Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Sense of Jerusalem History

He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
--from the Magnificat

Today we learned about the different iterations of Jerusalem over the centuries.  Amazingly, what is often referred to as "The Old City" isn't really all that old.  The city walls as they are now were constructed by Suleiman the Magnificent in the 1500's.

The oldest city, inhabited by Jebusites, and perhaps once ruled by Melchizedek, is outside of the current Old City walls.  That city was captured by David and added onto by David and Solomon.  What would have been his Jerusalem is one small part of today's Old City, and include parts outside it.

In Roman times, the city was smaller than current Old City, as well.  Parts of the Roman City wall form the foundation of some of the current walls, but are much lower.  In fact, the city in Roman times is probably 15-20 below where Jerusalem is now.  Since bulldozers weren't invented yet, the ancients had a much easier time adding dirt and building on top of older areas than they did digging them out.  In recent decades a Roman gate, Hadrian's Gate, has been excavated below the current Damascus Gate.  We could go through one of the gates from the guard tower and into some of the Roman rooms below.  A small gameboard of used by Roman soldiers to pass the time was carved into the stone floor next to one of the benches.  While Jesus may never have walked through gates of the Roman guard tower, some of the soldiers he interacted with may very well have. 

In the afternoon, we went to the Israeli Museum and saw a huge model of Jerusalem in Roman times that was build based on Josephus's work.  The model was built at a time when many Jews were not able to travel to Jerusalem itself.  The Roman city was also smaller than the current "Old City."  For example, it did not include much of what is now the Christian quarter.  The site of Jesus death and resurrection where the Church of the Holy Sepulcher stands (known to Arabic speaking Christians as the Church of the Resurrection) was outside the Roman city.

After the Crusades, Suleiman built the walls around what is now known as the "Old City", which contains Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian Quarters. More recently the city has been changing again.  In the late 1800's, St. George's Cathedral, the Anglican Church in Jerusalem, was built in a nearly empty area outside the city walls.  Some people thought they were crazy to go so far out.  Today, they have some of the prime real estate in that section of town.  In a similar way, Western Jerusalem, which was part of the state of Israel from its inception in 1948, has been built up considerably in recent times.  This Jewish section is more modern and contains numerous skyscrapers, especially compared to East Jerusalem, which is more Muslim/Christian Palestinian and was part of Jordan until the Six Days War in 1967.  Throughout its history, one thing that has remained consistent about Jerusalem is the mixture of people from different cultures and with various religious beliefs have called it home.

From the sublime to the bizarre...
As I was walking back to the hotel from some errands, I saw a runaway horse bolting down the street with a dozen young boys running after it.  Jane, who was out on a run, said it came charging down the street behind her.  She took a step to the right and it ran by in the space she had just vacated.  As we prepared to leave for our pilgrimage, some people asked if Israel was dangerous.  Being here, I don't think it is, except for the horses.

Correction: My last post mentioned photos on the Diocesan Facebook page.  The page has great photos, but they are from various pilgrims with us, and not necessarily by Missy.

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