death, bringing three thousand years of history vividly to life.

In the course of its history, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. It has been Arab, Persian, Jewish, Roman, Greek, Babylonian, Turkish, Mameluke, British, Byzantine, Crusader, Ottoman; Napoleon almost took it but marched past, Kaiser William visited, the Allied forces fought for it in the First World War. The extraordinarily rich history of this small city in the Judean hills forms nothing less than a history of the world.

The epic story of Jerusalem told through the lives of the men and women who created, ruled and inhabited it.

and:

• Fifty Year Reflections of a Jewish Historian, by Martin Gilbert

Martin Gilbert

The JBW website describes his much anticipated lecture as follows:

With consummate skill, patience and brilliance in equal measure, Martin Gilbert has recounted most of the major events of the 20th century. His work encompasses both world wars; the definitive set of Churchill biographies; chronicles of the Jewish people; and accounts of their adversaries and saviours. He has also created 12 pioneering historical atlases on everything from Russian history to the Arab-Israel conflict. We are delighted that Martin Gilbert will share with us some of his most historic discoveries over a lifetime of outstanding scholarship, culminating in his latest work: In Ishmael’s House: A History of Jews.

The full programme is here

Our youngest son Joel will be filming the event.

Volume on The Temple in Jerusalem in honour of Prof. Louis Feldman now out

The Temple of Jerusalem: From Moses to the Messiah: Studies in Honor of Professor Louis H. Feldman (Brill Reference Library of Judaism) [Hardcover]

On the weekend of May 11 – 12, 2008, I attended a conference at the Yeshiva University, New York, on The Temple of Jerusalem: From Moses to the Messiah. This conference was in honour of Prof. Louis Feldman, who I knew as a contributing translator of the Loeb translation of Josephus, which I use constantly. In Yeshiva University, he is revered as a brilliant scholar and mentor of generations of students – he has taught there for the last 56 years.

This conference was the inaugural gathering of the university’s Center for Israel Studies , which: “nurtures excellence in interdisciplinary scholarship and the teaching of Israel throughout history and across disciplines, with a keen focus upon the longue durée and the modern state.” Professor Steven Fine, director of the centre, organised a stimulating Programme of Lectures around an exhibition of models of the Tabernacle, Solomon’s Temple, Herod’s Temple and Herod’s Temple Mount. I was commissioned to design these models by the late Ben Adelman of Silver Spring, M.D. Mr Adelman’s estate bequeathed the models to the Yeshiva University. You can read my blog where I record the highlights of the conference here.

Last Friday, the postman brought a new book for our shelf, the volume which documents the conference – a welcome addition to our Temple section! The publisher’s blurb is as follows:

“The Temple of Jerusalem: From Moses to the Messiah brings together an interdisciplinary and broad-ranging international community of scholars to discuss aspects of the history and continued life of the Jerusalem Temple in Western culture, from biblical times to the present.”

Subjects covered in the essays range from: The Tabernacle at Sinai to the Temple Scroll, my own essay on the process of model making, the Temple in late Medieval Spanish Altarpieces, and Archaeology and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Of particular interest to me because of my background are the essays:

“See, I Have Called by the Renowned Name of Bezalel, Son of Uri …”: Josephus’ Portrayal of the Biblical “Architect” …      by Steven Fine, Yeshiva University

“Notes on the Virtual Reconstruction of the Herodian Period Temple and Courtyards” by Joshua Schwartz and Yehoshua Peleg, Bar-Ilan University

“Some Trends in Temple Studies from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment” by Matt Goldish, The Ohio State University (a masterful survey of this compelling subject)

“Avi-Yonah’s Model of Second Temple Jerusalem and the Development of Israeli Visual Culture” by Maya Balakirsky Katz, Touro College

“Jerusalem during the First and Second Temple Periods: Recent Excavations and Discoveries on and near the Temple Mount” by Ann Killebrew

Steven Fine is to be congratulated on the production of this most useful volume. The involvement of Yeshiva University students in the editing process and bringing the book to production is especially commendable.

Recommended: Biblical Turkey, A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor

Mark Wilson: Biblical Turkey, A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor, Ege Yayinlari, 2010.

