Thursday, October 28, 2010

Geography of Jerusalem

This will be about my first field trip in Archaeology of Jerusalem class that occurred last Wednesday October 20th. It wasn't really an archaeology field trip but a geography of Jerusalem trip. I'm guessing the professor would like us to know where things are so when we go somewhere we know approximately where we are in the city. I really enjoyed this field trip but this professor is difficult to listen to. He has been in the field of Archaeology so long that he knows so much he just starts talking and you have to write everything down...yes ever little thing he says. He jumps around so at the end of class my notebook is a mess so I have to retype my notes in Microsoft onenote and straighten them out. I also add summary boxes of the points I think he was trying to stress in class. This class is made all the more difficult because there is no textbook. He told us to read everything about Jerusalem that we could get our hands on. I'm not sure exactly how to write this post. I took pictures on the tour but we were really only in two places so most of my pictures look almost the same. Without the aid of arrows to point to the exact features I'm discussing I am forced to rely on my powers of description. This post also serves as a review for what I learned last week.

This picture will give you an idea of where I am at. I am on a hill whose name I can't remember on the south side of the Old City. I am facing north. The black spots at the top of the picture are birds that just happened to fly by. If you look closely there is smoke in this picture but I'm not sure what is burning.(If you click on the picture it will enlarge it) The fire is in what is called the Hinnom Valley. The name of the valley was originally Gai Ben Hinnom which means valley of the son of Hinnom the name of the person who owned the land. This name got changed somewhere in history to Gehennom from which we get the English word Gehenna the hell mentioned in the Bible. This valley became associated with a hell like place because this is where the child sacrifices mentioned in the Old testament occurred. I kind of feel sorry for that family whose name now represents Hell. Parallel to the wall of the Old City facing me is the Kidron Valley. This valley has several names in the Bible its also called the veil of kings, veil of Joel, and the veil of Jehoshaphat. A couple of biblical passages that mention this valley are 2 Samuel 18:18 and Genesis14:17. The monument mentioned in 2 Samuel is no longer here today

This picture is zoomed in from the one above. This is the Azel Valley mentioned in Zechariah 14:5 in reference to the earthquake that occurred during King Uzziah's reign around 760 B.C. The earthquake is also mentioned in the opening verse of Amos. I can't remember if I've mentioned this before or not but when I give Biblical references I'm using the New International Version so the verse numbers might be slightly different if your Bible is a different version.

Look to the right of the Old City you see a grove of trees? Inside that grove is a building with a gold speck that is the Russian Orthodox church dedicated to Mary Magdalene. That grove of trees is part of the area where Solomon built the high places to honor the Gods of his foreign wives mentioned in 2 kings 3:3 and 23:13.

Look outside the Old City walls and see the hot dog shaped hill. This hill is where the City of David was so technically the old city is outside the walls of the Old City. ;) On this hill was the stronghold of the Jebusites (the people David conquered to take over Jerusalem). The Jebusite stronghold was called Mount Zion mentioned in 2 Samuel 5:7. This is not what most people call Mount Zion today. The Mount Zion of today was misnamed by Christians in the 4th century A.D. There were other locations that would have been better for his city but David chose this location for one reason, the Gihon Spring without this spring there would be no Jerusalem. There are different stories about how Jerusalem was conquered compare 2 Sam 5 with Judges 1:8 and 1:21. The City of David has the lowest elevation in Jerusalem at its western end it is only 620 meters above sea level. This is important to note because the Temple Mount stands at 740 meters above sea level. You can tell the present day walls of the Old City are not original because the Temple Mount does not have a central location in the city for being so important. Going to the Temple Mount from the City of David you are ascending whereas today as a modern tourist entering the Old City from Jaffa gate which is 777 meters above sea level you actually descend to the Temple Mount. All of the Psalms that have the designation song of ascent are thought to have been sung while ascending to the Temple Mount or making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for example Psalm 125.

For this picture we turned around and walked across the street. I am facing south in this picture. Look out past the cars and the Arab village to the mountains. This is part of the Judean wilderness referred to in the Bible. The desert has a huge impact on the city. It was the boundary between two different societies the herders and nomads of the desert and the city dwellers. There are two different views of the desert presented in the Bible. One is the desert is a place where the human soul can come closer to God like Elijah (1 Kings 19) and Moses who gave the laws in the desert. Jeremiah referred to the desert as a honeymoon between God and his people. The desert is also referred to as cursed by God and a place of sin because making a living in the desert is very hard.

This is a zoomed in picture from the one above. See the mountain that kind of looks like a volcano? This is the location of the Herodium, a palace built by Herod the Great. You can read more about it here. And that concludes your tour of the geography of Jerusalem. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Seeing these locations and matching them up with Bible verses has just helped the Bible become more alive for me. It helps to be able to picture the locations the texts refer to.

I've only officially been in graduate school for three weeks but I have learned so much in this time. I've been warned to be careful with the Bible because it is my main textbook in many of my classes but I can not let it become just my textbook. So far there is no danger of this, I've been more frustrated that I don't know the Bible better to be able to know the references the professor makes to a certain book without looking them up. I need to reread several books of the Bible I'm studying in various classes to have the context of what I am translating. My Bibles are definitely going to be well loved by the time I have this degree. I am still overwhelmed and frustrated by all these ancient languages but at the same time I am fascinated by all of this. I have since discovered that some of the people in my classes that already know these languages so well are actually here working on the second master's degree so no wonder I feel behind them. To be honest it never occurred to me to get two masters degrees before pursuing a doctorate.

I've still been eating lunch in the botanical garden and studying. This cat has been eating lunch with me a few times. I'm not sure if this is the same cat from the last post or not. This look is one that says: "Are you going to give me that bite of your sandwich or keep trying to take my picture? Give me that sandwich!"

I'm still trying to figure out how to study for all these classes. Right now it seems like I don't have any free time to do anything but study during the week. These past two weekends I haven't done much but study either. To give you some idea of how much work I have I bought a paper last Friday and I haven't had time to read it yet! With graduate school I'm having to micromanage my time more than I've had to at any other point in my life.

From the last post:
Uncle Joe- I believe they figured out the dialects in Akkadian by comparing it to other related languages. While I am homesick I don't think that McDonald's hamburger would taste too good even if it still looks okay. They have McDonald's here too but their food taste different and I can't get a cheese burger because its not kosher.

Mom-I haven't named the cat yet because I'm still not sure if I'm sharing lunch with one cat or two. I'm glad I'm able to make Jerusalem come alive for you.

Kathy- Thank you. Claire and I will get through this together somehow. Right now I think we are still overwhelmed by the amount of homework.

Nikki-Thank you. I don't feel very impressive. I feel more like a fish out of water. I still have the feeling of What was I thinking when I came here? I'm sure it will get better with time.


  1. Anna,

    I've spent time looking up the Bible refrences you have sited in your blog. This definitely would be a good review for your class. I sense your excitement making the connections between the past and the present geography of Jerusalem. I always enjoy your beautiful pictures but I must say your lunch time companion who comes for a bite of your sandwich is so cute. She is striking sitting on the rocky shelf above the bench where you are eating. My dear you will adjust to graduate school so just hang in there.


  2. Not sure how you get 40,000 in Gehenna. It doesn't look big enough unless you stack them in boxes!

    Do yall get to visit the spring at Gihon? I saw a show where they were going down a tunnel carved to supply water to allow them to survive a seige. The walls were covered in chisel marks where they'd worked. You wouldn't get claustrophobic would you?