Sunday, November 19, 2017

Ancient Chronology of Jerusalem's Holy Rock

Believe it or not, you are looking at Mount Moriah and Jerusalem's Temple Mount a deserted mountain nested among others, one rock from top to bottom between an eastern and western valley. On its lower eastern face its first permanent cave dwelling, a living space with three sleeping quarters carved neatly into the mountainside rock. A narrow single access passage carved into the rock provided entry. The dwelling passed through generations, but the mountain, which was periodically occupied remained mostly desolate and the cave empty of inhabitants.

A spiritual practitioner, perhaps an oracle or healer brought visitors. Temporarily dwelling on the mountain they sought advice, prayed, made offerings and moved on. Higher up the slope, a ridge with views to the stream along the eastern valley floor became the meeting place for worshipers and advice seekers.

Artisans chipped away at bedrock that rose from the high ridge on the eastern face until hollow spaces formed depressions in the rock. Then, the depressions were shaped into rooms that were exposed to the sky. More rock-on-rock chipping smoothed vertical walls from the hollowed spaces, until the depressions became rectangular and bedrock walls arose from the bedrock floor. The eastern face of each of three rooms opened to provide access at the descending section of the ridge.

Two rooms preserved access to the rear, rising, undulating bedrock ridge, perhaps to facilitate movement of people, supplies and animals to be sacrificed. A platform in room 3 purposefully spared by the rock-chippers.

Archaeology recently revealed that the openings in the rear of room 1 and room 3 provided access to a rising bedrock as seen in the images below.

The features chiseled into the bedrock are confirmed to have been made by rock implements.  Other features carved into the bedrock floor may have been added after the walls and complex was completed. At some point after completion, a matzevah was placed onto the bedrock,  between the walls of room 2. This matzevah has been standing in its place on the bedrock of the high ridge ever since it was erected.

How long did bedrock room 2 exist before the matzevah was placed? Did room 2 serve an initial purpose other than for the placement of the matzevah? To answer some of these questions we  explore the cave dwelling and ridge complex to chronologically estimate construction.

Room 1 and adjacent room 2, being tidied by Eli Shukron who rediscovered it in 2008

The earliest small rudimentary cave dwelling on the lower eastern face was first re-discovered by Colonel Montague Parker between 1909-1911. In the only published picture of the cave he is seen sitting with his assistant. Although this cave was preceded by other paleolithic sites on the eastern face, this chalcolithic era cave is relatively sophisticated. 

The living area of the cave dwelling and 3 sleeping quarters can be see in K 19,20,21 (bottom left)  of the map that Parker compiled during his excavations. The rectangular area marks the site of present excavations on the high ridge and the circled area the focus of this article. 

More substantial constructions followed the cave on the high ridge. Later, in the Bronze age water was channeled from the natural Gihon Spring on the eastern face to the rock cut upper Gihon pool. The pool, immediately adjacent and below the cave dwelling was constructed specifically to hold water and spill excess to the stream along the valley floor. These are featured in the image below, left of the red line and are the earliest additions after the high ridge construction. Exclusively bones of kosher animals and many pictorial bullae were discovered in the pool.

Significantly and curiously the next major construction appears to be the fortress over the Gihon Spring (House) and the walls surrounding the city. The features left of the red line, which were rediscovered by Eli Shukron and Ronnie Reich in 2008 are not rendered in the next artist impression and many public renderings fail to recognize their significance and include them. The time of construction for features right of the red line is thought to be late Bronze age. Although the Upper Gihon pool is not shown below, for some time water continued to flow into it and into the stream along the valley floor. But that may have changed at some point after construction. 

The archaeology clarifies that water sourced from the Gihon Spring was not the object of the significant fortress construction. The image below demonstrates that water was channeled from the Gihon (left) to the later lower pool structure right of rock "B" and from there it flowed to the valley floor. Once this became the default channel, the previous route may have been blocked to prevent water entering the upper Gihon pool, but excess to the valley floor continued to flow freely.

The map below demonstrates the rock-cut upper Gihon pool (grey box) was first fed by Tunnel III. Channel II indicates the by-pass discussed in the image above, which flowed water to the newer lower Gihon pool (see Pool Wall). It also shows the Fortification (cream color) made of large boulders constructed on top and adjacent to the older grey rock-cut bedrock elements.

