Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Oh, Oh, Oh Jericho

There's a new photo album I've just uploaded - check the sidebar - to accompany this story. It only took me 7.5 months, but I've finally started the simultaneous photo/story thing here! - and, it hasn't taken me a month after the event to do it. I'm all growed up. For those of you waiting for the promised video "Around the Kfar" (or, rather, for my Mom who's waiting...), it's too big so I'll have to make some short ones, or just take photos. Sorry to have put your hopes up!

Anyway: Jericho. (I always sing Jimmy Buffet's "Mexico" when I think of Jericho...) Jericho is said to be the oldest continuously inhabited place in the world; its history dates back some 10 000 years. You can read an overview about Jericho's history here. The first place we went was King Hisham's Palace, where I took the majority of the photos you'll see in the album. It was amazing! We were the only ones there. So, the palace was built as a winter/spring get-away or hunting lodge during the Umayyad period in 743-44 C.E. and destroyed by an earthquake in 747. It was never lived in. What is interesting about the architecture is that it is Roman with a distinctive Islamic flavour. (Not that I know as much about Islamic architecture as I do Roman - and that knowledge is rusty - but the giant star that you see which was originally over the great entrance is definitely Islamic artistry.) The only sound we heard was the Palestinian police corps training not far away; they must have been going through drills because the shouting was very orderly like you'd hear in army movies. Otherwise, it was very serene and very warm. Since we were alone at the site and it was windy, I felt a little forlorn: Wuthering West Bank.

What I love most about being at these sites is that you can touch them: I love touching the walls, the stones, the carvings in the stones. We dug into the foot of dirt to unearth the mosaic floor and it was so amazing to see the tiles' colours as vibrant as the days they were laid only 1265 years ago. As much as I'm a museum junkie, I don't know if I can go back to not being able to touch these antiquities when I visit them. I've decided that this is a good way to be spoiled.

After wandering around the palace, and not wanting to leave but they were closing, we went to the cable car and ascended to the Mount of Temptation. This is where it's said that Jesus hung out fasting for 40 days and 40 nights in a cave being tempted by Satan (check out Matthew 4). A Greek Orthodox monastery was carved into the rock of the mountain during the 6th century, and monks still live in the caves not far away from the monastery proper. The view was incredible: Jericho, the Jordan Valley, Jordan the country, the northern tip of the Dead Sea off to the right.

So, that's it for now, darlings. Classes ended last week; I wrote my Biblical Hebrew exam today and am moving on to mad paper writing.


Anonymous said...

Hi Tanya,

I had a good chuckle re: "Wuthering West Bank" - also I would enjoy touching the stones, walls, floors, etc. too - it must be amazing for you. Lots of love, Mom

Said said...

Hi, Yours is a nice thoughtful experience of the archaeological site Qasr Hisham in Jericho.

Scholars now believe that it was not Hisham but his eccentric nephew Walid II who built and lived and partied in this house. The melancholy of silent stones becomes even more poignant.

If you are still in Jericho and Jerusalem, swing by the Rockefeller Museum at the NE corner of the Old City, and check out the sculpture of the large, plaster, winged horse that was excavated from Qasr Hisham (aka Khirbet Mafjar). Most mysteriously, it has a triskelion branded on its hump. Hmmmm