Friday, August 07, 2009

“Bible Valley” Park

Yediot Ahronot has an article which was summarized in the Caspari Center Media Review about a subject that I have not read about elsewhere.  Nor have I heard of a “Judaean valley,” but from the context I believe this refers to what geographers sometimes call the “Chalk Moat” on the eastern side of the Shephelah, near biblical Adullam.

In an article entitled "Bible Now," Eldar Beck looked at the background to the opening of a new "Bible valley" in the Judaean valley. The person responsible for the idea, Amos Rolnick, grew up on a Shomer HaTza'ir kibbutz which cancelled its Purim festivities due to Stalin's death....

Rolnick, a kibbutznik who broke away to become a 'capitalist,' understood that Israel possessed the greatest financial potential in the world: lovers of the Bible. 'I understood the power of the Bible in the world,' he acknowledges. This understanding led him to conceive one of the most daring of tourist ventures now being planned in Israel: the creation of a 'Bible valley' park - a reconstruction of the biblical experience in a journey for Jewish history buffs, to be spread out over 100 dunams [25 acres] of land located in one of the central foci of the biblical story, in the Addulam strip in the Judaean valley, south of Jerusalem, not far from Beit Shemesh.

'The Bible valley' is defined as an interfaith project - Jewish and Christian - so that it will be possible to use it to link the hundreds of millions of those who also believe in the New Testament to the Land. It will be comprised of features devoted to the different biblical periods: it will contain a 'Forest of legends,' a 'Forest of the land of milk and honey,' a 'Forest of the prophets,' a 'Forest of kings,' and, of course, a 'Forest of the Song of Songs.' Via various technologies, visitors will be able to pass from our own time to the days of the Bible and to experience the course of history and faith ...

The heart of the park is intended to be the 'Bible house,' which will serve as permanent accommodation for the children's paintings ... as well as help in raising the funds for the next monumental project: 'The people of the world write the Bible,' in which framework the books of the Bible will be written by hand by people across the world, in their native language. The intention, explains Rolnick, is to get to at least 100 books, in 100 languages." The first books have already been written - in Taiwanese, Tamil, Finnish, Mandarin, Bengali - and are currently on exhibit at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem....

The project, supported by various individuals including academics and literary figures, is due to be built within the next five years, the Bible house being first on the list.

More information about the project is given in the article.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Mosaic Museum Opens at Good Samaritan Inn

The Jerusalem Post reports on a new museum that has opened at the traditional Inn of the Good Samaritan.

The Museum of the Good Samaritan, which is located on the Jerusalem-Jericho Road near Ma'aleh Adumim, was officially opened Thursday evening after a nine-year archeological excavation at the site.

The official dedication of the NIS 10 million museum, which displays mosaics from the West Bank and Gaza, coincided with US President Barack Obama's long-touted Middle East speech in Cairo in which he reached out to the Muslim world....

The site, known as the Inn of the Good Samaritan, received its name in the Byzantine period when it was identified with the inn mentioned in the Parable of the Good Samaritan in the New Testament.

The site lies on the upper end of the ascent on the main road from Jericho to Jerusalem, which pilgrims followed when traveling from the Galilee and Transjordan to the Holy City.

Over the last decade, archeologists have uncovered remains dating back to the Second Temple period at the site.

During the Byzantine period, the site was revived as a way station for Christian pilgrims, and an inn was constructed that included a large church, a cistern, residential quarters, and a fortress to protect pilgrims from brigands.

In the Crusader period, with the expansion of pilgrimage to Jericho and especially to baptismal sites on the Jordan River, the inn was renovated and a fortress erected above it to guard the road to Jerusalem.

The structure housing the museum was built in the Ottoman period as a guard post, which remained in use until recently.

The mosaics on display at the museum were discovered in the West Bank and Gaza and belong to Jewish and Samaritan synagogues - including a mosaic from a Gaza synagogue - as well as churches.

The full story is here.

Good Samaritan inn, tb113006626dxo Traditional Inn of the Good Samaritan with Jerusalem in the distance

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Israel Museum Renovation

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem is in the midst of a $100 million renovation and the Jerusalem Post has an update on the transformation.  Here are some snips:

There are two main aspects to the renewal project. The first is to create a completely new approach from the entrance of the museum to the center of the museum campus. To do this, the museum has hired New York architect James Carpenter, who has worked on a variety of high-profile projects, such as the new Hearst headquarters (which involved saving the original facade of an existing building), the podium light wall of the Seven World Trade Center building in New York, a proposed multi-use sports enclosure for the Brooklyn Bridge Park, and the Madison Square Garden renovation....