Water does not appear to have been the motivating reason for construction of the very significant fortification over the Gihon Spring. Its massive boulders neatly arranged up the steep eastern face  butt against and hide the north end of the high ridge. Further, the construction completely blocked access to the high ridge and prioritized water flow to the lower Gihon pool, most likely blocking water flow to the upper pool.

Inspiration for this most significant, multi-nation, labor intensive construction favors obfuscation of the high ridge, upper Gihon pool and cave dwelling complex on the eastern face of Mount Moriah. The imposing double wall features of the Gihon fortification terminated high above the valley floor, at the high ridge cutting access to the southern slope and the rooms that once featured so heavily on the mountain face.

According to comments by Eli Shukron the entire high ridge and particularly the areas around the matzevah were preserved with soft sand for thousands of years, where everything else required excavations of rocks and rough rubble. Therefore the high ridge areas were carefully buried for preservation.

Whether or not the high ridge was re-discovered or used by King David or by Hezekiah during the construction of his channel remains unknown. However, matzevot (like the matzevah on the high ridge) were not permitted to be erected after the period of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Well before Herod, Solomon or Joshua, there was a matzevah erected on the eastern slope of Mount Moriah in a location that was a substantial home and place used for regular holy worship.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Bethel - Cause of Israel's Greatest Disaster?

Red routes through Benjamin's land connected west-east, north-south explaining the "quarters" in Joshua 18:14-15
Benjamin's land includes Jerusalem, once called Luz or BeitEl (Bethel) it was occupied by Jebusites at the time the Israel's tribal boundaries were allotted. Benjamin's land served as a major traffic junction for people traversing the Judean ridge. The geophysical details are clearly described in the video below:

The precise location of Bethel (which is Luz according to Genesis 28:19  and Joshua 18:13) remains a major point of contention among academics and Biblical scholars. Luz being synonymous with Bethel may not seem that significant, but it has caused and continues to cause Israel's greatest disasters. Rivalry is the heart of this dynamic millennial problem. The problem is relevant because  Bethel in the north significantly distorts our understanding of Torah, especially when it is prioritized over the location of Luz-Bethel-Jerusalem on Judah's boundary. The problem originates on Benjamin's northern boundary with Ephraim (see Bethel in the map). Replace the name "Jerusalem" with "Bethel" and you will immediately notice the mirror image problem for two of Israel's most competitive tribes at their dueling Bethel locations.

What's the big deal you may ask?  Around 250 years before the tribal allotment of land, Jacob had returned to Luz where he made a covenant and took the name Israel (Genesis 35:10).  During Israels ~250 year exile in Egypt and the dessert, the location of Jacob's covenant was obfuscated. Importantly that location would ultimately be the site of the permanent altar and temple, as such it would be extremely prestigious and economically lucrative. But, no-one knew whether it was on the northern or southern boundary of Benjamin.

The Book of Joshua, was completed by the end of his life some ~220 years after Israel took his name. It set the guidance that would demarcate land, but in Joshua's absence it was open to interpretation and became food for rivals. The tribes were preoccupied defending and settling their respective land, but they could not penetrate the fortress that had been built and occupied by Jebusites at Luz. It would be another 300 years before the fortress would be captured by King David. During this long period without rivalry from Luz in the south, Bethel north of Benjamin became entrenched. 

Recent discoveries at Jerusalem's City of David could be southern Bethel-Luz. They include:

High ridge plan[3] at the Gihon Spring in City of David ancient Jerusalem - Oil and grain press, altar, covenant stone
Matzevah or the covenant stone was anointed with oil, perhaps the location of Jacob's assumption of his name Israel

The site that may be Jacob's covenant was obfuscated, but who did it, why was it preserved so well and when? After a decade of research I still have a hard time deciphering the available information. Its clear to me the Jebusites aided by Emorites, Hittites, Amorites and Moabites were motivate to built Israel's tallest fortress over the Gihon Spring. Most likely to prevent Israel returning to Jerusalem. Their plan was successful and lasted ~400 years. Whether King David re-discovered it remains open for debate, however archaeological evidence indicates the entire area (shown in the plan above) was buried with soft soil to preserve it. During sand sifting (from above the bedrock) a bullae was discovered from the Kings period. I hypothesize the area on the bedrock was first re-discovered by Hezekiah at the time he built the stone cut channel from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam.  

