Just a few pictures of walls, because walls are of course Most Interesting.
Yesterday I went on the Kotel Tunnels Tour. You have to join a tour because that’s the only way they let you down the tunnels which take you along the outside face of the western wall of Herod’s Temple. The spoken content of the tour was a bit dull, mostly history which I already know. I hung at the back of the group so I could have a better look after the tour guide had disappeared into the distance (and have a good & proper feel of the stones).
So here’s a beautiful example of Herodian masonry, each block with its perfect margin, and the course above set back a tiny bit from the course below.
And here’s a weird thing. Eventually the tunnel you walk through meets the 1st century street level. This is because the street was on a hill rising to the north, and the tunnel you walk through is pretty much level. That’s not the weird thing, that’s background. So here’s a gorgeous Herodian pavement, with the temple wall to the right (actually at this point, made out of the bedrock), and then slap bang in front of the uncompleted pavement is a biiig chunk of rock.
This was open to the sky in the first century, of course, not stuck in a tunnel, and the wall with the light behind the chunk of rock would not have been there. So if you were walking up this street, next to the magnificent temple wall, you would have encountered this slightly messy unfinished feature. Perhaps someone has done some work on this, I don’t know – but surely this must have stood out? Is it mentioned by – or alluded to in – any contemporary sources?
That was yesterday. Today, with great excitement, I visited the Kishle, the long building south of the Citadel, seen in the centre of this picture. Again I had to join a tour, but this tour guide (a medical student, she told me when I enquired) really knew her stuff.
Originally an Ottoman prison, and also used as such during the years of the British Mandate, and the Jordanian rule of the Old City, this structure stands over what has long been suspected to have been the site of Herod’s palace (just the northern bit, the palace grounds would have been vastly more extensive).
Excavations began over a decade ago, but it’s only in the last few months that Joe Public has been allowed to have a gander. What’s in here is thousands of years of history, including, yes, part of the retaining walls of Herod’s palace.
Just as exciting, though it may not look like much, is part of a city wall which has been dated to the time of Hezekiah, giving valuable information about the extent of the city in Hezekiah’s time.
I have also engaged with modern Jerusalem life over the last three days – bought some stuff, seen some interesting things, learned some words. I might write a Shabbat Round Up of that tomorrow, because I don’t want to forget it.