Biblical Turkey is one of those rare books that will move only from our desks to our rucksacks. It might not ever make it to our bookshelf and in order to facilitate lending it out, we will have to purchase another copy! Much-anticipated and prodigiously researched, the publication of this small triumph fills a huge gap in the guide literature to Turkey, a country which Wilson points out that, apart from Israel, has more Biblical sites than any other country. He emphasises illuminatingly, that: “approximately two thirds of the New Testament was written either to or from Asia Minor.”

Now the most sought-after tour guide to Biblical sites in Turkey, the New Testament scholar would attribute his expertise to the nine years he has spent actually living in the country with his wife. In the introduction, he writes: “I have travelled tens of thousands of miles/kilometers via plane, train, boat, bus, minibus, taxi, dolmuş, and on foot, visiting nearly every site mentioned in this volume.” When you consider that over one hundred sites, spread over seven regions, covering 9412 square miles, are discussed here, that is a staggering achievement. And being steeped in the works of William Ramsay, whose The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia and The Cities of St. Paul were controversial classics, (Wilson was Revising Editor for a number of Ramsay’s works) was a rigorous early schooling. Previous to the issue of Biblical Turkey, one had to rely on the easily procurable Fant and Reddish’s, A Guide to the Biblical Sites of Greece and Turkey (Oxford, 2003), (which actually only covered 24 sites in Turkey) and the books one was fortunate enough to pick up when visiting the various sites. On this last matter, Wilson writes that his “rule of thumb with books in Turkey is this: if you see a book you’re interested in, buy it immediately because you might never find it again.” We can vouch for the truth of this statement!

Wilson has gone with a Turkish publisher Ege Yayinlari, whose website says that they publish “everything that helps to understand the past of Turkey.” The book’s layout provides much to feast on. For some sites, we are given, apart from the expected site information, a section called Ancient Voices, which features the words of a local author. For example, at Antioch on the Orontes, the Seleucus Inscription may explain why the family of Paul was granted Roman citizenship. Sections called Sidetrips direct you to nearby sites of Biblical interest. The In-Site section is the most valuable of all, providing unique insights into the Biblical text. Questions that have exercised commentators, such as Why did John Mark leave Paul and Barnabas and the reason for Paul’s Walk to Assos are given reasonable answers that are informed by intimate acquaintance with the terrain involved.

The photographs are stunning and a labour of love. We were intrigued to read Wilson’s words in an interview that was published online: “I really love the cover photograph, which was taken in March 2008 at Miletus. Normally I’m not at the site in the evening. Rainwater was standing in the area that used to be the theater harbor. I was able to catch the reflection of the theater in the water just as it would have appeared in antiquity.” There is no such comment in the book, which brings us neatly to the only quibble we would have with it. That is, that it is clear that Wilson was under tremendous pressure to be brief, resulting in a rather dense volume. This means that when you go to a site to read up on it, you come away feeling cheated, fully aware that he knows much more than he is able to give here. On the other hand, you realise how up-to-date the book is when you visit sites such as the recently excavated Laodicea which is presently being restored. Here, Wilson’s notes nicely supplement the site’s excellent new information panels.

Laodicea: The large marble temple complex located north of the main street. This temple has not yet been identified and therefore is simply referred to as Temple A. It is being reconstructed at the time of writing (2010).

You certainly cannot travel in Turkey with only this book in your luggage. Wilson states that he always carries one of the well-known guide books such as a Rough Guide or a Lonely Planet and that he will not be providing directions to sites, only when: “the site is obscure and not known generally through other means.” We think he might revise this decision for some sites that are fiendishly difficult to find, such as Colossae!

The unexcavated mound of Colossae under snow-capped Mount Honaz

We found this evocative, unexcavated mound, under the snow-capped peak of Mt. Honaz, only because we had looked it up in advance in Google maps. None of our friends who have toured Turkey, bar one, have been able to find it. Even the local policeman, parked a mile away from the site, did not know where it was! It would also be helpful if the maps could be standardised for the next edition, as they were taken from relevant prior publications and not made especially for this book.

As an aside, it is inspiring to learn that Wilson was galvanised to commence his Asia Minor Study Centre in Izmir, which focuses: “on the intersection of early Judaism and Christianity in the Greco-Roman world in Asia Minor,” by a short study programme he followed in Jerusalem. Here he saw the abundance of study centres devoted to the history and archaeology of Israel and compared that with the complete absence of an equivalent in Turkey. Now he directs two non-profit organisations in the country, the latter and the Seven Churches Network which provides more general information on Turkey and its Biblical sites.