Northern Bethel as the site of Jacob's covenant was exploited by Jeroboam who used it to split the entire nation. To do so he played with the historical ambiguity. He built his palace in Shechem, built Peneul (and most likely several other sites) and a temple in Bethel of the north specifically to prevent Israel's northern tribes proceeding south to Jerusalem where his rival, Solomon's son Rehoboam presided (1Kings 12:25). 

Jerusalem's Holy Basis [In chronological order] - [1] Gihon Spring, cave dwelling, Salem (Genesis 7:1) high ridge with altar, oil and grain press. [2] Abraham pitched his tent East of Bethel, West of Ai. (Genesis 12:8) [3] Luz-Bethel high ridge addition of matzevah, upper Gihon pool, fortress and city walls. [4a] Ai destroyed. [4b] Joshua's ambush party (Joshua 8:14) remained in Kidron Valley. [4c] Joshua's troops attack over valley to Ai [5] Palace of King David
The image above describes the features that resolve the ambiguity of Jacob's Bethel. It may turn out that the matzevah above the Gihon Spring is truly Jacob's and that the location was indeed obfuscated. If true, it would significantly re-orient scholars to re-consider all they know about the geography that has caused so much confusion. Finally we would restore Jacob to his rightful place, where he originally took the name Israel, where his father was bound by his grandfather who was the link to Israel's ancestral inheritance.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Earthquake at Zion!

The Crack IMG_2803.jpg
The original cement crack - looking north

In 2009 when Benjamin Netanyahu was coming to power in Israel, excavation on the high ridge west of the Gihon Spring revealed a most important artifact.

The Crack 2013-07-24 12.34.28.jpg
After the first few months digging
Permission to excavate began with a crack that threatened a potential landslide. This prompted a rapid approval, so the excavation at Beit Shalem above and west of the high ridge of the Gihon Spring began. Within a few months, the team had made great progress removing rubble below the original crack line.

A 30X8m super-tension retaining wall was built to hold the significant section of Mount Moriah’s eastern slope (below, temple mount seen north). Four years to plan and construct, the wall had to be anchored in bedrock at several points and at each level. Casing each anchor was slow going to avoid penetrating and damaging buried artifacts. Approximately 500 cubic meters of rubble and dirt were ultimately removed for archaeological sifting.

Looking north - Temple Mount seen top left
As the retaining wall descended to 3 meters above the bedrock archaeologists began to discover late iron-age Roman era walls and several pottery artefacts.

Roman era jars and oil lamps found in the top frame of walls that were once rooms - looking west

A collapsed section was well preserved in a narrow passage that had been blocked at its east exit by a ~50cm(w) late iron age (North-South) wall section. At 2m above the bedrock, pottery and other artifacts were found in blackened layer dated to the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE. Below the blackened destruction (seen in the image left) layers may yet reveal artifacts that inform about the periods prior.

The video below was made by the Antiquities Authority to describe some of the latest findings.

The excavation discussed above, is behind (west) of the western wall of the high ridge, top of image below. Of particular interest on the high ridge is the impressive ‘tziun’, ‘matzevah’, monument or covenant, now protected by the steel cabinet. Archaeologists confirm it was once protected by soft earth contained between the west and a dismantled east wall. Earliest indicators perhaps as far back as 4500 years are hewn directly into the bedrock including cave dwelling, altar, oil and flour presses and facilities for animal slaughter. Sunlight now reaches the bedrock, the first time in ~3000 years.

The matzevah, monument looking west (Separation Wall - see next image)

The bedrock at the western excavation (behind the wall in the image above) descends eastward toward the matzevah dropping by about 1.5m to the bedrock on the high ridge complex (seen below). The complex was hewn using basic rock implements. The volume of this ~4x8x2(h) meter complex is significant. All walls of the rooms were retained from the bedrock.

According to Biblical dating matzevot were last used at the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Here placement on the hewn bedrock floor provides some important dating targets to around ~2000 BCE, pre-dating King David by 1000 years.

Immediately east of the high ridge as it descends toward the valley is the rock cut pool leading from the Gihon Spring. Large volumes of fish-bones, bones of kosher animals and pictographic bullae were discovered in its lowest levels.

