Tunnel-vision politics in Jerusalem

On my return from Jordan, I found that it was and still is widely reported that an underground tunnel has been opened in Jerusalem and, as expected, some outrageous Palestinian comments made about the supposed danger to the Temple Mount, such as these:

The tunnel leading from the City of David in Silwan to beneath the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, excavated by the Israel Antiquities Authority and announced to media fanfare Sunday, is drawing fire from Palestinians who claim it will damage the Temple Mount.

Fatah Revolutionary Council member Dimitri Diliani accused the Jerusalem municipality of Judaizing East Jerusalem and said the digging constituted a “direct danger to al-Aqsa.”

The tunnel in question was first discovered by Charles Warren in the 1870’s, recorded by subsequent excavators such as Bliss and Dickie, Johns and Kathleen Kenyon. A large section below Robinson’s Arch was cleared during Benjamin Mazar’s excavations in the 1970’s. Not only did Warren publish a plan of the tunnel, but in the 1970’s the Irish architect David Sheehan together with my late sister Martha made a detailed survey of the tunnel. The tunnel was constructed as a drain below the street that ran above it.

This plan is based on Warren’s drawing and is published in my book The Quest, p. 56:

Plan of the drain, shown in blue, at the southwest corner of the Temple Mount as discovered by Charles Warren. This plan makes it clear that the drain-tunnel skirts the Temple Mount and poses no danger to it.

There are two distinct phases to be discerned in the tunnel. The older sections to the north and to the south on the plan are roofed with flat slabs, while the central section has a vaulted roof. The flat roofed sections used to belong to one and the same Pre-Herodian, possibly Hasmonean period, while the vaulted section is Herodian.

This picture shows the vaulted Herodian section of the drain below Robinson's Arch. Photo: Tomer Appelbaum

It is clear from the above plan that the construction of the Herodian southwest corner of the Temple Mount cut the earlier drain and a detour was constructed going round this corner, using short sections of vaulting, to reconnect the drain again. This Herodian section also cut through some First Temple period tombs:

A First Temple period tomb, cut through by the Herodian drain. Photo: Marc Israel Sellem

Even Israeli commentators don’t get the purpose of this tunnel right. According to this report:

Visitors are now able to walk from the center of Silwan to the Western Wall plaza within several minutes, via a shaft that researchers believe was used for drawing water from the tunnel. The shaft is in the area of the Davidson Archaeological Park and Center, between the southern wall of the Temple Mount and the Dung Gate, and when the work is completed it will serve as the entrance to the tunnel.

The purpose of this tunnel was not to supply water, but to drain away rainwater that fell on the street and to drain off the sewage of adjacent buildings into the drain:

Manhole with five slots in the Herodian street, leading rain water into the drain below. Photo: Leen Ritmeyer

During the Mazar excavations, this tunnel was visited many times by staff and volunteers alike. It is great to hear that the full length of this drain has been opened all the way down to the Siloam Pool. It will be exciting to walk again through this tunnel, but while doing so, one should also remember that in 70 AD many Jerusalemites tried to escape through this same tunnel, but were cruelly killed by the Romans when they were discovered.

Oleg Grabar

Yesterday, 8 January, 2011, Oleg Grabar, Professor Emeritus in the School of Historical Studies at Princeton University, passed away.

Oleg Grabar’s research has had a profound and far-reaching influence on the study of Islamic art and architecture. His extensive archaeological expeditions and research trips cover the vast expanse of the Islamic world in Africa, the Middle East, and Muslim Asia.

Interior view of the Dome of the Rock - photo © Saïd Nuseibeh, The Shape of the Holy, p. 75.

His book, The Shape of the Holy: Early Islamic Jerusalem (1996), details the role of Islam in defining the “look” of Jerusalem that remained largely intact until the twentieth century. A great part of the book is taken up with a description of the beautiful mosaics of the Dome of the Rock, complemented by a set of splendid photographs.

A brief overview of his career can be viewed here.