This second main aspect of the campus renewal - the reconstruction of the original museum complex from within - has been taken up by Tel Aviv-based Zvi Efrat of Efrat-Kowalsky Architects. Efrat, who is also the head of the architecture department at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, has created a central circulation point from which all the museum's main exhibit wings - Archeology, Judaica and Jewish Ethnography, Fine Arts, and Temporary Exhibitions - are accessible on the same level.

To achieve this internal redesign without, in Snyder's words, "increasing the breadth of the existing envelope," the museum is being gutted from the inside, its exhibit halls are reconfigured, and a number of connecting passages are being added. The key to the project, though, is turning an area previously dedicated to internal museum service activity into exhibition spaces, resulting in an additional 9,290 sq.m. of gallery space that does not involve expanding the museum campus....

One of the final touches to the renewal project was a revamping of the museum's central outdoor plaza, raising two-thirds of it by a meter to improve its position as a vista point, and to split its length to make it more human-sized. The east side will lead to the underground passage that connects with the museum entrance, and the west side will open up on a wide staircase that feeds into the Isamu Noguchi-designed sculpture garden, making it more central to the campus.

The TimeOnline has a story about the new Egyptian gallery at the British Museum in London.  (HT: Explorator)

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 04, 2009

New Archaeological Garden in Jerusalem

From Arutz-7:

A new archaeological garden dubbed "Peace be within thy Palaces” will be dedicated outside the Knesset chambers on Tuesday, the day after the 18th Knesset begins what is likely to be a long, hot summer session....

If the MKs want to find some peace, they can stroll through the Knesset's new archeological garden, which includes 50 artifacts on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority. They date from the Second Temple period through the Ottoman period.The heaviest item is a five-ton stone from the Temple Mount wall, dating from the Second Temple period.

Also on display is an olive press, ancient inscriptions, large impressive mosaics and a large Ottoman drinking installation.

The story includes a photo of a beautiful mosaic from the Kidron Valley.

UPDATE: Joe Lauer sends along a link to the press release and 4 photos (zip) by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Labels: ,

Monday, March 30, 2009

Spectacular Mosaic Floor on Display in Negev

From the press release of the Israel Antiquities Authority (with link to photos, and direct link to photos):

One of the Most Spectacular Mosaic Floors Ever Discovered in Israel was Restored and Renovated and Can Now be Seen by the General Public (30/3/09) 

The 1,500 year old (!) mosaic is in the ancient synagogue at Ma‘on-Nirim
The mosaic, which is decorated with a seven-branched candelabrum and images of different animals, was conserved and returned to its original location. The site is now open to the general public and admission to it is free.

The site of the mosaic floor, which is part of a synagogue from the Byzantine period (fifth and sixth centuries CE), is located in the settlement of Ma‘on-Nirim, in the western Negev, and will be open to the public this week. This mosaic originally measured 3.70 x 7.80 m but was damaged when the road to Kibbutz Nir Oz was paved in 1957. The mosaic floor and the remains of the synagogue were discovered during salvage excavations that were undertaken on behalf of the Department of Antiquities in 1957. The mosaic’s state of preservation has deteriorated in recent years as a result of the unsuitable conditions in which the mosaic was kept and a lack of maintenance. Therefore, in 2006, it was removed from the site and transferred for treatment to the Conservation Laboratories in the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem....

According to the archaeological findings the northern wall of the synagogue’s sanctuary was breached in the middle of the sixth century CE and an apse, which is a circular niche that protrudes outward, was installed in the opening. The level of the earlier floor was raised and a breathtakingly beautiful mosaic floor surrounded by marble columns was constructed on top of it in the northern part of the sanctuary. The synagogue had a basilica plan in which there was a nave with a mosaic floor that was flanked by two aisles paved with stone tiles. The ceiling was built of wooden beams and clay. The decoration on the mosaic floor consists of a vine tendril that stems from an amphora to form a trellis of medallions that are adorned with scenes of everyday life from the vineyard and from wine production and with different animals. The images portrayed in the upper rows include a seven-branched candelabrum that stands on three legs shaped like lion’s feet, and near them etrogim, a shofar and a lulav, and alongside the candelabrum – palm trees and lions, which are symbols of Judah. An Aramaic inscription is incorporated in the mosaic. The upper part of the inscription blesses all of the community followed by a dedication to three individuals who donated generous contributions.

The complete press release is here.

HT: Joe Lauer

Labels: ,

Monday, December 01, 2008

Bible Times Center and Heritage Garden

Visitors to Israel may remember the Biblical Gardens located at Tantur, founded by Jim Fleming (Biblical Resources).  That wonderful center lost its lease in the late 1990s, and moved to a smaller facility in Ein Karem.  The location was more off the beaten track and the steep decline in tourists that started in late 2000 bode ill for the center.  Several years ago I read that all of its large archaeological replicas were going to be purchased by Bridges for Peace.  The center then “moved” to Georgia (about 70 miles sw of Atlanta), where it provides similar instruction about biblical life and times those who may not be able to travel to Israel.

