Events for the 4th of July in Jerusalem and The Roman Fortress under the Damascus Gate and the Old City of Jerusalem 070219 and the NEW DISCOVERY IN JERUSALEM'S CITY OF DAVID: 2,000-YEAR-OLD PILGRIMAGE ROAD
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Fourth Of July Events In Jerusalem
American Independence Day is July 4. Here are some events happening around Jerusalem to celebrate: July 4 at First Station
NEW DISCOVERY IN JERUSALEM'S CITY OF DAVID: 2,000-YEAR-OLD PILGRIMAGE ROAD
The City of David has already changed Jerusalem. A new discovery there opening soon will change the way Jews connect with their past in a way never seen before. BY YAAKOV KATZ
In 2004, a sewage pipe burst in the middle of the neighborhood of Silwan in southeast Jerusalem. The municipality sent in a crew of construction workers to fix the leak, and as is the case in Jerusalem and especially in neighborhoods adjacent to the Old City, they were accompanied by a team of archeologists.
As the repairs progressed, the construction workers stumbled upon some long and wide stairs a few dozen meters from where the Shiloah – the ancient pool Jewish pilgrims would dip in before beginning the religious ascent to the Temple, until its destruction in 70 CE – was believed to have once stood. The steps were just like the ones that lead to the Hulda Gates, a set of now blocked entrances along the Temple Mount's Southern Wall.
Discovery of the Shiloah Pool led to another monumental find – the central water drainage channel that had served ancient Jerusalem. This channel is the tunnel that visitors to the City of David – known as Ir David – get to walk through today, starting at the bottom of the Shiloah and emerging about 45 minutes later next to the Western Wall.
As is often the case with archeology, though, the first discovery or two are just the beginning. That is how a few weeks ago I found myself on an exclusive tour of an ancient road dug out beneath the village of Silwan and above the now well-known water channel (also the place where Jewish rebels made a final stand against the Roman invaders).
The ancient street is referred to as "Pilgrimage Road," since archeologists are convinced that this is the path millions of Jews took three times a year when performing the commandment of aliyah l'regel – going up to the holy city of Jerusalem to bring sacrifices to God during Judaism's three key holidays, Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.
The Pilgrimage Road goes all the way from the Shiloah Pool to the area adjacent to the Western Wall known as Robinson's Arch, where today you can still see remnants of the ancient stairway that led into the Jewish Temple.
Titus Flavius Josephus, the first-century Roman-Jewish historian, wrote that 2.7 million people used to visit Jerusalem during the various Jewish holidays, bringing with them some 256,000 sacrifices
Almost all of the Jewish pilgrims, according to Doron Spielman, vice president of the Ir David Foundation (Elad), would have entered the city on this road. It is a road that Jesus almost certainly used during the Second Temple period, alongside many of the famous Jewish scholars and leaders of that period.
"This place is the heart of the Jewish people, and is like the blood that courses through our veins," Spielman said.
Here is one example: Hillel and Shammai – the famous first-century scholars who figure prominently in the Mishna – debate at what stage in a child's development his father is obligated to include him in the pilgrimage. Shammai, the stringent one, says that a child should be included as long as he can sit on his father's shoulders. Hillel says only if the child is able to walk up the 750-meter road need he be included.
Walking the road – as of now Ir David has excavated about 250 meters of it – you can imagine the throngs of people parading on it 2,000 years ago. Young boys walking next to their parents. Girls on their fathers' shoulders. So far, only some of the stores that once lined the road have been partially uncovered, but with imagination you can hear the bartering that took place here – people trading leather for fur, seeds for honey, coins for wine.
For example, archeologists found a set of stairs in the middle of the road alongside one of the ancient shops. But the staircase doesn't go anywhere. It ends in a platform. When Ir David checked, though, it found just one other similar set of stairs – in Rome, where it was used as something like a Hyde Park-style Speakers' Corner. Basically, this was a place where people could make announcements and deliver speeches to the pilgrims as they climbed the road to the Temple.
Then archeologists found beside the stairs the burned remains of a male palm tree, one that doesn't give fruit. Why would there be a non-fruit producing tree right there on the road? To provide shade for the speakers.
"To understand Jerusalem, you need to stand here," Spielman said. "We were exiled in 70 [CE] and prayed three times a day and established a state. The last breath of Jews was here, beneath us."
'I FOUND myself on an exclusive tour of an ancient road dug out from beneath the village of Silwan and the now well-known water channel
Spielman pointed at some black ash discovered along the road and mentioned the thousands of coins the archeologists uncovered engraved with the words "Free Zion."
"This was the battle cry during the fight against the Romans," he explained. "They made coins and not arrowheads, because they knew they could not beat Rome, but they made the coins so there would be something left for the people who would one day come back."