Upper Gihon Pool.jpg
Rock cut pool - looking north

Pictographic seals discovered in the sediment of the rock cut pool equate in vloume to all the other non-pictographic seals discovered elsewhere in the City of David. Perhaps indicating something akin to important people throwing pennies in a pond or leaving notes in a wall. This raises questions about the dating of seals (bullae) that were contained to the pool compared to those of the period of kings.

The Matzevah in context of the City of David on Mount Moriah is a significant archaeological event. If academic analysis supports that hewn bedrock coincides with biblical Shem then the Matzevah is likely to converge with dating for the story of Jacob (Genesis 28:10-22). This would further validate the high ridge to Isaac and Abraham, when it became known as “the Place” (Ha Makom). As such it will have significant implications for theological and religious interpretation of events relative to first temple construction and third temple location.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Toward a King!

Tisha B'Av meets Tu B'Av 
Jonathan the grandson of Moses is one of Torah’s most complex characters. Perhaps in the tradition of first born sons, Jonathan's connection with his grandfather can be expected to reflect in him the essential trait that we know of Moses.

So what are the qualities of Moses that Jonathan carried into the next generation? What of his grandfather's causes motivated him to struggle for and express in his own life? Tribal structure is a rigid mosaic that strongly influences personalities, against this backdrop I explore Jonathan.

The information I used to write this is from and based on the compilation known as Me’Am Lo’ez as translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan.

After Israel’s re-entry to their land each tribe had conquered and settled their allotment except one. The tribe of Dan had been left to struggle against the Philistines, one of Israel’s greatest opponents, but they failed in their quest.

Meanwhile, Jonathan a priest of the Levite tribe had distanced himself from the decaying priesthood in the Tabernacle of Shiloh, the territory of Ephraim. Nearby, a competing temple had attracted Jonathan to its serenity and Micah, its founder enlisted him as high priest.

Leaders of tribe Dan were advancing to conquer and settle more land in the north. On one trip they forcefully raised the serene temple and moved it, with Jonathan to the mountain opposite the valley of Shiloh. Perhaps a statement to the tribes who had not supported them in their original conquest.

On one occasion Jonathan The Levite was traveling the straight line north, with his concubine from Bethlehem in Yehudah through Jerusalem (Jebus) to the area of Shiloh in Ephraim. It was nearing sun set, but he pushed on past Jebus, the walled city until he reached Gibeah in Benjamin a territory sandwiched between rivals Yehudah and Ephraim.

The residents of Gibeah were unfriendly and refused him accommodation until one man opened his heart. That night certain townsfolk violently threatened the old man and his guests physically demanding the concubine be released to them. Jonathan capitulated, the concubine was gang raped and left to die in the cold night at the front door of the man’s house.   

Jonathan was incensed especially because the elders refused to hand over the perpetrators or bring them to justice. Jonathan journeyed home, where he cut her body in 12 pieces and sent a piece to each tribal leader demanding they bring Gibeah to justice. This motivated Israel’s first major civil war and men of the tribe of Benjamin were almost entirely wiped out.      

Once the tribal leaders realized what they had done to the tribe of Benjamin they implemented a program to repopulate the tribe, by allowing inter-tribal marriages for the benefit of the women of Benjamin. Today that is the festival of Tu B'Av, which comes 6 days after the temple destruction's on Tisha B'Av.

The corruption of leadership and justice was a battle Jonathan silently witnessed and eventually he rose to crush it. First it was the corrupt priesthood which he abandoned for a more serene existence, despite the antithetical form of worship. Next he was transplanted from serenity to the heart of politically inspired religion. Finally he was stirred to act in the name of his grandfather and unite the tribes against one of their own in the name of justice.

The expression of Moses through his grandsons actions finally motivated the nation to seek a leader who would unite them. That was a job for young Samuel, who had been appointed high priest at the end of the Tabernacle period in Shiloh. His first choice was King Saul of the tribe of Benjamin that had been so brutally affected in the preceding Civil war. In this sense Jonathan’s actions resembled his grandfathers to fight corruption and uphold justice.    

Rivalry between Ephraim and Yehudah had been so fierce, but Yehudah would prevail and the next temples built in Jerusalem. Ephraim’s brother Menashe was represented as instigator and in the writings of Samuel he poetically super-scripted Jonathan son of Gershom son of Menashe.     