We sincerely hope that this pioneer’s wonderfully clear-eyed book will get the distribution and the sales it deserves. Order from www.zerobooksonline.com

Update 12/03/’10: Mark Wilson informed us that his book will be distributed by David Brown/Oxbow Books in North America and the UK, hopefully in the near future.

Iran from the air

Received this from Jack Sasson [agade]:

The full length documentary “Baadeh Sabaah ” [Lover’s Wind, Vent des Amoureux, 1970]  by the late French filmmaker, Albert La Morisse [1922-1970], has been posted online in Persian and English. It runs 70.57 minutes.

The documentary was  mostly shot from a helicopter and captures a sweeping aerial view of Iran in 1969-1970, including some magnificent footage from Persepolis and Susa among other historical sites of various periods.  The narrative is told by the wind.  The film was shot in 35mm and there are a few minor glitches as expected – not unusual.  Content is breathtakingly captivating.

Morisse died in a helicopter crash over Karaj Dam near Tehran while shooting extra footage for the documentary.  The 6:59 minutes of the surviving footage is also posted.  The film was completed by Albert’s wife Claude La Morisse in 1978.  It has never been shown in Iran.

The Lover's Wind

Watching this evocative movie is a great way to see the spectacular archaeological remains of Iran. Persepolis appears 16 minutes into the movie.

Accordance Carta Collection

Dr. Helen Brown of OakTree Software, which produces the Accordance Bible Software for Mac, told me that Accordance has announced the Carta Collection:

The new Carta Collection offers an outstanding collection of Bible Atlases and books on the historical geography of the Bible. Each book is richly illustrated with original artwork, reconstructions, drawings, and diagrams. These are must-have volumes for anyone interested in the background of the Bible, and for teachers at every level.

As a Mac user, Accordance is my favourite Bible Software and I use it almost on a daily basis. We were pleased to know that three of our books were chosen to be part of this selection:

The Quest, Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
Jerusalem in the time of Nehemiah
Jerusalem in the Year 30 A.D.

Todd Bolen of BiblePlaces.com wrote this about the collection:

An extraordinary collection of historical and geographical works on the Bible from the Carta Publishing House in Jerusalem has been announced for Accordance Bible Software (Mac).  Some of these works are the best in the field and available nowhere else electronically.

The collection consists of the following books:

Bible Lands Atlases

  • The Sacred Bridge
  • Carta’s New Century Handbook and Atlas of the Bible
  • The Carta Bible Atlas
  • The Illustrated Bible Atlas with Historical Nots
  • Bible History Atlas Study Edition
  • The Onomasticon by Eusebius of Caesarea


Jerusalem

  • The Illustrated Atlas of Jerusalem
  • Carta’s Historical Atlas of Jerusalem
  • Jerusalem in the Time of Nehemiah
  • Jerusalem in the Year 30 A.D.

Temple

  • The Quest
  • Carta’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of The Holy Temple in Jerusalem
  • The Holy Temple of Jerusalem

The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Daily Life in Roman Palestine

This must be required reading:

The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Daily Life in Roman Palestine
Edited by Catherine Hezser

Written by an international and interdisciplinary team of
distinguished scholars, The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Daily Life in
Roman Palestine is an indispensable reference compendium on the
day-to-day lives of Jews in the land of Israel in Roman times. Ranging
from subjects such as clothing and domestic architecture to food and
meals, labour and trade, and leisure time activities, the volume
covers all the major themes in an encompassing yet easily accessible
way. Individual chapters introduce the reader to the current state of
research on particular aspects of ancient Jewish everyday life –
research which has been greatly enriched by critical methodological
approaches to rabbinic texts, and by the growing interest of
archaeologists in investigating the lives of ordinary people. Detailed
bibliographies inspire further engagement by enabling readers to
pursue their own lines of enquiry.The Handbook will prove to be an
invaluable reference work and tool for all students and scholars of
ancient Judaism, rabbinic literature, Roman provincial history and
culture, and of ancient Christianity.
Features

* Interdisciplinary approach presents the most up-to-date
perspectives on the study of ancient Jewish daily life
* An indispensable reference tool for all students and scholars of
ancient Judaism, Roman provincial history and culture, and early
Christianity
* Written by a team of internationally renowned scholars
* Extensive bibliographies help to orientate future research projects
* Part of the prestigious Oxford Handbooks series

About the Author(s)
Catherine Hezser is Professor of Jewish Studies at the School of
Oriental and African Studies, University of London

HT: Jack Sasson

Recommended: Historic Views of the Holy Land – The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection

I felt like a kid in a candy store when I viewed the “American Colony and Eric Matson Collection” of more than 4,000 photographs of sites and scenes from Palestine (as Israel was called then), Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt.