The facility at Ein Karem has a new tenant carrying out a similar work as its predecessor.  Haaretz reports on the Bible Times Center and Heritage Garden.

Before she moved to Israel, Hannah Trasher used to be a professional fashion designer. Today, she spends most of her days dressed up as an ancient Israelite, sporting sandals, a robe and a turban-like head wrap worn by upper class Jewish women during the Second Temple period.

Two years ago, Thrasher, 57, came from the United States to Ein Kerem, the picturesque village in southwest Jerusalem, to become the executive director of the Bible Times Center and Heritage Garden, which she founded and built largely with her own savings. Nestled in the green hills surrounding the capital and tucked away between small streets and rustic churches, the center allows groups of tourists and curious Israelis, tourists and school children to travel back in time to experience how Jews - and non-Jews - lived in the land of Israel in biblical times...

The center, which is housed in a ten-room multistory building from the days of the Ottoman empire, also includes a threshing floor, a stone quarry, a stable with mangers, a wine press, a watch tower, a wedding canopy and a replica of an ancient gravesite.

Trasher, who was born in Louisiana but lived in Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Texas before settling in Jerusalem, started learning about Jewish history about 30 years ago, and has since led many study groups from the U.S. to Israel. On her tours, she often stopped by at the World of the Bible Archaeological Museum and Pilgrim Center, which until 2006 operated in the same house where she later built the Bible Times Center. But when the director of the old center, biblical archaeology and history scholar Jim Fleming, was given an enormous grant to build a similar project in Atlanta, Thrasher suddenly found the site abandoned.

"I was just crushed, as were many people, that this place wasn't available anymore," she said about her decision to move to Israel to establish her own bible center. Although she had always appreciated her predecessor's work, she found that he approached the topic too intellectually. "It was a place that attracted many scholars from all around the world," she said, "but that was not my vision for the place."

The rest of the story is here.

HT: Joe Lauer

UPDATE: The current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review arrived in my mailbox today and it includes an article on the new “Explorations in Antiquity Center” of Jim Fleming/Biblical Resources.  Based on the write-up and what I remember from the center in Israel, it sounds like a worthwhile visit for any interested in the biblical world and passing through Georgia.  One strange thing: the BAR article starts in the first-person, but I cannot find the author’s name listed.  It begins, “I have never been to Israel,” so that rules out Shanks.  The online version includes the first three paragraphs of the article and the author’s name: Dorothy Resig (a BAR editor).

Labels: ,

Monday, September 29, 2008

Recent News and Resources

I’ve been collecting items of interest over the past week:

Archaeologist Shimon Gibson claims that a concert near Jaffa Gate would damage antiquities (JPost).

A Christian organization in Colorado Springs is spending $2.3 million on a replica of the Western Wall, and a building to showcase it.  50 million tons of stone will be brought from Israel.

King Tut comes to Dallas on Friday.

The JPost Magazine has a profile of Eilat Mazar, currently excavating in the City of David.  She says, "I work with the Bible in one hand and the tools of excavation in the other. The Bible is the most important historical source."

The ESV Study Bible, which was mentioned before here, is due out in a couple of weeks and its visual components (maps, charts, drawings) gets further explanation in an interview with Justin Taylor.

Leen Ritmeyer, renowned for his architectural work on the Temple Mount, is now offering some of his excellent work in affordable PowerPoint files.

I’ve just added Ferrell Jenkins’ Travel Blog to the blogroll.

This is not new, but I do not remember really recognizing all that is here before, so perhaps you did not either.  The Archaeological Study Bible website has many dozens of photos, charts and maps (medium-resolution) available for download.  You can find your way around from here, or go directly to Introduction, Old Testament, New Testament, or Maps.

David Padfield has photos of a Roman army enactment performed at Jerash.  There are 15 free PowerPoint-size images.

If you’re an image junkie, you’ll save time downloading images from the last two sites if you have a download manager.  (I use Free Download Manager with FlashGot on Firefox)

Shana tova (happy new year)!

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Art and Scrolls in New York Museums

The press release of the Israel Antiquities Authority:

Two Exhibitions from the Vast Collections of the IAA in New York City Beginning September 21, 2008