The basis of a temple is justice, not rigid law enforced on a people to their detriment as it was in Gibeah nor corrupt practices that suppress leaders who would otherwise benefit the majority. Like Moses, Jonathan struggled for a temple culture that would balance the nation and a justice that would permit and motivate all people to realize their true potential.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Path to Jerusalem's Temple

The persistent divergence that plagued the nation motivated King David to write psalm 127:
If the Lord does not build a house, its builders labor in vain
For the uninitiated, “Lord” arose through the collective behavior of the unified nation of Israel whose builders accomplished God’s work and constructed the nation’s temple in Jerusalem.

Today the accomplishment of such a task requires our common understanding of this critical line from psalm 127. Because the sentence commences ‘if’, I have interpreted it to mean that man must begin, but the build will be in vain “if the Lord does not build”.

What then is required to ensure  building the third and final temple is not in vain?
Belief in collective purpose, national identity, indigenous past, the task ahead and confidence to achieve it. A big ask for a presently disparate nation, but one that has a prescribed, mature set of guidelines for building it and believing in God that builds it. According to Jewish teachings there is no conflict between the two ideas, nor does there have to be.

I understand  many people are unaware of the detailed legal and spiritual construct defining the process, so they may be overwhelmed. Therefore, I will attempt to write this with deference to the defined process and bridge it to the present state of Israel’s reality.

The emotive desire to build a temple is often expressed to satisfy individuals who yearn for it. Sometimes the exuberance so strong that law, process and the journey to its realization is momentarily set aside. The national disciplines required to open the window of real opportunity is enormous, but divergent views, among Jews constantly make the task appear impossible.

How could it be that a body of 71 holy men can establish the global authority they require in order to appoint a Jewish king in modern Israel and build a temple? This is prerequisite, it cannot be changed. It’s made more complicated because a prophet must emerge and identify the physical location of the altar on which Isaac was once bound by his father Abraham. No other location will suffice for the third and final temple, the altar must be at the precise spot.

Shifting demographics in Israel indicate it is fast becoming a more religions society, any Israeli, will acknowledge this fact. Logically more people in Israel are becoming tolerant of traditional Jewish law on which these precepts are established. Israel’s communities have three forms of representation in their electoral system; a) City b) National and c) Religious. The first two are obvious to anyone who lives in a system by representation, but most are unaware of the religious representation afforded to them by Israel’s electoral process.

Religious representation is afforded from a strange blend of socialism and democracy. Rabbis nominated by communities of a city are selected by Mayors of the City and the Religious Minister. The electoral process is a messy, competitive confluence, but for the most part it works. If a city is liberal or conservative they nominate a slate of representative nominees from which the Mayoral and Religious ministry selections takes place.

The Rabbi’s are elected for life, they retire at 70 and are replaced if they misbehave, resign, retire or pass-on. Every four years there are always a few cities who vie for electoral renewal and the battle for representation is fierce. These Rabbi’s are distinct from the Chief Rabbi’s of Israel who endure a separate election process, but the City or Town Rabbi’s as they are known, constitute a powerful body and among them many individuals stand out.

These representative Rabbi’s hold with them the capacity to demand improving representations on behalf of the communities that elected them. I am a proponent of this existing electoral college and encourage its Rabbis to demand improved representation rights in the national government. The blend of socialism and democracy is well suited to Israel and balanced when well integrated with religious representation. It is from this group I hope Israel’s House of Lords will be formed.

Progression toward this objective will only take place by improving the quality of Rabbi’s and by the entire body being emboldened by the communities that elected them. Once empowered at the national level, they will form a sovereign religious body that is capable of being authoritative on a global scale. As a properly constituted Sanhedrin they will proceed to unify the bodied of religious and secular law and unify national identity.  

This modern, indigenous, representative body can then proceed to empower the nation, appoint a King consent to the prophet and finally complete the house that Jacob promised to build.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Will Jerusalem Proof Be Enough?

If the high ridge above the Gihon Spring was visited by important foreign statesmen more than 4000 years ago, before any city or walls existed it would establish a question for archaeologists: What compelled them to come? The recently discovered chiseled bedrock confirmed that holy practices were once carried out on the high ridge (see last image below), but the time of construction is unknown . Although it was certainly built before the advent of iron instruments, construction could have occurred from circa 3000 years and prior.