IR DAVID has changed our understanding of history. It is one thing to read the Mishna and imagine or visualize what life for Jews was once like. It is quite another to walk on the exact same road as they did.
For the last few months, Ir David has been working around the clock to connect the excavated part of the road with the Shiloah Pool. It is tedious work that has to be done slowly. Every inch excavated has to be reinforced with steel beams to protect the modern city above.
The project has so far cost several hundred million dollars, and while the government has provided a portion of the budget, most has come from private donors, such as Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, Oracle founder Larry Ellison and WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum. Ir David hopes that when the road officially opens in a few months, it will draw approximately one million visitors a year.
Yisrael Hasson, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, noted: "The Road project is a part of the Shalem Plan, which was approved in a government cabinet meeting, the purpose of which is to preserve and develop the area of ancient Jerusalem. The plan relates to the sites of ancient Jerusalem from a comprehensive governmental planning and budgetary perspective, which will create a holistic visitor experience in this unique area. We are currently in the second phase of the plan, which will dramatically improve this entire area.
"The Shalem Plan is part of the Israel Antiquities Authority's new vision to become an initiative-based organization, based on its role as the national guardian of heritage and cultural sites in Israel."
Considering the anti-Israel resolutions coming out of United Nations organizations such as UNESCO that deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, the Pilgrimage Road has far greater significance for Israel than just the opening of a new impressive tourist site, said Ze'ev Orenstein, director of international affairs for Ir David.
It proves the long and historic Jewish connection to Jerusalem, Orenstein stressed, not just the parts where Jews live today but across the city, even if it takes you under homes and streets in Arab neighborhoods like Silwan.
US Ambassador David Friedman agrees. "The City of David brings truth and science to a debate that has been marred for too long by myths and deceptions," he told the Magazine. "Its findings, in most cases by secular archeologists, bring an end to the baseless efforts to deny the historical fact of Jerusalem's ancient connection to the Jewish people."
I asked Friedman why the discovery of Pilgrimage Road was important for the US government.
"There has been enormous support for the City of David by the American public," he said. "This is yet another example – and a great one – of the recognition of the Judeo-Christian values upon which both nations were founded."
Pilgrimage Road, Friedman said, is "stunning and tangible evidence" of Jewish prayer during the time of the Second Temple. "It brings to life the historical truth of that momentous period in Jewish history," he added. "Peace between Israel and the Palestinians must be based upon a foundation of truth. The City of David advances our collective goal of pursuing a truth-based resolution. It is important for all sides of the conflict."
For Spielman, Ir David is the "heart of the Jewish people" and "you can't amputate the heart."
I asked Friedman what would happen if a peace deal were to be concluded one day between Israel and the Palestinians. Is it possible that the Jewish state would be asked to give up Ir David or Silwan?
"I do not believe that Israel would ever consider such a thought," he said. "The City of David is an essential component of the national heritage of the State of Israel. It would be akin to America returning the Statue of Liberty."
US envoys attends opening of controversial archaeological site in E. Jerusalem
After PA and Peace Now condemn participation in inauguration of historic Jewish pilgrimage road as 'Judaization,' Greenblatt says criticism 'ludicrous' By MICHAEL BACHNER
Visitors walk at the City of David in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on August 31, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and the White House Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt are due to participate Sunday in the inauguration of an archaeological tourist site in East Jerusalem, drawing rebuke from the Palestinian Authority and a left-wing Israeli organization.
In response, Greenblatt called the PA criticism "ludicrous."
The event, hosted by the City of David in the mostly Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, south of the Old City, will also be attended by Israeli ministers and lawmakers.
It will inaugurate the Pilgrims' Road, a now-subterranean stairway that is said to have served as a main artery for Jews to the Temple Mount thousands of years ago, which archaeologists have been excavating for the past eight years at the City of David National Park in Jerusalem, beginning at the intersection of the Kidron and Ben Hinnom Valleys.
View of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on December 3, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
But the dovish Peace Now group slammed the initiative on Saturday, branding the Pilgrim's Road "the controversy tunnel" and saying it had been "dug under the homes of Silwan residents, caused the evacuation of Palestinians' homes in the neighborhood and increased tensions between Palestinian residents and the Jewish settlers acting more intensively than ever in recent years to Judaize the neighborhood, as part of an effort to sabotage the two-state solution."
Peace Now said it would demonstrate outside the event in protest of "the trampling of Jerusalem as a city that is holy to the three [monotheistic] religions and belongs to all its residents, and turning Silwan into the messianic Disneyland of the far-right in Israel and the United States — several meters from the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Temple Mount."
L-R: US President Donald Trump's envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on July 12, 2017. (Haim Tzach/GPO/File)
The Palestinian Authority's foreign ministry released a statement condemning the "imperialistic Judaization plans" it charged were aimed at changing the status quo in the city. It slammed US President Donald Trump's administration for "fully supporting the imperialistic settlement enterprise led by the far-right in the occupation state" over the officials' participation.