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will exhibit the dazzling Gold - Glass Table from Caesarea.  The Gold Glass Table will be on display in the Byzantine Galleries of the Metropolitan Museum. Dating to the late 6th, early 7th century CE, this extraordinary, one of a kind panel was excavated in a Byzantine period mansion in the coastal city of Caesarea, when a large mosaic floor known as the Birds Mosaic, was exposed for conservation in 2005. The nearly intact panel is shaped like the letter sigma and made of small glass pieces using the opus sectile technique. The panel was discovered with its face down directly on the mosaic floor and was covered by ashes and debris from the ceiling and the second floor. It comprises a wide frame surrounding the central part, both made of a combination of delicate, translucent gold - glass pieces and opaque, colored mosaic glass pieces. The square gold - glass pieces were decorated with a stamped design of flower or cross. A workshop for wall opus sectile made of stone panels was recently excavated in Caesarea, and one can assume the Gold Glass Table was produced by local artists. The conservation, restoration and exhibition of the Gold Glass Table, was made possible by generous funding from the Margot and Tom Pritzker Foundation. Also at the Met, in the Ancient Near Eastern Art Galleries, are remarkable Chalcolithic period objects on long-term loan to the museum, including examples from the Nahal Mishmar treasure such as the Hippopotamus tusk with circular perforations, and the wonderful copper standard, as well as ivory figurines from Beer-Sheva.

Separately, at the Jewish Museum, a wonderful exhibition - The Dead Sea Scrolls: Mysteries of the Ancient World, will include six Dead Sea Scrolls from the collections of the Israel Antiquities Authority - the largest and most comprehensive collection of Dead Sea Scrolls in the world. The scrolls on display represent the important transformation that occurred in Jewish worship from sacrifice to Bible study and prayer, the debates among Jewish groups of the Second Temple Period, and the indirect connections between the scrolls and early Christianity. The scrolls on display include a part of one of the earliest copies of the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Jeremiah, which dates to 225-175 BCE. Other texts include an apocryphal Jewish work, the Book of Tobit, which was rejected for the Hebrew canon but eventually accepted into the Christian Old Testament; an early example of a prayer from Words of the Luminaries; and Aramaic Apocryphon of Daniel, which mentions a son of God. Also shown will be excerpts from two sectarian compositions.

The Israel Antiquities Authority is the pre-eminent organization in the field of Biblical and Israeli archaeology, custodian of more than 1.5 million objects among them 15,000 Dead Sea Scrolls, and 30,000 archaeological sites. These exhibitions are part of our continued effort to share the archaeological treasures of the Land of Israel with audiences around the world.

For downloading images please click here [ ]
1. The Gold Glass Table - Photo by Niki Davidov, Israel Antiquities Authority
2. A Fragment of a 2,000 Year Old Psalm Scroll- Photo by Tsila Sgiv, Israel Antiquities Authority

HT: Joe Lauer

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

"Pilgrim's Route" in Jericho area

Haaretz has a story on the new "Pilgrim's Route," select portions of which are below. 

Some three million tourists are expected to visit Israel next year. And when they arrive, they will discover a new "Pilgrim's Route" leading from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. Along the way, they will be able to visit the site where the New Testament story of the Good Samaritan took place; the Qumran caves; and the site where, according to the New Testament, John the Baptist baptized Jesus.

It is not clear what is meant by "Pilgrim's Route."  Ideally, there will be a walking path along the ancient Roman road.  More likely, there will be signs installed at each place designating it as part of the "Pilgrim's Route."

The Good Samaritan site is just off the highway leading from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. During the Byzantine era, a church was built at that spot to commemorate the New Testament's tale of a man attacked by robbers while en route from Jerusalem to Jericho, who is refused help by all the passersby except the Good Samaritan. Archaeologists recently reconstructed the entire mosaic floor of the church.

It is unlikely that this site is anything more than a traditional place to remember the story.  If there was an inn, it was probably in Jericho, not in the middle of the inhospitable wilderness.  Furthermore, this may have been a story that Jesus created to teach a point and not a historical event (Luke 10:25-37).

Concerning the baptismal site:

According to Shai Weiner, the Tourism Ministry's deputy director general for economics, planning and infrastructure, the first stage of the site's development, which includes setting up shaded areas and making it wheelchair accessible, will be finished in about two months. The ministry has thus far invested some NIS 3.5 million in the site, and the Defense Ministry will invest about another NIS 1 million to improve the access road.

In addition to shaded areas, they need to get some of those amusement-park-type misters.

Weiner said that other Christian pilgrimage sites in Israel typically attract between 400,000 and 600,000 visitors a year, and he expects the same at this site. The ministry noted that the site would also jump start other businesses in the area, such as restaurants and souvenir shops.

Note to investors: buy stock in these new shops and sell your holdings in Yardenit.

Oni Amiel, CEO of Amiel Tours, which specializes in Christian pilgrims, said it is about time Israel began competing with the Jordanian site. "There's an enormous flow of tourists there," he said. "It's important that the site on our side also be respectable - and above all, that there be water in that dried-up Jordan."

So you get a flow of tourists where there once was a flow of water.  Not such a good trade-off.

The full story is here.