This collection is part of the “Historic Views of the Holy Land” series produced by Todd Bolen of BiblePlaces.com.

Founded in 1881 by Horatio Spafford (author of the famous hymn, It is Well With My Soul), the American Colony in Jerusalem operated a thriving photographic enterprise for almost four decades. Their images document the land and its people, with a special emphasis on biblical and archaeological sites, inspirational scenes, and historic events. One of the photographers, G. Eric Matson, inherited the archive, adding to it his own later work through the “Matson Photo Service.” He eventually donated all the negatives to the U.S. Library of Congress, which has made them available to the public.

My attention was immediately drawn to Volume 2: The Temple Mount and it was exciting to see pictures of views that cannot be seen anymore or of places that are now inaccessible. I have been in most of the underground places on the Temple Mount, such as the Golden Gate, the Double and Triple Gate passages and Solomon’s Stables, but was never able to enter the interior of Barclay’s Gate. It was therefore fascinating to see pictures taken in the 1940’s of the interior and see the views which I only knew from the survey drawings of Charles Warren. Each photograph is described by Tom Powers and his comments are very helpful.

The Temple Mount - The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection

While working on the Temple Mount excavations in the 1970’s, we were excited to discover what was below ground, not giving much thought to what the site looked liked before the first pick was raised to break the ground. Seeing the “Southern Side of the Temple Mount” in a photograph taken sometime between 1989 and 1946, reminded me of how much has been discovered in the excavations, led by the late Prof. Benjamin Mazar between 1968 and 1978.

South Side of the Temple Mount - American Colony and Eric Matson Collection

In the photographs of the Hebrew University, there are pictures of people whose names we are familiar with, but we do not always know their faces. Here you can meet Lord Balfour, Sir Herbert Samuel, Chancellor Judah Leon Magnes and Eliezer Sukenik, the father of the late Yigael Yadin. In another album you can meet General Edmund Allenby, who entered the city on foot through Jaffa Gate, ascended the steps of the Citadel and read a proclamation to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Prof. Eliezer Sukenik (center), the father of the late Yigael Yadin at the Hebrew University - The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection

Having lived many years in Jerusalem, I know the city very well, but it is amazing to see views of Jerusalem, taken 100 years ago. It is like a time machine, going back a century. Anybody interested in the history of Jerusalem would enjoy seeing these views. Although I would naturally focus on Jerusalem, the two CDs contain many interesting photographs of other parts of the Land and the surrounding countries. The album “Traditional Life and Customs” documents agriculture, home life and religious life of the different communities living in the Land.

There are photographs of the devastating earthquake of 1927 that ruined many buildings from Jericho to Jerusalem, of World War I, the Arab riots of 1929 and British personalities who were involved in the Mandate. It is possible to study the turbulent history that led up to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 by viewing this fascinating collection.

Building in Jerusalem damaged by the earthquake of 1927 - The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection

Every photograph has been labeled and there is an extensive bibliography on the DVD, but most interesting is the file called “Jerusalem’s American Colony and its Photographic Legacy” by Tom Powers. It has profiles of people who lived in the American Colony, specially the Spafford and Vester families and the photographers that built up this irreplaceble collection.

Many of the photographs were taken by Eric Matson, who came to Jerusalem in 1896 and moved to America in 1946. As mentioned above, in his later years he donated the whole of the photo archive of the American Colony to the U.S. Library of Congress. The pictures can be downloaded from the website, but, having done it myself several times, I know that it is a laborious process. We can be thankful to Todd Bolen for having made the most interesting of these photographs available in an easily accessible format.