Lets hypothetically argue an ancient seal, dated back more than 4000 years was discovered in the immediate layers of earth west and adjacent to the high ridge bedrock. Untouched for thousands of years its location in the chronologically intact layers would infer proof the seal was encased around the time of its last use or placed there at some later stage, but no later than when dust first covered the seal over.

During the past 4 years, excavation at the high ridge removed at least 4 meters from the previous ground level, hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of earth. Each layer has been carefully sifted for objects in the chronological order the earth was deposited.

After the first few months the ground floor was at our head heights

In upper-later layers only plastic, rubber, garbage

Getting interesting in the lower-Iron Age layers

The artifact hoard begins to grow...
Excavating behind the separation wall to the high ridge bedrock below our feet!
The high ridge excavation in the above image started under Eli Shukron around 2008. Surprisingly the construct of the high ridge identified it was once used for holy sacrifices. But, it remains unknown whether or how long prior to King David's occupation of the City, this site was in use. One of the ways to investigate, was to excavate behind the "Separation Wall" (image above) that divides the high ridge east-west, to see if any newly discovered artifacts would be informative.

The hoard of artifacts from the western excavation has already begun to reveal that 1.5-2m above the bedrock once homes were once occupied by residents who cooked kosher style foods. Olive seeds, grape pips and other items have been sent for radio-carbon dating, we await results. Slightly north of the high ridge, a large potters kiln fired pots which were used by occupants of the city to store food, oil and wine. Other discoveries identify the kiln may have been operated for Kings, because some of the clay jar handles are embossed with royal seals. Clay seals used to validate confidentiality of documents have also been discovered. These items now date back to the period of Kings and perhaps even back to the time of King David.

As archaeologists begin to reach layers in the last 0.50 cm above bedrock to the west, things are expected to hot up. They will finally gain access through the two doorways or entrances (image above) to the bedrock beyond. If discoveries there identify with leaders who lived more than 4000 years ago it will establish that this site, well before King David, the walled city, Joshua, Jacob, Isaac or Abraham was important enough for noblemen to visit.

Should we be blessed to obtain such proof, we will be able to piece together the chronological development of the site in context of the Jewish exegesis. From that we may discover that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joshua and David revered it. Before Abraham perhaps even Shem-Malchitzedek, the righteous king received dignitaries who may have left their mark in Salem. With this context, we would truly appreciate why the matzevah remains standing at this site as a beacon pointing to the place Jacob slept when he dreamed of stairs on which angels ascended between earth and heaven.

Matzevah - perhaps the stone Jacob erected, and anointed as his covenant

Monday, June 26, 2017

Of Kings and People

Halacha is the framework that is Jewish law as it emanated through the oral interpretations of Torah. Before Moses the principles of the law applied only to those who grasped it through the mystical revelations of Kabbalah. After Moses, for 2000 years the oral law was applied from generation to generation through the Jewish traditions imbued in daily life. Rabbi’s began to write the oral law into the Mishnah when the widely adopted routine of Jewish life was disrupted during the rise of Christianity.

Since then the law became codified in the the redaction of Gemara and ultimately the Shulchan Aruch (1563), Shulchan Aruch Ha Rav (1812) and Aruch Ha Shulchan (1908). These remain the sealed works that constitute the precise law of codified Jewish life.

During the Industrial Revolution assimilated Jews found it difficult to comply with the all embracing codified life-law. Some post World War One Jewish communities, led by emboldened Rabbi’s chose to adopt altered codes to suit changing life and lifestyles. These became the conservative and reform movements of today’s Judaism.

The State of Israel was established in accordance with codified Jewish law and continues in that tradition. Jewish courts in Israel write legal precedents and leniencies granted are strictly according to and within the established bounds of the written law. Despite various political attempts to alter the orthodox constitutions that comprise these Jewish courts, they remain entrenched in Israel and around the world.

Some communities have struggled to resolve apparent ambiguity or conflicts between civil and Jewish law. Despite the ongoing efforts of Jewish courts to accommodate modernity within legal bounds - marriage, conversion, democracy and deference to legal authority present some of the toughest challenges and often result in polarization and fracture.