HT: Joe Lauer

Jordan River by Bethany beyond Jordan, tb060303267
Jordan River near Jericho


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Dead Sea Scrolls Online

Fifteen years ago, virtually no one could see the Dead Sea Scrolls.  In a few years, maybe everyone will be able to, without leaving their home.  From the NY Times:

In a crowded laboratory painted in gray and cooled like a cave, half a dozen specialists embarked this week on a historic undertaking: digitally photographing every one of the thousands of fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls with the aim of making the entire file — among the most sought-after and examined documents on earth — available to all on the Internet.

Equipped with high-powered cameras with resolution and clarity many times greater than those of conventional models, and with lights that emit neither heat nor ultraviolet rays, the scientists and technicians are uncovering previously illegible sections and letters of the scrolls, discoveries that could have significant scholarly impact....

The entire collection was photographed only once before — in the 1950s using infrared and those photographs are stored in a climate-controlled room since they show things already lost from some of the scrolls. The old infrared pictures will also be scanned in the new digital effort.

“The project began as a conservation necessity,” Ms. Shor explained. “We wanted to monitor the deterioration of the scrolls and realized we needed to take precise photographs to watch the process. That’s when we decided to do a comprehensive set of photos, both in color and infrared, to monitor selectively what is happening. We realized then that we could make the entire set of pictures available online to everyone, meaning that anyone will be able to see the scrolls in the kind of detail that no one has until now.”

The process will probably take one to two years — more before it is available online — and is being led by Greg Bearman, who retired from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Data collection is directed by Simon Tanner of Kings College London. Mr. Bearman is also using a specially made, $75,000 spectral camera that can produce a photographic image of previously illegible sections.

The rest of the story is here.

HT: Joe Lauer

Labels: ,

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Woodland Museum of Biblical Archaeology to Open

From the Daily Democrat:

Soon, Yolo County residents won't have to travel to Israel for a tour of the Holy Land. Locals will be able to stop by the Woodland Museum of Biblical Archaeology at Woodland United Fellowship, 240 N. West St., to visit a collection of artifacts from Biblical times.

The museum's humble beginnings began in the foyer of Woodland United Fellowship a year ago.

Pastor Carl Morgan began a display case with a few juglets and lamps from archaeological digs he participated in, and the collection continued to grow.

"We live in a time when the Bible has come under a lot of criticism and attack as not being reliable or authoritative," Morgan said. "Archaeology allows us to see the geography and historicity of the Bible is correct. Many times, we've been able to find a name or a city (on a dig) associated with a Biblical event, and we're able to say to the critics, 'They're not myths. The Bible is accurate.' It also helps build your faith."

On the west wall of the museum artifacts from mainly the Middle Bronze Age (2200 BC to 1550 BC) will be displayed. Visitors will find sling stones, which were used as weapons and swung with a leather strap. They will also see swords from 2000 BC and a sacrificial knife from the time of Abraham.

There is pottery dated beyond 3000 BC and a battle-axe on display that dates at least 500 years before the time of Abraham.

"That's the oldest piece of metal you'll ever hold," Morgan said.

The story continues here.  If they'll let you hold it, they'll probably let you take a picture of it as well.  Which is something you won't get at many other museums.  Woodland is 20 miles northwest of Sacramento.

HT: Joe Lauer

Labels: ,

Monday, July 28, 2008

Digs, Blogs, and a Bomb

The excavations at Ramat Rahel have recently begun and they have their own blogToday they found a bomb!  Other excavations in Israel with blogs include Gath (regular and professional), Megiddo (regular), and Dan (they had good intentions).  I don't know of any blogs for the current excavations at Hazor (where is that archive?), Gezer (is this another Macalister dump?), or Ashkelon.

There's a few more days if you want to join in excavations on a site that used to be called Khirbet Qeiyafa, but is now dubbed the much more appealing "Elah Fortress."  There's some info here on what to bring.  Here's the season brochure (front, back). You can also watch a YouTube video on the site.

Next year Bryant Wood is headed back to Khirbet el-Maqatir after a hiatus since Palestinian terrorism restarted in 2000.  Excavations of the candidate for biblical Ai are scheduled for May 20 - June 6, 2009. 

The Jerusalem Report has a lengthy article (published online, but poorly formatted, by the JPost) about the state of Dead Sea Scroll and Qumran research, including various theories of who lived at Qumran and who were responsible for the scrolls. The article also discusses the newly publicized "Gabriel's Vision" tablet, and includes a sidebar on the Palestinians' demand that the scrolls be turned over to them.

If you didn't hear it already, Codex Sinaiticus is beginning to be posted online this week.  Here's the story, and here's the link to one of the oldest Bibles in existence.  Come back in a year if you want to read the whole thing.

Six months and $200,000 later, Zion Gate is now back in view.  The hundreds of bullet holes and shell marks are still visible, but the stones are now stabilized and less likely to collapse on a vehicle executing a beautiful 11-point turn as they exit the city.

