Monday, February 1, 2010

Up to Jerusalem

NOTE the new “Vocab List” feature to the left.

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“Class” started today!  My first class experience today was a 4-1/2 hour guided tour of Jerusalem’s old city, led by our professor, Dr. Paul Wright. Now you get to start taking advantage of a bit of my learning experience.  From time-to-time, I will share some of the insights I have gained in my studies at JUC.

“I look up toward the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth” (121:1-2)

Psalm 120-135 known as the “Psalms of Ascent”, were intended to be sung on the journey up to the temple.  Jerusalem is one of the oldest continually populated cities of the world. Its endurance is due in great part to the geography of the area.

Interestingly the Hebrew word that means “to immigrate”, Oalya, literally means to “ascend”.   The bible often speaks of going to Jerusalem as “going up” even when it’s not North of the current location. That’s because Jerusalem is up in elevation from nearly everything around it. To immigrate to Israel is to ascend because either literally or figuratively one goes up.

You all have probably heard these or similar facts before, as have I, but when you walk it for yourself it takes on an entirely new, richer meaning.

A quick geography lesson for you:

3D Map of Hinnom Valley

(Click for a full size view) 

For example, to get to JUC, my school, from our flat, we walk down a fairly steep road for 1Km (1/2 mile), then descend 227  steps down to the bridge near the bottom of the Hinnom Valley, over the valley on the nice bridge and back up another 52 steps and a very steep switch-back to the near top of Mt Zion where the school is located.  Not as bad as climbing Mt Everest for sure, but do it every day, and whew….

JUC is located just outside the southwest edge of the current Old City in Jerusalem. It is in current Mt Zion, and overlooks the Hinnom Valley below.

Each of the pictures below is looking back from the school to the other side of the Hinnom Valley toward our flat.

View of Hinnom Valley from JUC Rooftop 

Looking across the Hinnom Valley from the JUC rooftop.







A view from the JUC rooftop of the street we descend toward the Hinnom Valley.








You can see the girls walking to JUC as seen from the rooftop.

Click to enlarge.





Back to the Geography Lesson…

So the Hinnom Valley meets up, South of Jerusalem, with the Kiddron Valley (which is the valley between Old City Jerusalem and the Mt of Olives behind it).  The word “Valley” in Hebrew is guy, making its full Hebrew name Guy Hinnom.  Now follow this… in the old days, Jerusalem didn’t have any garbage service (imagine that).  They did however have a garbage dump, located conveniently outside the Dung Gate (thus the name), which is located on the south side of the city.  When it rains, water flows from the Old City, through the garbage dump and into…  you guessed it, the Hinnom Valley. So at some point that valley became known as, well, the place you really do not want to ever go.  Eventually when the Greeks took over the world, it was transliterated (that is to replace letters and sounds with the new language’s equivalent) from Guy Hinnom into the Greek word, Gehenna. 

People then began to use the word Gehenna to more generically refer to the place you never want to go, and eventually it referred more specifically, in both Judaism and later in Christianity, as a reference to the place you REALLY never want to go, that is Hell.  Jesus used it several times in the Gospels as such.

So everyday that I go to class, I will walk the steep slopes into the depths of Gehenna.  Unlike those who descend to Hades, I have the privilege of walking back out the other side.  Note: today the Hinnom Valley is a plush, green, pretty place, from which you sometimes see goats being shepherded.



Well look at that, goats in the Hinnom valley!

Go Up, Go Down, Sifting Through the Layers, Layers and More Layers

We started our tour of Old City Jerusalem today with a walk behind the school, up the hill to the top of Mt Zion with a spectacular vista of the area surrounding the south ends of the city.  From here one can see West Jerusalem (which is considered anything West of the Hinnom valley), and the Mt of Olives to the East. 

On this side of the Mt. of Olives you can see a new wall, built sometime after 1997. The wall stands as a reminder of the conflict of this place.  It is built on the edge of what was (before the 6 day war of 1967 in which Israel reclaimed this area) originally the Jordan / Israeli border.  To the Jewish people it represents safety – no new car-bombs have occurred since the wall has gone up.  To the Arabs it represents apartheid and oppression – not all Arabs should be blamed for a few bad apples.

The Old City is divided into four quarters: Moslem, Jewish, Armenian (an eastern Christian group with roots in the country of Armenia) and the Christian Quarter. There is constant tension between the groups (even between the Christians, more on that later), each vying for a little more of the pie.  Imagine two people pressing up against each other as hard as they can,  neither willing to budge.  After some time, one will eventually relax a little bit and the other gets to nudge over 1/4 of an inch… their territory has just expanded.  Repeat that scenario a thousand times and you’ve gained a good size space – that’s what is always going on here, groups pushing against one another in an attempt to seize more space. 

So every conflict has lots of history, much of which is no longer known. Sometimes you dig down (figuratively or literally) to find who was here first only to be surprised by the results. Take the Cardia for example.

A while back, in Jordan, there was found a “photograph” of Jerusalem from around 400AD. Well, it’s a mosaic, the ancient equivalent of a very pixelated photograph.  Here’s a copy of that mosaic.



Mosaic showing Jerusalem ca 400AD.

Click to see it better. Notice the road going through the middle. 






In the middle of this Mosaic was a massive road running through the center of the city.  This would have been a Roman road, which is their style – a nice straight road like this did not yet exist in Jesus day but the Romans were notorious for building these roads in the heart of the city. Such roads are called Cardia, (Greek for heart) because they run through the middle, carry the life, etc… When Israel regained the Old City from Jordan in 1967 they set to the task of rebuilding it AND excavating as much of it as they could.  No one knew for sure if that road really existed until in the late 60’s they found it.



View from the Cardia (ca 400AD) of Jerusalem.

Notice how far below we are from the street level to the right.






This view gives you a sense of how far down the Cardia was.


Now, this Cardia had been buried for some great amount of time, so much so that by 1967 had it not been for that mosaic “photograph” no one would have known of its existence.  We know by the findings, the style, the very nature of the road itself, that this was built by the Romans some time well after Christ.  So, where would Christ have walked?  Presumably somewhere below this road right?  That was my wrong assumption, in reality, the roads in Jesus day were actually much higher up, probably near the level of the current paths above the Cardia

In other words, the Romans cut out this path to create this road.  So in Jesus day everything was up where it is now, the Romans came along some time later, and carved out this path which was eventually filled in by modern times.  So the path Jesus would have walked actually had to be destroyed to find the path people some 400 years later walked.  The bottom layer is not always the oldest!

Thus you see from this the problem of defining and prooving original claims to a specific spot on the top of the ascent.  The roots are deep, the conflicts many and great, and the layers are complex and not always in the right order – both literally and metaphorically.


midspoint said...

More!! More!! More!!! I want to know more and you describe so well and in deep detail. I thirst for this...
Israel has my heart. And your family has my prayers,


Tina said...

This is oh so awesome! Again, thanks for sharing your "on the spot - in the moment" perspective. We love it!

Edy said...

Praise the Lord for today's technology! Thank you for taking time to tell us so much interesting information, both in words and photos. It's as if we can be there right with you. Blessings on all your heads!

Andrea said...

Thanks for sharing!!
Blessings, andrea

Carol Penhorwood said...

I am SOOO enjoying this! You take such care in explaining it all. Thank you! Love the pictures and detailed maps. It's ALMOST like being there!