Mount of Olives Fun things to do

 

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“HAS NOT THE SCRIPTURE SAID THAT THE MESSIAH COMES FROM THE SEED
OF DAVID AND FROM THE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM WHERE DAVID WAS?"
JOHN 7:42
 

Gila's Tips for Tours

Let's sift through Jerusalem's Holy Soil

 
The earliest mention of Bethlehem in the Bible is from the time of the patriarchs, when Rachel, who died giving birth to Benjamin, was buried "on the way to Ephrat, that is Bethlehem." (Genesis 35:19)  When Naomi returned from Moab with her daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabitess, she came at the beginning of the barley harvest to Bethlehem.  Later, Ruth married Boaz at Bethlehem's city gate.

Three generations later, Samuel passed through Bethlehem's city gate, searching for David, the one he was to anoint king over Israel.  From Bethlehem, David set out to bring tasty goat cheeses, barley loaves and roasted grain (honey-sweetened granola?) to his brothers serving in Saul's army fighting the Philistines.
 

Bethlehem is behind the shepherds' fields

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Shepherds' fields with Bethlehem in the background

 
Yet the earliest artifact with an inscription clearly mentioning Bethlehem was found just two months ago in Jerusalem's oldest neighborhood, the City of David.  To be more accurate, it was excavated in 2010, but only "discovered" in May 2012, in the sifting project at a site called Emek Tzurim on the western slope of the Mount of Olives.

The artifact is a clay seal called a bulla which was used for sealing a document.  It was a way of insuring that the document would not be opened without authorization. The bulla (like a stamp) was impressed with the seal of the person who sent the document or object.  Three lines of ancient Hebrew script appear on the bulla including Bethlehem (Bet Lechem) in the middle line. (On the first line: "in the seventh" and on the third line: "belonging to the king.")
 

Clay seal inscribed with the name Bethlehem

Press release of the IAA

Bethlehem appears in the middle line, inscribed in ancient Hebrew

 

Excavator Eli Shukron suggests that in the seventh year of a king who may have been Hezekiah, Manasseh or Josiah, a tax shipment was sent from Bethlehem to the king in Jerusalem.  The tax could have been paid in the form of silver or agricultural produce such as wine or wheat.  The bulla was one of a group of administrative bullae used to seal tax shipments to the capital of the kingdom of Judah during the late eighth and seventh centuries BC.
 
The inscribed bulla, the size of a thumbnail, was not noticed during the dig itself.  It was tossed in a bucket with a tag designating the location of the soil and brought to the wet sifting project at Tzurim Valley where one of the volunteer sifters "found" the seal.  In explaining the significance of the find, the excavator said, "This is the first time the name of Bethlehem appears outside the Bible, in an inscription from the First Temple period, which proves that Bethlehem was indeed a city in the Kingdom of Judah."
 

View of Jerusalem overlooking the Tzurim Valley sifting project

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Gold arrow at lower right corner points to the Tzurim Valley sifting project

 

Outside the sifting hothouse

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Outside the sifting project "hothouse"

 
It seems that all the important small finds in Jerusalem today have come to light via the Tzurim Valley sifting project where the bulla was identified.  The project started seven years ago when tons of soil that had been (illegally) removed in 1999 from under the Temple Mount by the Waqf, the Moslem religious authority, and just dumped in the Kidron Valley, was collected and then transported up the hill to the Tzurim Valley sifting project.  Discoveries include coins (even a half shekel coin!), potsherds, oil lamps, mosaic tiles and now a bulla.  They all enrich our knowledge of the biblical period.
 

Temple Mount platform with a view to the Al Aqsa mosque

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Tons of dirt were illegally removed from under the Temple Mount platform

 

Tzurim Valley Sifting Project

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

The soil soaks in these black buckets and then sifted to identify ancient artifacts

 

Sifters find precious items otherwise overlooked

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Sifters find coins, inscribed potsherds and clay seals otherwise overlooked

 

Archeologists come immediately when inscriptions are found

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Inscriptions are given VIP treatment: the archeologist comes immediately!

 
Imagine, on your next pilgrimage to Jerusalem, finding a coin or bulla or potsherd with an inscription naming a biblical king, scribe, tithe or site.  It's easy – all you need is good eyesight and a willingness to get splashed with Jerusalem's holy soil plus a few hours of your time.  It's a super engaging activity for families, individuals, couples or groups with two or even three generations.
 

Copyright 2012 Gila Yudkin.  Permission needed for any reuse.

 
Gila Yudkin is a former Connecticut Yankee living now in King David's Court.  She has been walking in the footsteps of Rachel, Ruth, Samuel, David, the disciples and Jesus for over three decades.  Gila, who got dirty on a dig for five years, digs guiding tours which mix fun, facts and fantasy with her passion for archeology and Bible.
 
Book Gila for a stimulating, spirited walk through ancient biblical Jerusalem, especially adapted to your interests, timeframe and abilities.
 

Coming to Jerusalem soon?  Does the hustle and bustle of the market give you a high, yet you would like some quiet moments in the holy sites?  Are you eager to eat humus and knafe elbow-to-elbow with the "natives," or is dining in the style of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba more to your taste?

Gila's Guide will lift up your spirit as you "Explore Jerusalem's Soul."  This updated PDF (Adobe Acrobat) 46-page guide gives you the Top Ten places to meditate on the Bible, the Top Ten lesser-known churches worth visiting, the Top Ten most rewarding roof-top views and the Top Ten places for yummy Middle Eastern soul food.  More on Gila's Guide...

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More Jerusalem adventures
 

Let's walk the Old City ramparts

Let's splash through Hezekiah's Tunnel

Tour the Temple Mountr

Ramparts walk

Hezekiah's Tunnel

Temple Mount tour

     
Ride a camel on the Mount of Olives

Walk the Stations of the Cross

Check out Solomon's digs

     Mount of Olives fun

Walk the Via Dolorosa

Solomon's palace


GILA YUDKIN TCHERNIKOVSKI 64A JERUSALEM ISRAEL
gila@itsgila.com

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Holy Land Photography by Gila Yudkin