Zion Gate, tb091702701
Zion Gate, before renovation

And perhaps tourism to Iraq is not so far off.

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Museum in Gaza to Open

The International Herald Tribune has the story:

It may sound like the escapist indulgence of a well-fed man fleeing the misery around him. But when Jawdat Khoudary opens the first ever museum of archaeology in Gaza this month, it will be an act of Palestinian patriotism, showing how this increasingly poor and isolated coastal strip ruled by the Islamists of Hamas was once a thriving multicultural crossroad.

Now only if there was a way for non-Palestinians to get there.  If he's depending on revenue from Palestinians interested in history, he is going to be a poor man.

The exhibit is housed in a stunning hall made up partly of the saved stones of old houses, discarded wood ties of a former railroad and bronze lamps and marble columns uncovered by Gazan fishermen and construction workers.

And while the display might be pretty standard stuff almost anywhere else - arrowheads, Roman anchors, Bronze Age vases and Byzantine columns - life is currently so gray in Gaza that the museum, with its glimpses of a rich outward-looking history, seems somehow dazzling.

"The idea is to show our deep roots from many cultures in Gaza," Khoudary said as he sat in the lush, antiquities-filled garden of his Gaza City home a few miles from the museum. "It's important that people realize we had a good civilization in the past. Israel has legitimacy from its history. We do too."

Someone's going to have to explain this one to me.  I'm not sure how Roman or Byzantine antiquities have anything to do with the legitimacy of Palestinian Arabs. 

It's a good article with a nice photo.  I recommend reading the whole thing, and I hope the venture is successful.

HT: Joe Lauer

Labels: ,

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tel Dan Inscription at Israel Museum

If you're in Israel this summer, you may be disappointed that the Archaeology wing of the Israel Museum is closed for renovation (until 2010 or so).  But some students of mine yesterday were going through other sections of the museum and found the Tel Dan Inscription displayed in the Youth wing.  The anthropoid sarcophagi are also on display.

The Isaiah Scroll is on display now until the end of August.  While two shorter sections of the scroll have been rotated on the permanent display over the years, the two longest sections have not been displayed since 1967.  Visitors can now see Isaiah 1-28 and 44-66.

Update (5/21): The above has been corrected to reflect that the inscription is in the Youth wing.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Philistine Temple (Found) and Gate (Rebuilt)

A couple of developments in the land of the Philistines are worth noting:

A Philistine temple is being excavated at a site south of the five major Philistine cities.  The temple dates to late Iron I (circa 1000 B.C.) and is a few miles south of biblical Gerar (Tel Haror) and northwest of Beersheba.  Aren Maier has a brief report of his visit and some of the finds.

The Canaanite gate at Ashkelon has now been completely restored.  They claim that it is the "oldest arched gate in the world," but pushing the date of the Ashkelon gate a little earlier and the date of the Dan gate a little later.  Even archaeologists are competitive!  The JPost has a picture of the gate with a modern arch which looks like it was designed for schoolkids.  Below is a photo before they added the arch.

Ashkelon Middle Bronze gate, tb083006557
Ashkelon Middle Bronze Gate (circa 1800 B.C.)

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Weekend Roundup

There are a number of stories I've noted over the past week or so that may be of interest.

The Philistine city of Gath has been "civilized" with the creation of a new national park.  I think they should have called it the Gath National Park, instead of the Tel Zafit National Park, as no one seriously questions the identification any more.  The site is now off-limits to 4-wheel drive vehicles (that makes it a climb to the top!) and signs are posted around.  See the Official/Unofficial Gath Blog for details.

A special exhibit this summer will feature a long portion of the Isaiah Scroll.  The first 28 chapters (8 feet; 2.3 meters) will be displayed at the Shrine of the Book from May 13 to August 15, 2008.  The Isaiah Scroll was once on display in the center of the exhibit, but because of stress on the manuscript, it was replaced by a replica many years ago.

You don't have to go anywhere to see these 12 stunning photos of Egypt from National Geographic (HT: Dr. Claude Mariottini).

The biographer of Kathleen Kenyon recently gave a lecture on the archaeologist at Baylor University.  This link is to a (flawed) news report and not the lecture itself.  I mentioned the biography itself before here.

Here's a good little article on the excavations in the City of David around the possible palace of David.  If you've kept up on the story, you won't find anything new here, but it is an informed presentation.  CBN has another, less helpful, tourist visit to the City of David.  (HT: Joe Lauer)

Labels: ,

Friday, April 04, 2008

Book Released on Looting of Iraq

The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago has just published an 88-page book on the looting in Iraq in the aftermath of the war.  From their website:

Catastrophe! The Looting and Destruction of Iraq’s Past
Edited by Geoff Emberling and Katharyn Hanson, 2008

With an introduction by Professor McGuire Gibson, this up-to-date account describes the state of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad and chronicles the damage done to archaeological sites by illicit digging.