Recommended: The Online Catalogue of the École Biblique in Jerusalem

Tom Powers, an American citizen living in Jerusalem, runs a lively blog, called View from Jerusalem. Whilst perusing our post Lost in Words – Recommendations from our library, he decided to pass on information about the On-line Catalogue of Jerusalem’s École Biblique, which went online about two years ago.

The Atrium of the École Biblique - photo Tom Powers

Here is an excerpt from Tom’s interesting post:

From the very beginning (ca. 1890), the Dominicans here made a point of indexing their collection on the level of the individual articles contained in journals, periodicals and books. Thanks to their foresight and diligence, that means that someone today can sit at their computer — wherever in the world – and do a search of the catalog by keyword, author, or any number of other parameters, and pull up the reference data on a whole host of relevant articles (and books), materials that they might then have access to in their own institutional library or via internet resources such as JSTOR.

About the École’s Library:

More than 140,000 volumes and 400 specialized periodicals are available for ready consultation. The great majority of this material concerns biblical exegesis, the archeology and literature of the Near East, ancient languages, etc.

Knowing the rich collection of this library, we agree that the online catalogue will be an extremely useful tool for anyone who wants to dig deeper into the Archaeology of the Holy Land and the Near East.

Recommended: The Historical Geography of the Holy Land

Before proceeding further with Recommendations from our Library, a giant of a book looms in our path. This is George Adam Smith’s: “The Historical Geography of the Holy Land.” It is not a large book in the physical sense, (or expensive), like our first recommendation: “The Sacred Bridge.” The greatness of this little book (first published in 1894), lies in the genius of its author to evoke the Land with his word-painting. He had a poet’s ear and words were his music. They came tumbling from his pen like streams. His ability to delineate the Land with all its sounds and scents and to people it in imagination with its successive historical inhabitants has never been surpassed.

Lovers of the Land today have a vast array of resources which make it possible to transport themselves there in imagination. There are CD ROMs, videos and satellite atlases. But, could any flyover give you that feeling of exactness you get when reading Smith’s Historical Geography (p.81): “There is the perspective of the Jordan Valley as you look up from over Jericho, between the bare ranges of Gilead and Ephraim, with the winding ribbon of the river’s jungle and the top of Hermon, a white cloud in the infinite distance. There is Gilead, where you ride, 2000 feet high, under the boughs of trees creaking and rustling in the wind, with Western Palestine before you. There is the moonlight view out of the bush on the north flank of Tabor, the leap of the sun over the edge of Bashan, summer morning in the Shephelah and sunset over the Mediterranean, when you see it from the gate of the ruins on Samaria down the glistening Vale of Barley?”

George Adam Smith, a Scottish Old Testament scholar, made four visits to the Land between 1880 and 1904, before the great changes which were wrought on the country by European colonists and Jewish immigrants. His intention in writing a Historical Geography was to: “give a vision of the Land as a whole” and to “help you to hear through it the sound of running history.” He certainly succeeded in meeting these aims. Some of our Israeli colleagues had memorised whole chunks of HGHL (as it was affectionately called)! Our much-missed friend and colleague, Yizhar Hirschfeld, once delighted us with a rendition of Smith’s description of Tel Gezer: “: “Shade of King Horam , what hosts of men have fallen round that citadel of yours! On what camps and columns has it looked down through the centuries, since first you saw the strange Hebrews burst with the sunrise across the hills, and chase your countrymen down Aijalon – that day when the victors felt the very sun conspire with them to achieve the unexampled length of battle. Within sight of every Egyptian and Assyrian invasion of the land, Gezer has also seen Alexander pass by, the legions of Rome in unusual flight, the armies of the Cross struggle, waver and give way, Napoleon come and go, and British yeomen come and stay. If all could rise who have fallen around its base – Ethiopians, Hebrews, Assyrians, Arabs, Turcomans, Greeks, Romans, Celts, Saxons, Mongols and English – what a rehearsal of the Judgement Day it would be!” (p.154).

But we treasure this work, not just for Smith’s unforgettable prose, but also for his erudition. His depiction is bolstered by reading that embraces the entire culture of the Middle East, much of it absorbed in the original languages. He quotes Hebrew, Arabic, Latin, Greek, French and German sources with the same facility as he does English. Herodotus steps out with the general to whom Napoleon dictated his memoirs of the campaigns in Egypt and Syria. Nasir-i-Khusrau is in there with Gertrude Bell and even some of his own Bedouin guides are quoted. But most of all it is the Hebrew Scriptures that he mines for his review of the various invasions the Land has undergone because, as he writes: “to these the pages of prophecy are as sensitive as the reedbeds of Syria to the passage of the wind and the flood” (p. 35).