Source: Jack Sasson

New Studies on Jerusalem

The 16th Annual Conference of the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies on “NEW STUDIES ON JERUSALEM” will be held on Thursday, December 16th, 2010 in the Mintz Auditorium (Building 404), Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan. Here is the program:

8:20 Gathering

8:45 Opening remarks:

Prof. Joshua. Schwartz, Director of the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies

Prof. Avraham Faust & Dr. Eyal Baruch, conference organizers

Session 1 – 9:00- 10:50 Chair: Aren Maeir

09:00 Gabriel Barkay – Kathleen Kenyon in Jerusalem – The Excavations which Terminated a Brilliant Career

09:20 Tsvika Tsuk – The Water Sources of the First Temple at Jerusalem

09:40 Gershon Galil – King David’s First Decade as King of Jerusalem and his Relations with the Philistines in Light of the Qeiyafa Excavation and Inscription

10:00 Moshe Garsiel – The Latent Literary Encounter between Samuel, the Prophet from Shiloh and Ramah, and Nathan, the Prophet of the Jerusalemite Court

10:20 Hillel Geva – The Development of Northern Jerusalem during the Second Temple Period: the Archaeological Evidence and its Significance

10:40 Discussion

10:50 Break

Session 2 – 11:20- 13:10 Chair: Joshua Schwartz

11:20 Ram Bouchnick, Guy Bar-Oz & Ronny Reich – On the Importance of Poultry in the Animal Economy of Judea in the Late Second Temple Period

11:40 Joseph Patrich – The Building Project of Simeon the Just on the Temple Mount: the literary sources, suggested remains and a graphical representation

12:00 Ofer Sion – The Upper Aqueduct of Jerusalem in the area of Jaffa Gate

12:20 Emmanuel Friedheim – Was There a Meeting between Jewish Monotheism and Polytheism in the Second Temple?

12:40 Michael Ben Ari – The Battle of Jerusalem: Destructive Divisiveness or Strategic Coordination, A New Reading of the Writings of Josephus Flavius

13:00 Discussion

13:10 Lunch Break

Session 3 – 14:20-16:40 Chair: Moshe Fischer

14:20 Yehoshua Peleg – The Passover Sacrifice in the Herodian Temple

14:30 Naomi Sidi, Eli Shukron & Ronny Reich – Late Second Temple Period Pottery from the Stepped Street in the Tyropoenon Valley and from the Drain Under It: A ComparativeStudy

14:50 Boaz Zissu & Amos Kloner – Horvat Midras (Kh. Durusiya) – A Reassessment of an Archaeological Site from the Second Temple Period and the Bar-Kokhba Revolt

15:10 Ze’ev Safrai – The Memory of the Temple

15:30 Amos Kloner & Boaz Zissu – A Street Pavement Along Lions Gate Street and its Dating to the First Century CE

15:50 Eitan Klein – The Origins of the Rural Settlers in the Judean Mountains and Foothills during the Late Roman period

16:10 Bat-Sheva Garsiel – The Status of Jerusalem in the Period of the Umayyad and the Abbasid Dynasties (From the mid seventh to the ninth Century CE)

16:30 Discussion

16:40 Break

Session 4 – 17:00- 18:40 Chair: Adrian Boas

17:00 Michael Ehrlich – The Ovens of the Holy Sepulcher during the Crusader Period

17:20 Shlomo Lotan – Exploring and Recovering the Concealed Part of the German Crusaders Church of Saint Mary in the Center of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem

17:40 Perez Reuven – A Manuscript Fragment in Arabic Written in Hebrew Letters from the Mamluk Period Found at the Al-Aqsa Mosque

18:00 Gérald Finkielsztejn – The Convent Outside the New Gate that Saved West Jerusalem (1894-1948)

18:20 Oded Shay – “Jerusalem is the Washington of Israel”: The journey to Jerusalem of the Zionist Functionary Dr. Otto Abeles, 1925

18:40 Discussion

The Conference is dedicated to the Memory of Israel Shalem z”l, a Fellow of the Rennert Center. The meeting is open to all (free of charge)

The conference proceedings (approximately 300 pp., including 17articles in Hebrew, with English abstracts) will be on sale during the conference

For additional information, please contact the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies:

<jrslm1@mail.biu.ac.il> or Avi Faust <fausta@mail.biu.ac.il>.

HT: Jack Sasson

Rachel’s Tomb, The Tomb of the Patriarchs and the Mugrabi Gate

The politicians are at it again. UNESCO has declared The Tomb of Rachel to be a mosque. Israel’s Prime Minister has slammed the report.