The book can be ordered for $30 or downloaded in pdf format for free.  An exhibit of the same name opens at the Oriental Institute on April 10.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

King David Museum Opened

A new museum of sorts has opened in the Old City.  From Arutz-7:

A rich mix of Jerusalemites came out on a brisk Jerusalem night in early March to celebrate the city's newest museum: The King David Museum and Genealogy Center

Located in the heart of the Old City, the museum is a celebration of the most celebrated king in Jewish history, the author of the Book of Psalms and a major subject of the biblical Book of Samuel. The museum tracks the unbroken Jewish connection to the city Jerusalem, that was first conquered and made the capital of Israel by King David.

The permanent exhibition features artifacts from the first and second temple periods including earthenware, ceramics, coins, arrowheads, and more. There is also a section dedicated to printed matter about King David and the Temple Mount, featuring the first known printed book of Psalms, published in 1511, and a swath of original printings that date from 1696 to modern times. Another section of the museum features a series of jarred spices. Mixed together in the correct proportions, the spices were combined to create the incense that was offered daily in the Holy Temple....

The King David Museum and Genealogy Center is located at 19 Tiferet Yisrael Street in the Old City of Jerusalem. Opening Hours are Sunday- Thursday, 9 am – 9pm, Friday 9 am – 1pm. For more information, please call (02) 628-1502

The full story is here.

Labels: ,

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ancient Jewish Reactions to Pagan Statues

I found the subject of this article in the Jewish Journal to be quite interesting.  How would a Jewish rabbi react to statues of Greek and Roman gods?  One point that the writer does not seem to recognize though is the ease with which hellenized cities could be avoided.  Just as one can easily live in Israel today and avoid the "pagan centers" of Tel Aviv and Eilat, it is not difficult to imagine the religious avoiding Beth Shean and Caesarea in the Roman period.  To give one example, there is no record that Jesus ever entered either city.

Imagine a rabbi encountering a statue of Zeus in Roman Palestine, circa 70 to 300 C.E. -- a monotheist's nightmare.

"The myth is that he would have uttered something like the Yiddish 'gevalt,'" said professor Yaron Z. Eliav of the University of Michigan, who recently spoke about Jews and statues at the Getty Villa in Pacific Aphrodite, Pan, Eros group from Delos, 100 BC, tb030806078 Palisades. "We imagine he would have put his hand over his face, the way an ultra-Orthodox Jew might shield his eyes from a poster of a woman in a bikini."

But the sages who wrote classical texts, such as the Talmud, could not afford to ignore such statues, which were like the mass media of the ancient world.

Images of gods, mythological monsters, sports heroes and emperors were everywhere: atop pedestals and in niches, adorning public buildings, temples, fountains and tetrapyla, the colonnaded structures marking street intersections. They were intended to be lifelike and often heavily painted, as revealed in the Getty's new exhibition, "The Color of Life: Polychromy in Sculpture From Antiquity to the Present."

"One could not have strolled heavily Jewish cities such as Tiberias or Caesarea without encountering Roman sculpture every step of the way," said Eliav, as he strolled amid ancient statues at the museum. "While the assumption has been that the sages opposed everything Graeco-Roman, they were in fact far more sophisticated and varied in their response."

The article continues here.

HT: Joe Lauer


Monday, January 21, 2008

"Sounds of Ancient Music" Exhibition

The Archaeology Wing of the Israel Museum is still closed, but the Bible Lands Museum across the street is a worthwhile visit, especially with this new exhibit.

From Haaretz:

Sounds, archaeological finds and scientific hypotheses all play major roles in an exhibition entitled "Sounds of Ancient Music," which opened last week at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. Focusing on musical developments in ancient Sumeria, Babylon, Assyria and other cultures ofBible Lands Museum, tb040605644 the Ancient Near East, through the periods of the Kingdom of Judea, Greece and the Roman Empire, the exhibition features 137 objects - among them, rare musical instruments that have been preserved from antiquity, as well as full-sized replicas of instruments from those early eras.

Among other items on display are a flute, fragments of which were discovered in a burial cave in the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem and dating back to the Second Temple period, as well as the well-known stone from that same period bearing the inscription, "To the House of Trumpeting to the k ...," in a form of the Hebrew alphabet typical of the Herodian period. According to scholars, this was part of the southwestern cornerstone of the Temple compound described by the first-century C.E. Jewish historian Josephus, from which a kohen (priest) blew the trumpet to usher in the Sabbath. According to the Mishna, in those days people blew trumpets, strummed harps and lyres, played the flute and beat the cymbal. It is written that the sounds of the  flute and the cymbal were so loud they could be heard even in Jericho.

The story continues here and the Hebrew version has a photo.