It is as a preacher and teacher that he was best known. However, one of his travel companions observed that he would have made a great general, as he had both the natural gift of leadership and the commander’s eye for country. Another great general, General Allenby, consulted Smith’s Historical Geography daily (together with his Bible), using it as a kind of military handbook in the Palestine campaign of 1917/18. Indeed, the German-Turkish army was defeated by a surprise British attack in Michmash in a replay of Jonathan’s rout of the Philistines in the same place recorded in 1 Samuel 14. Both Jonathan, with his armour-bearer and the British force had to creep up the same gorge, the Wadi Suweinit, with the rocky outcrops known as Bozez and Seneh on either side, in order to reach the enemy camp. Another boon for the British Army was the fact that when their stores of water ran dry in that parched land, they were able, through studying HGHL and its original maps, to rediscover many wells whose location had vanished from local memory.

The Historical Geography of the Holy Land is a classic, not in the sense of a respected book gathering dust on a bookshelf, but as a trusty tool of the trade, stuffed into the pocket of every serious explorer of the Land from his time and since. And if you cannot make the journey, just open the book, with an atlas by your side. Every page is a picture-frame, capturing the essence of and deeply enriching our experience of that “glory of all lands.”

All quotes from The Historical Geography of the Holy Land are from our yellowed and watermarked 1966 Fontana Library Edition, Third Impression, 1973.

Recommended: The Sacred Bridge

We promised to review books that will stand the test of time. One of the books we treasure most (and which we would never dream of lending out, for fear of being left without it!) is The Sacred Bridge by Anson Rainey and Steven Notley. Reading it is like visiting a library with an erudite companion, who knows all the languages necessary to explore the culture in which you are interested or like walking in Bible lands with an omniscient voice guiding you: “This is the way, walk ye in it!”

The culmination of the life’s work of Anson Rainey, probably the world’s greatest authority on Semitic languages, together with Steven Notley, a notable New Testament scholar, this book contains learning more typical of nineteenth century scholarship, coupled with twenty first century presentation. Its prototype was the seminal Macmillan Bible Atlas, by Aharoni and Avi-Yonah, first brought out by Jerusalem’s Carta publishers in 1968 and which covered numerous aspects of the Biblical period.

The premise of this latest title is set forth in the blurb: “The Land of Canaan, the Land of Israel and early Roman Judea are treated as the southern part of the Levant, and as the focus in Ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean history. The Levant is the land bridge between Asia and Africa, between Greco-Roman culture and the coasts of Arabia. As such it has seen the influx of peoples bringing new blood and initiatives to the life of the region. It has also suffered the conquerors’ heel as ancient empires sought to dominate this geographical hub of communications and commerce. The historical experience of the southern Levant, well documented in the Bible and in many inscriptions from Egypt, Mesopotamia, Syria and Anatolia, has become enshrined in Jewish/Christian tradition … It is therefore more than a land bridge between different cultures. It is a bridge of faith.”

The Sacred Bridge‘s main distinguishing feature is that it utilises the languages of the written sources to cast light on the Bible and its geography. Biblical texts are considered side by side with the other ancient Near Eastern sources, Egyptian, Akkadian, West Semitic and Greek. The use of colour coding makes a book with so many academic features more accessible. References are printed in red, original texts in light blue, with their translation in dark blue. It is very moving to read Lachish Letter No. 4, which bemoans the fact that the fire signals of Azekah, the only other fort remaining in Judah against Nebuchadnezzar’s campaign could no longer be seen from Lachish, in the original. There are very few books in the popular domain in which this is possible.

Produced by Israel’s best-known cartographic publishers, its maps, needless to say, are excellent and we have used them extensively in our work for a new digital Bible. On numerous occasions while mapping journeys, we were struck by the inevitability that Biblical characters chose to go by a certain route because of historic connections. An example of this would be the fact that both King David and Jesus crossed over the Brook Kidron after their betrayal. With the help of this magisterial volume, you too will be able to “pass through” Bible lands, as did the Hebrews (whose name literally means “passer through”), and absorb the lessons embedded in these singular places.