An individual member of a community that subscribes to orthodox Jewish law is often confronted by cases that are difficult to reconcile. Recently a civil judge in Sydney Australia ruled in favor of a Rabbi who had earned tenure in his position after 30 years of service. The judge ruled he was wrongfully terminated after some members of the community usurped his authority. The authority vested in the community's Rabbi, according to Jewish law was unchallenged in the proceedings. The judge upheld the authority granted under orthodoxy and awarded for the Rabbi.

Whether you individually agree with all aspects of Jewish law or not, you are entitled and personally responsible for your own actions in the face of the law. However a community (including at least 10 men) cannot rise against the very law that is an extension of the Torah they believe was transmitted through Moses by God. If it does, it deviates from the principles of Moses law and by their actions and belief they morph to a different form of Judaism.

Challenge to an individual’s authority is permitted by law and invited by Jewish tradition, which has served Jewish communities the world over, but community wide rebellion against the law is tantamount to mutiny or treason and that is not permitted.  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Original Ancient Jerusalem - This is Zion!

Allegorically the question was asked "And where did Mount Sinai come from?" Rabbi Yosi said (Midrash Tehilim Mizmor 68) ’it was separated from Mount Moriah, like the hallah* offering from the dough, from the place where Yitzchak, our father was bound. The Holy One said – since Yitzchak was bound upon it, it is fitting that his children receive the Torah upon it. (*dough is separated from the bread baked for Sabbath and burned)

Yitzchak or Isaac was 37 years at his binding. King David returned Moses Ark of the Covenant to Israel, to the City of David, Jerusalem where it was located for 37 years until his son Solomon moved it to its more permanent place in the Holy of Holies of the First Temple.

Jerusalem Temple Mount looking north - green Kidron Valley (middle of picture)

Ancient Jerusalem (looking north) on Mount Moriah before Temple Mount - Kidron Valley below Gihon fortress

Gihon fortress was built by enemies to stop Joshua and Israel. It cut access to holy high ridge 

400 years after Joshua high ridge was restored by King David as temporary home of the Holy Ark

High ridge was used previously for holy worship and ceremony, 1000 years before King David

Current excavation above ground and bedrock below 

On the bedrock - southern room

On the bedrock Matzevah

Matzevah from time of Jacob was protected by a later king with soft sand and false wall

Liquids channel and raised platform of altar for sacrifices (Copyright © 2017 Jennifer Guetta)
This is the only precise location of an altar that we know of on Mount Moriah!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Noah - Two Mountains and Chinese Origins!

One of my favorite videos documents the now restricted archaeological site at the mountain Jabal Al Lawz.  It is close to the west coast of Saudi Arabia, opposite the Sinai Peninsula in the ancient land the Bible refers to as Midyan. Among the many interesting parallels, the documentary also highlights the split-rock and a unique geophysical remnant at the summit, which is described in the biblical account of the 'metamorphic' events that occurred on Mt. Sinai 3289 years ago.

In an allegorical, the question was asked "And where did Mount Sinai come from?" R’ Yosi said (Midrash Tehilim Mizmor 68)  ’it was separated from Mount Moriah, like the hallah* offering from the dough, from the place where Yitzchak, our father was bound. The Holy One said – since Yitzchak was bound upon it, it is fitting that his children receive the Torah upon it.  *Jewish law requires a small piece of dough be separated and burned, before baking hallah for Sabbath.

On Mount Moriah, some 260 years before the events on Mount Sinai Jacob returned to the mountain of his father's sacrifice to pray that his mission to find a wife and build a family would succeed. There, Jacob experienced his most famous dream.  As he slept a stairway stretched between earth and heaven on which angels ascended and descended. The Radak stated: There are many different opinions among our sages how best to explain this dream. Some say this was a preview to the future revelation at Mount Sinai. The numerical value of the letters in the word סלם 'sulam' or stairway equals 130 the same as that of the word סיני 'Sinai'. This is the same value as the letter Ayin, when fully expressed and is half of 260 which equates to 'Ha-Moriah' - 'The Moriah'. In Psalms121, the word for “the mountains” in Hebrew is 'heharim'. When the Hebrew letters of heharim are rearranged, they spell 'Ha-Moriah' - The Temple Mountain in Jerusalem.