UPDATE (1/23): The Jerusalem Post now has an article along with notice that the exhibition will run throughout 2008.

HT: Joe Lauer

Labels: ,

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Ancient Site of Bene-Berak to be Developed

This summer I was out scouting around trying to locate some sites on the Coastal Plain, including Ono, Eltekeh, and Bene-berak.  Bene-berak is mentioned in Josh 19:45; 21:45; 1 Chr 9:14; Neh 11:15.  The most likely location is el-Kheriyah, located about 3 miles south of the modern Israeli city of Bene-berak.  I wasn't quite sure if I had found the right spot or not.  It wasn't for lack of remains that I lacked certainty, but for an overabundance.  Today it was announced that the government is going to transform the Hiriya landfill into the "Ariel Sharon Park."  While I'm not sure if I'd feel honored if a trash dump was named aft er me, I am hopeful that the $250 million project will make the ancient Israelite site accessible to tourists.

The Hiriya Landfill, located between Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv is a mountain of garbage that was used from 1952 until 1998. The government is now planning on transforming the site and the area around it into one of the largest parks in the country.The Hiriya site stretches out along 112 acres and the garbage mountain itself is elevated around 200 feet.

“The restoration project will transform Hiriya from a waste landfill into a flourishing, green park which will attract thousands of visitors each year, providing leisure and recreational opportunities as well as pleasant walks along its paths,” organizers say.

“Today is the opening shot in the building of this incredible park,” said Danny Shternberg of the Ayalon Park Government Company. “We are proud to name it for former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was an enthusiastic backer of the idea, advancing the park himself.” Shternberg declined to comment on the unorthodox nature of deciding to name a park after someone who is still living.

The park will contain within it sheltered areas (such as the Menachem Begin Park), open areas, forested regions, agricultural tracts and man-made lakes and streams.

Archeological sites will also be refurbished and put on display. The ancient city of B'nei Brak, spoken of in the Passover Haggadah, lay at the site and an Arab village named Hiriya was built atop its ruins until its residents fled in 1948. Emergency plans when Israel feared an Arab victory in the 1967 Six Day War called for mass graves to be dug in the area for the expected Jewish casualties.

For more, see the Arutz-7 report.

Playground in Bene Berak, tb062807402sr
Playground in modern Bene-Berak.  It's pretty nice for a neighborhood park.  It doesn't have any relation to the landfill, but it is certainly more picturesque than the subject of the story.  Apologies if it makes your kids jealous.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Loan Siloam Inscription: Don't Believe It

I read this story yesterday in the Washington Times and ignored it, because I thought it was in error.  I've since seen it mentioned in blogs online as if the story was credible.  Jay Bushinsky of the Washington Times begins his report:

An ancient inscription memorializing Jerusalem's salvation from Assyrian invaders 2,700 years ago is to be returned to the Holy Land from Turkey for study and public display.  Israel has been trying for about 20 years to recover the artifact, which marks one of the most important turning points in Hebrew history.

I think this story is bogus for the following reasons:

1. No one else is reporting this.  I hardly think that the Washington Times knows something that no one else does.  You can check online news sources easily by searching for "Siloam Inscription" at Google News (here is that link).

2. A story like this would be broken by the Israel Museum or a major government agency, and not only are they not mentioning it, the WT story does not cite them.  The story is long, but the length is deceptive as only the first sentence mentions the return. 

3. About a month ago, various news outlets reported some discussion of the matter.  The essence of the story was that a Turkish official agreed to consider some sort of loan.  In the Middle East, such "consideration" is a far cry from a decision.  And a decision is very different than action.  In other words, this isn't "news" until the inscription is sitting in Jerusalem.

What I think happened is that this reporter read some of those stories too quickly and wrote an article based on a misunderstanding.

By the way, if you want to take a picture of the inscription, don't wait until it comes to Jerusalem.  The Israeli authorities won't allow it, I'm certain.  You'll do better to go visit it in Istanbul, where you can take pictures.  Which is far better anyway, because there are so many great artifacts on display that won't be coming to Jerusalem on loan.  There would be a certain irony as well if the Siloam Inscription came to Jerusalem the next couple of years, as hundreds of the best archaeological finds in Israel are locked up out of sight of visitors.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Museum at Masada

Several months ago a new museum opened at the foot of Masada. I won't repeat the details about the museum that you can read in the Haaretz, JPost, and goisrael articles, but I'll just add a personal comment from my recent visit: I found the displays to be beautifully presented, mentally stimulating, and historically accurate. Entrance requires a handheld audio guide, which costs about 20 NIS ($5), and no photos are allowed. The audio guide is more of a gimmick, as the text of the audio (and much more) is written on the displays. Overall, I recommend a visit to the museum, especially to those who are making a second visit to the site.

UPDATE (8/10): The Jerusalem Post has just posted a lengthy article about the museum.