Sunday, August 30, 2015

Jerusalem Pilgrimage

Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem from Psalm 122:6-8

May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
Prosperity within your palaces.
For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, "Peace be within you."

Long before there was a city of Jerusalem, humans and herds were sustained by the perpetual natural Gihon spring. This spring sustained the life of humans and herds for countless generations. Evidence of human occupation in the Chalcolithic Period (Copper Age) includes pottery shards found near the Spring and depressions which were used to grind grain or press oil from olives. The Gihon Spring, the only source of water for the city, emerges in the Kidron Valley, across from the Mount of Olives. To protect the access to the Gihon Spring a fortress was built. This Spring Citadel has 23-foot-thick walls comprised of stone blocks up to ten feet wide. This is a large structure for a Chalcolithic site. The older shrine city of Jericho has a mound that is 70 feet high and about 10 acres in size.

Gihon Spring, the only source of water for the city, emerges in the Kidron Valley, across from the Mount of Olives. The Spring emerged in a cave on the eastern slope of the City of David above the Kidron Valley. The water flowed into the valley below, watering the terraced agricultural land on the slope of Zion. This area is called the "King's Garden" in II Kings 25:4; Jeremiah 52:7; and Nehemiah 3:15.

The shafts and most of the tunnels that allow access to the water were natural karstic fissures in the rock that the excavators took advantage of when cutting passages from the city to the spring.

To protect the access to the Gihon Spring a fortress was built. This Spring Citadel has 23-foot-thick walls comprised of stone blocks up to ten feet wide, and represents the largest Chalcolithic fortress discovered thus far in Israel.

Jebus or Yebu (2220-1250 BC)

Jerusalem under the Jebusites

Stepped structure of the ancient Jebusite Wall

View from the area of the Jebusite fortress looking down to the Kidron Valley near the source of the Gihon Springs.

The main water source of the original City of David (Ir David) was the Gihon Spring located at the base of the eastern slope of the city in the Kidron Valley.

A 3,500 year fortress has been found that guarded the entrance to the Gihon Spring.

The Gihon Spring provided water year round by gushing forth several times a day. This water naturally flowed into the Kidron Valley. In the earliest days of Jerusalem’s occupation, reservoirs where built to collect the water from the Gihon Springs. Three systems were eventually designed to use this water: Warren's Shaft, Siloam Channel (Tunnel), an Hezekiah's Tunnel.

Hezekiah's Tunnel

Hezekiah’s Tunnel is the most recent water work, cut during the reign of King Hezekiah at end of 8th century BC. This is described in a paleo-Hebrew inscription, cut into the rock near the exit:

"…breakthrough and this was the account of the breakthrough. While the laborers were still working with their picks, each toward the other, and while there were still three cubits to be broken through, the voice of each was heard calling to the other, because there was a zdh [crack?] in the rock to the south and to the north. And at the moment of the breakthrough, the laborers struck each toward the other, pick against pick. Then the water flowed from the spring to the pool for 1,200 cubits. And the height of the rock above the heads of the laborers was 100 cubits."

II Kings 20:20, we read how Hezekiah "...made a pool, and a conduit, and brought water into the city…" and again in II Chronicles 32:30: "This same Hezekiah also stopped the upper watercourse of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David."

Hezekiah’s Tunnel is about 2 feet wide and 5 feet high at the entrance near the Gihon Springs, as seen in this photo. Notice the fresh water still moving through this tunnel as it has for 2,700 years.

This tunnel was discovered by Edward Robinson in 1838 and was cleared by Montague Parker’s team during the years 1909-1911.

Ancient Tombs in Silwan

Looking south into the Kidron Valley from near the south east corner of the Temple Mount. The Arab town of Silwan is on the left (east) of the photo. This is where the tombs of important persons have been found.

The Silwan necropolis is probably the most important ancient cemetery in Israel and is assumed to have been used by the highest-ranking officials residing in Jerusalem. Its tombs were cut between the 9th and 7th centuries BC. The tombs face David's city, the oldest part of Jerusalem.

Remnants of the Monolith of Silwan, a tomb dating to the time of Solomon's Temple. It was once thought to be the burial site of Solomon's Egyptian queen.


The gold medallion shown below is one of the prize finds of the "Ophel treasure" recovered during the 2013 excavations of Dr. Eilat Mazar in this area between the City of David (Zion) and the Temple Mount (Moriah). This area shows signs of human occupation from at least 3,500 BC.

Ophel (Hebrew עֹ֫פֶל) refers to a high place, an elevated site, or a fortified mound. The root of the word ophel is OP and pertains to a complex of interrelated ideas: seeing (optic); armed guards (opiltes); a walled town (oppida), and a sun shrine served by a caste of priests known in the ancient world as O'piru. Variants of O'piru include Ha'piru, Ha'biru (Hebrew) and 'Apiru.


The Acra was the Seleucid stronghold built in 186 BC against the south wall of Solomon’s Temple Mount on the Ophel. It was used between the years of 186-141 BC as a military post to control the city's population and to monitor activities at the Temple.

The Western Wall ("The Wailing Wall")

The portion of the Western Wall inside the black box is the portion that remains from the Temple Mount retaining walls built by Herod. The seven courses of stones inside the black box are all Herodian blocks.

Looking east at another cornerstone on the southwest corner of the Wall. The pavement and steps are original Herodian pavement placed here in the first century.

This is a Turkish wall and tower built by the Ottoman ruler Suleiman. Notice the outcropping of the bedrock under the tower.

Mount Moriah (Temple Mount)

Looking across the pavement built over Mount Moriah to create a level surface. This is the site of the ancient Temple Mount. The Dome of the Rock stands where Herod's Temple formerly stood.

David purchased a threshing floor from the Jebusite Araunah. It would have been located at a high elevation so that the wind could carry the chaff. It is believed it may have been on Mount Moriah.

Dome of the Rock

The Dome of the Spirits covers the exposed bedrock of Mount Moriah that some believe to be the bedrock that was inside the Holy of Holies.

Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives

Old olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane

Sunset looking back at Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher

The cross on the grey dome over Calvary in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Front facade of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

The Tomb of the Virgin Mary

View looking down the steps to the Tomb of the Virgin Mary

The Church of the Sepulchre of Saint Mary was built over the burial site believed to be that of the Virgin Mary. The location of the Tomb of Mary is across the Kidron Valley from St Stephen’s Gate in the Old City walls of Jerusalem, just before Gethsemane, at the foot of Mount of Olives.

Floods in 1972 enabled excavations by the archaeologist Bellarmino Bagatti, who concluded that the place where Mary had been buried was clearly located in a cemetery used during the first century. The large crypt containing the empty tomb in the Church is all that remains of an early 5th-century church, making it one of the oldest nearly complete religious building in Jerusalem.

Related reading: Does Political Zionism Align with the Bible?; The City of Jerusalem by Col. C. R. Conder (1909)

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