But on Sunday, Greenblatt dismissed the criticism as "ludicrous," adding on Twitter that "we can't 'Judaize' what history/archaeology show. We can acknowledge it & you can stop pretending it isn't true! Peace can only be built on truth."
"The discovery of the Pilgrimage Road was an unprecedented scientific feat of biblical proportions," he wrote.
"Unlike most archaeological digs which begin from the ground down, this excavation was done subterraneously, beneath the hustle and bustle of modern Jerusalem," he wrote. "Dozens of fiber optic cable cameras were used to decipher where to excavate, while maps and diagrams made by archaeologists over the last century and a half paved the way forward," Spielman added.
However, Emek Shaveh, a left-wing organization committed to protecting archaeological sites as the shared heritage of all cultures and faiths in the country, disagreed with the City of David findings, saying that although the street is presented as part of the pilgrimage route, "the horizontal excavation method, and the paucity of scientific publication, do not allow us to know for sure when the street was built and how it was integrated into the urban layout of Jerusalem."
The Pilgrims' Road, which ascends from the Pool of Siloam to the Jewish Temple, dates to no earlier than 30-31 CE, during the time of the notorious Roman governor Pontius Pilate. This was the period when Jesus was sentenced to death, City of David archaeologist Nahshon Szanton said in a 2017 video tour of the site.
"Every step on this street brought the pilgrims closer to the Temple," Szanton said. "Imagine to yourselves the joy, the songs, the prayers, the spiritual journey that these people experience when they know they are just meters away from reaching the gates of the Temple," he added, climbing the monumental staircase.
According to the City of David, the Herodian road was lined with shops and businesses to serve the thousands of pilgrims to Jerusalem on the major holidays.
The broad road is a monumental achievement: Szanton estimated that some 10,000 tons of quarried rock was used in its construction. The road was built above a complex drainage system, which rebels hid in 40 years after the Pilgrims' Path's construction as the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.
The drainage channel "was essentially a manmade tunnel," according tothe City of David, and was built underneath the Herodian Road. Its ceiling is made of the rectangular paving stones of the pilgrims' road above.
The Biblical superhighway unearthed
Josh Hasten interviews Ze'ev Orenstein, Director of International Affairs for the City of David Foundation.
Yesterday, the City of David opened the "Pilgrims' Road," the actual road used by Jewish pilgrims to walk up to the Temple in Jerusalem during the High Holidays after purifying themselves in the Shiloah pools down below.
Orenstein refers to this new discovery as the ancient "Biblical superhighway", as hundreds of thousands of Jews would use this path to make their way up to the Temple.
He also gives his take on the haters who came out to protest yesterday's ceremony, by saying the discovery isn't a matter of faith, but rather a matter of "fact" linking ancient Jewish history to our presence here today.
The Roman Fortress under the Damascus Gate and the Old city of Jerusalem 070219
In its current form, the gate was built in 1537 under the rule of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Beneath the current gate, the remains of an earlier gate can be seen, dating back to the time of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who visited the region in 130–131 CE. In the square behind this gate stood a Roman victory column topped by a statue of Emperor Hadrian, as depicted on the 6th-century Madaba Map. This historical detail is preserved in the current gate's Arabic name, Bab el-Amud, meaning "gate of the column". On the lintel of the 2nd-century gate, which has been made visible by archaeologists beneath today's Ottoman gate, is inscribed the city's Roman name after 130 CE, Aelia Capitolina. Until the latest excavations (1979-1984), some researchers believed that Hadrian's gate was preceded by one erected by Agrippa I (r. 41–44 CE) as part of the so-called Third Wall. However, recent research seems to prove that the gate does not predate the Roman reconstruction of the city as Aelia Capitolina, during the first half of the second century. Hadrian's Roman gate was built as a free-standing triumphal gate, and only sometime towards the end of the 3rd or the very beginning of the 4th century were there protective walls built around Jerusalem, connecting to the existing gate. The Roman gate remained in use during the Early Muslim and Crusader period, but several storerooms were added by the Crusaders outside the gate, so that access to the city became possible only by passing through those rooms. Several phases of construction work on the gate took place during the early 12th century (first Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1099–1187), the early Ayyubid period (1187-1192), and the 13th-century second phase of Crusader rule over Jerusalem. Damascus Gate is the only Jerusalem gate to have preserved the same name since at least the 10th century (i.e. Bab al-Amud). The Crusaders called it St. Stephen's Gate (in Latin, Porta Sancti Stephani), highlighting its proximity to the site of martyrdom of Saint Stephen, marked since the time of Empress Eudocia by a church and monastery.[circular reference] A 1523 account of a visit to Jerusalem by a Jewish traveler from Leghorn uses the name Bâb el 'Amud and notes its proximity to the Cave of Zedekiah.