In Genesis, Noach 10:17 the lineage of man is expressed and refers one branch, the children of Canaan as  "וְאֶת־הַסִּינִֽי" - "and The Sini" spelled identically to the word Sinai. To this very day modern Israeli's still refer to the Chinese by this biblical name a most likely continuum since the days of its biblical origin, more than 4500 years ago. The fact the Chinese share this name connection is indicative of their importance in the new world order as Israel re-orients its spheres of influence away from the west toward the east.
Was Jacob dreaming of a stairway like this?
Mount Moriah site of Jacob's Ladder
Underground excavations at Mount Moriah have revealed the existence of a stairway that leads to a platform once used for holy worship and where the matzevah or monument of Jacob is presently located. Perhaps the Chinese will use their economic influence over the Saudi's and Israeli's to open public access to these two most critical sites so that the world will better understand the accuracy of the biblical record. Perhaps China will lead the nations, represented in Kabbalah using the letter Ayin to reconcile their historical persona's and adopt a view free of distortion and in line with the biblical record.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Breaking walls!

For 300 years the armies of Joshua, Judah and finally King David were repeatedly motivated to conquer the impenetrable walled city on Mount Moriah. During those times the walls did not surround the summit of the mountain (north of the city) that is most precious to Jews today. It was only after King David that the summit was used as the platform for Solomon’s temple, the temple mount of the second temple and pen-ultimately the grandiose Herodian temple, the ruins of which remain today. Back then the summit was not the important section of the mountain! So, what made the lower section so important and attractive for such an extended period of time?

You don’t have to venture far in the annals of Jewish history to discover the deep affinity the Israelite tribes had for this location. It was the mountain where Noah’s son Shem practiced his righteousness as the High Priest of Shalem, for which he became known as Melchizedek - Righteous King. Somewhere on this mountain was Shalem, it was later connected with Abraham who named it ‘heavenly awe’ - ‘Yira’, which was joined as Yira-Shalem, eventually Jerusalem. It’s the place Isaac was offered by Abraham as a sacrifice and Jacob dreamed of a stairway to heaven before he re-named the place once known as Luz - Beit El. So where was Shalem and Luz on this mountain well before anything had been built?

The artist impression places the walled city around the ridge of the lower section of the Mount Moriah sandstone monolith ~3700 years back. Around this time the protruding structure from the city wall to the valley floor is thought by archaeologists to have been built. At that stage, as shown there was no temple, no temple mount and the summit of the mountain north of the city, was not included in its walls. 

The archaeology shows the city wall and spring house were significant scale constructions.
The spring house at the valley floor contained the Gihon Spring, the city’s water source, yet according to the archaeology, before any construction its’ water flowed freely into the Kidron valley. The artist's impression is not accurate, particularly the area marked by the black rectangle. The archaeology there reveals that structures (south) adjacent to the protruding wall and spring house had previously been constructed in the bedrock, but they are not represented.

Today the City of David organization has physically and virtually reconstructed the spring house and as can be seen in the next image the remaining walls are significant. Some of the one tonne boulders that are stacked from the valley floor up the mountain follow a line of at least 70 meters. It would have required a large workforce of skilled artisans and laborers to develop this structure over a period of several decades.

The missing elements from the artists image are better represented below, on the south side of the thin red line. They include an early Bronze Age cave dwelling ~4500 years old, a series of four rooms on the High ridge and a deep cut (in the bedrock) upper Gihon pool to which water from the spring was once channeled. 

This area marked in the boundary of the black rectangle is the oldest on the mountain. The features were well used by a relatively small number of people. It contains several flour presses that remain carved in the bedrock around the pool. Steps from the pool to the high ridge, which contains significant artifacts once used for holy worship were destroyed. This was probably done to stop the growing numbers of people going up to the high ridge to offer sacrifice. One of the most unique artifacts is a stone monument known as a matzevah used to record a covenant. I hold a view that it is the one erected by Jacob and that established the overwhelming motivation for Israel's 300 year pursuit of this area.

The holy use of the high ridge is just coming to light through archaeology and a review of ancient texts. King David may have been disappointed to discover that the sacred areas on the eastern slope of Mount Moriah were closed by the massive construction that fenced them in. Shalem, Luz and Beit El had been closed down by the occupiers of the city. Before Israel had been exiled to Egypt, this was the place his ancestors had come, but it was no longer serviceable, so during the King’s reign he preserved the area for later generations. That time is now!