The claim is, of course, ludricous. This photograph, taken in 1890-1900, already describes the building as The Tomb of Rachel:

The Tomb of Rachel - photograph taken in 1890-1900

Joe Lauer reminded us of what Abba Eban once said about the United Nations General Assembly, “If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.” 

When guiding round the Temple Mount excavations, we always pointed out that the headquarters of the United Nations are rightfully situated on the Mount of Evil Counsel.

In another report, the US demands from Israel to remove the Tomb of the Patriarchs from Israel’s list of national heritage sites. The very architecture of the Tomb of the Patriarchs of proves that it was built by Herod the Great.

The Tomb of the Patriarchs. The wall has been partly cut away to indicate the location of the double cave where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives were buried.- © Leen Ritmeyer

The Mugrabi Gate is also in the news, as it has been reported that falling stones from the ramp could endanger the women who pray below:

UNESCO appeared to support the PA demand for the Temple Mount as well, asking that Muslim officials be allowed to examine the Mughrabi Gate near the Western Wall (Kotel). Muslim leaders have accused Israel of attempting to damage the Al-Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount under the guise of repairs to the Mugrabi Gate. Israeli officials have warned that if the gate is not repaired, it could collapse, putting worshipers at the Western Wall at risk.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich, Rabbi of the Western Wall, termed the decision “outrageous.” “They have never said in the past that this was a Muslim holy site. The [UN] organization responsible for heritage has turned heritage into politics.” Israel should think carefully about whether or not to cooperate with UNESCO in the future, he said.

In an earlier post, The UNESCO leopard has not changed its spots, we discussed the problems of the ramp. It is clear that nothing has changed in the attitude of UNESCO. See also Todd Bolen’s post: Falling Stones Endanger Women at Western Wall.

HT: Joe Lauer

Report on the Destruction of the Temple Mount

Government ‘tried to bury’ report on Temple Mount excavations

This funny pun introduces an article about the suppression by the Government of Israel of a report on the illegal Temple Mount excavations.

We had earlier reported here, here, here, here, here and here on these illegal excavations and registered our protest.

The newspaper article goes on to say:

The report has not yet been published but Knesset sources who have seen it say it contents are so sensitive that they could spark riots once revealed.

It doesn’t take much to spark a riot in Jerusalem, but we are interested to hear more about this report than seeing people injured.

First Temple period wall found in Jerusalem – revisited

One of my blog readers, Arthur Chrysler, made the following comments on a previous post, which I would like to share with other blog readers:

The Large Tower, explored by Warren and one hundred years later by Dame Kenyon, is constructed of stones of the character identified as Phoenician at Samaria. The header-and-stretcher construction is also identified as Phoenician at Samaria. Kenyon stated, “The date of these earliest walls, on the basis of the deposits against them, is, on the field estimate of the pottery, eighth century B.C. OR EARLIER (Digging up Jerusalem p.115). She also states in the caption under pl. 38, “Wall in Site S II on eastern crest of eastern ridge, which can be STRATIGRAPHICALLY dated to 8th century B.C….”. This area of Jerusalem is not a Tel! You cannot stratigraphically date anything here. This unique topography, consisting of a steep slope with exposed bedrock demands unique methodology. Kenyon states that, “Close at hand, there was a wall of the time of Solomon, from which the builders of the eighth century B.C. derived their stones”. King Hezekiah had a unique style of construction as seen in the Broad Wall, the Outer Wall, and his section of wall cutting across the Jebusite angle above the Gihon Spring. None of these examples give a hint of header-and-stretcher characteristics. Why would Hezekiah go through the trouble of re-stacking Solomon’s massive stones to move the tower only a few meters? Kenyon used the dating method that she was familiar with but it led her to the wrong conclusion regarding the tower here. The tower is certainly Solomonic and the connected wall and the Golden Gate, all of which display Identical characteristics.

If it is true that nothing can be dated stratigraphically in this part of Jerusalem, how can you then insist on a Solomonic date for the wall in Kenyon’s site SII and Benjamin Mazar’s Field 23? Kathleen Kenyon excavated down to the bedrock in this area and indeed concluded that:

“Beneath … the Byzantine wall … is a wall which probably belonged to a projecting tower. The date of these earliest walls, on the basis of the deposits against them, is … eighth century B.C. or earlier.” “… these walls were constructed of re-used stones … with irregular projecting bosses having margins on one, two or three sides.”

