the Burnt House, Jerusalem

the Burnt House, Jerusalem

the Burnt House, Jerusalem

In Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter of the Old City, the Burnt House Museum vividly illustrates the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE. The exhibit includes the excavated remains of the home of a priestly family in the once upscale Upper City area near the Temple Mount and displays of artefacts found in the house. Among the items found are the arm bones of a young woman, a spear, stone jugs, bowls, plates, and oil lamps. Layers of ash and burned wooden beams and stones indicate the house was destroyed in an intense fire.

the Burnt House Museum, photo courtesy of our friend Larry Bell

the Burnt House Museum, photo courtesy of our friend Larry Bell

the Burnt House Museum, Jerusalem, photo courtesy of our friend Larry Bell

the Burnt House Museum, Jerusalem, photo courtesy of our friend Larry Bell

the Burnt House Museum, Jerusalem, photo courtesy of our friend Larry Bell

the Burnt House Museum, Jerusalem, photo courtesy of our friend Larry Bell

An inscription on a stone weight found in the house seems to identify the occupants as the Kathros family, a family of ill repute, chastised in the Talmud for abuse of power.

A film at the site gives a good overview of the political context of the destruction of Jerusalem and a moving account of the final hours of its citizens.

Our Magnificent Israel tour includes a visit to the Burnt House.

NAME THAT COUNTRY

 

These caves are named for the ancient settlement just below. They’re located in the Judean Desert, about a mile from the Dead Sea and about an hour’s drive from Jerusalem. In 1947, a local Bedouin boy found a cache of ancient scrolls in one of the caves while searching for a wayward goat. Subsequent excavations yielded nearly 900 scrolls in 11 caves. Scholars are still studying the manuscripts, many in fragments, today. Some of the scrolls can be seen at the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.

 

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Merry Christmas from Bethlehem!

Bethlehem

Bethlehem

Bethlehem is located in the West Bank, about 6 miles south of Jerusalem in the Judean Mountains. It’s home to one of the largest Arab Christian communities, now about 40% of the population, but once around 85%. It’s a small city of about 25,000, with tourism as the main industry.

Besides being the traditional birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem is the birthplace of King David and the site of the tomb of Rachel. Rachel’s tomb, on the edge of town, attracts Jewish and Muslim pilgrims, but Bethlehem’s star attraction, by far, is the Church of Nativity in Manger Square, in the center of town.

The Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

The Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

The original church was built upon orders from the Roman Emperor Constantine’s mother Helena around the year 327. The emperor Justinian rebuilt the church a couple hundred years later, and that church still stands, the oldest church still in use in the Holy Land. Beneath the church is a cave believed to be the actual spot where Mary gave birth to Jesus. The earliest written accounts of Jesus being born in a cave date from the 2nd century, but the oral tradition is likely much older. Many houses in the area are built up against caves, which were used for storage and animal shelter.

The very spot upon which Jesus was born, according to tradition. This is in a cave under the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem.

The very spot upon which Jesus was born, according to tradition. This is in a cave under the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem.

Was Jesus really born in Bethlehem? Most scholars think not. Two of the four Gospels, Matthew and Luke, place the nativity in Bethlehem, although the details differ. The other two Gospels, Mark and John, don’t address Jesus’ birth at all. According to Jewish tradition, the Messiah would be descended from King David, and David was born and raised in Bethlehem. Accordingly, the prophet Micah foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. It could be that the writers of Matthew and Luke symbolically placed Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem in reference to that prophecy. Journalistic accuracy was not intended or expected.

Personally, I don’t think it matters where exactly Jesus was born, but I do find it interesting to think about the context in which the Gospels were written and their intended audiences. Although they carry an eternal message, the form that message takes tells us a lot about the world of the first Christians. Matthew cites the genealogy of Jesus back through David and ultimately to Abraham. That would have been meaningful to a Jewish audience. Luke’s genealogy goes right back to Adam to encompass all of humanity and he exults the newborn Jesus as savior of the whole world, not only of the Jews. Luke was writing for a Greek, gentile audience.

Getting to Bethlehem is easy, just a short drive from Jerusalem. Tourists pass through an Israeli check-point from Israel to the West Bank Palestinian Territories. Israelis are not allowed to enter, so if you’re on a guided tour, a Palestinian guide will meet you on the other side.

Christmas Eve Midnight Mass is held on December 24-25 at the Roman Catholic St. Catherine’s, next door to the Church of Nativity. Tickets (no charge) are required to attend the service. Christmas is celebrated in Bethlehem on January 6-7 for the Greek, Coptic and Syrian Othodox Churches and on January 18-19 for the Armenian Orthodox Church.

NAME THAT CITY

 

The so-called Burnt House is a museum on the remains of a house that was burned by the Romans in 70CE, when they sacked the entire city. The house was in a wealthy part of the city near the temple, which was also destroyed and, to this day, has not been rebuilt. The a retaining wall of the temple still stands and has been a place of pilgrimage for 2,000 years. Items found in the Burnt House indicate that it was the home of a priest.

 

 

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Foto Friday – Israel

Here are some shots from our friend Larry Bell and his most recent trip with Ya’lla Tours.

scale model of 1st century Jerusalem at the Israel Museum

scale model of 1st century Jerusalem at the Israel Museum

the Absalom Pillar in Kidron Valley, Jerusalem

the Absalom Pillar in Kidron Valley, Jerusalem

Aish World Center, Jerusalem

Aish World Center, Jerusalem

the Bell Caves in Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park

the Bell Caves in Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park

the Sea of Galilee/Lake Kinneret

the Sea of Galilee/Lake Kinneret

NAME THAT CITY

These city walls, built by the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century, are only the latest fortifications to protect our mystery city. The city and its walls were destroyed in 587BCE during the Babylonian siege and much of the population was deported to Babylon. When the Persians took control of the region some 50 years later, the exiled citizens were allowed to return and the walls were rebuilt. The walls were extended in the 2nd century BCE by the Hasmonean dynasty and by Herod the Great and his son Agrippa in the following century or so. The city and its walls were destroyed again in 70CE, this time by the Romans, who occupied the city and renamed it Aelia Capitolina. The Roman walls built over the following four centuries were destroyed in an earthquake in the 11th century. The walls went up and down again several times more, with invasions and occupations by the Islamic Fatimid and Ayyubid dynasties and Christian crusaders. The existing walls have stood, more or less as they are today, for 400 years.

Can you name that city? 
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