If these stones are indeed in secondary use, which I am not convinced of, it is possible that these are rejects or surplus masonry from Hezekiah’s square Temple Mount construction.

If you would examine the elevation, section and Isometric drawing of the Ophel Wall on Warren’s Plans, Elevations, Sections, etc., (1884), Plate 40, then it is clear that this L-shaped wall is built against an earlier wall and one can still see today that two different First Temple period building phases are represented in this area. That is why Warren called this wall section the “Extra Tower” or “Corner Turret”, i.e. it is a tower that was later added to strengthen an earlier fortification or part of the city wall. If the L-shaped wall, as you insist, is Solomonic, does that make the wall against which it is built Canaanite? If there are two construction phases in a building, that is called stratigraphy, showing that one wall is earlier than another. This stratigraphy is not different from that on a tell. This picture shows that the stratigraphically four building constructions can be identified:

1. The Byzantine Tower
2. Excavating inside and below the Byz. tower, a Herodian mikveh was found that was built against the inside wall of the “Extra Tower” (not visible in the picture)
3. The 8th century L-shaped “Extra Tower”
4. The pre-8th century wall against which the “Extra Tower” was built, which may be Solomonic if that can be proved conclusively.

Kenyon dated this L-shaped corner construction to the eighth century B.C. or earlier, but that does not necessarily mean that it is Solomonic. You compared it with the Phoenician masonry in Samaria, but that dates to the 9th century and is not Solomonic. A similar style masonry has been found in the sanctuary walls in Tel Dan, which is also post-Solomonic. I had suggested that there is an historical link between the “Extra Tower” and the masonry near the Golden Gate, but neither of these two constructions can be Solomonic.

The Destruction of the Temple Mount continues

It is feared that the destruction of the Temple Mount by Muslims continues. It has been observed that work is taking place to the east of the Dome of the Rock, where the Court of the Priests and the Altar were located. According to this report:

“The Waqf works are constant, we see tractors going to and fro carrying earth. The work is taking place near the Dome of the Rock, exactly in the place between where our Holy Temple’s courtyard and the Altar used to stand. The Waqf claims they are doing pavement work there, or so they advertise in the news sites, but in practice they surrounded themselves in white burlap and we see there is scaffolding. I suppose that for paving works there should be no need for scaffolding.”

The bedrock is only a few feet below the pavement and the layers between it and the pavement could easily be destroyed. On a visit to the Temple Mount last year, we observed repairs to pavement north of the Dome of the Rock and it was clear that no digging with tractors was involved:

Hopefully some more information will become available soon.

Bible Lands Expedition (BLE) tour

Another BLE Bible Lands Expedition study tour is planned for October 2010, God willing. Dr. Steve Collins and myself will be leading the tour. This is an exciting adventure travelling through Jordan and Israel with the likely outcome that you’ll never read your Bible in the same way again! We do not take more than one bus full, so you really get to know each other well. There are a few places left, so have a look at the website and tour overview!

“Solomonic Wall” found in Jerusalem

The confusion in the reporting on this wall was summed up in one sentence by Neil Silberman: “Dr. Eilat Mazar is at it again– running to the press before properly submitting her finds to serious archaeological scrutiny.” This has been my personal experience going back to 1986.

I do believe that she is a good archaeologist, but this running to the press, without giving scientific reasons for her conclusions is totally unacceptable. People are no longer prepared to believe statements that are not backed up with facts. It gives Biblical Archaeology a bad name.

Barnea Levi Selavan of the Foundation Stone organisation, which, together with Ateret haCohanim, has the aim of purchasing and restoring “ancient homes in the Old City which are occupied by young and idealistic yeshiva families and students who have breathed new life into the heart of Yerushalayim”, wrote this to me:

“Eilat explained to the press that she reached bedrock, she dug under the floor and found 10th century pottery in the fill under the floors. most media reports did not quote this. she said no evidence of Canaanite structure earlier here. Typology of pottery distinctively Israelite. Original floor preserved in two places.”

So, all that was done, as I already presumed, was digging down deeper in previously excavated areas and finding 10th century material. How that fill relates to the wall segments is still unclear.

Solomon’s Temple

In November last year, I gave some lectures at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS).

An abstract of my lecture on Solomon’s Temple has been put on their website. You can read it here.