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September 22, 1995 - Image 206

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-09-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

• -



"

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Jerusalem Holds
Many Mysteries

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MICHELLE MAZEL SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

D

espite endless wars, con-
quests and destruction,
Jerusalem, holy to Chris-
tians, Muslims and Jews,
has endured. It has, however,
been left with a legacy of mys-
teries which have puzzled gen-
erations of scholars.
The saga ofJerusalem began
3,000 years ago when King David
stormed the city, at the time the
stronghold of the Jebusites, a
small Canaanite tribe. We en-
counter here our first mystery.
How did David succeed where so
many had failed?
Scholars were restricted by the
fact that they did not know ex-
actly where the "City of David"
had stood. Until the end of the
19th century, they believed it to
be Mount Zion, the hill situated
to the west of the city. By the
turn of the century, scholars were
increasingly unhappy at being
unable to find proof of this theo-
ry. Excavations conducted after
the reunification ofJerusalem in
1967 determined that the City of
David was located slightly south
of Mount Moriah — the Temple
Mount — near the pool of Silwan.
At some undocumented point in
history, new ramparts had been
erected, leaving much of the city
out in the cold. A re-reading of
the Bible, in view of these dis-
coveries, led some present-day
scholars to believe that David
and his men entered the Jebusite
stronghold through a tunnel
bringing water into the city, tak-
ing its defenders by surprise.

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8

The next mystery is still far
from being solved. Where is the
exact location of the Second
Temple? The First Temple,
which was destroyed in 586
BCE by the armies of Neb-
uchadnezzar, was rebuilt when
the Hebrews returned from the
Babylonian exile. One of the
most magnificent monuments
of its time, it apparently disap-
peared without a trace after it
was set on fire by the armies of
Titus in the year 70 CE.
The treasure that it contained
— holy vessels, objects of gold
and precious stones — also dis-
appeared. Though there are a
number of theories, there is no
consensus today on the exact lo-

reason, observant Jews cannot
set foot on much of the Temple
Mount for fear of treading un-
knowingly on the site of the Holy
of Holies.
A synagogue, however, is doc-
umented to have been situated
for many years on the Temple
Mount site.
Here, a few judicious excava-
tions would solve the riddle fair-
ly quickly, since the general area
is thought to be that of the pre-
sent Mosque of Omar. But the
likelihood of such excavations
ever being carried out is not very
great. Muslim religious authori-
ties, who administer the Temple
Mount today, insist that Jews
have no claim to the Mount.
Clearly they have no wish to see
vestiges of the great Jewish Tem-
ple brought to light.
The treasures of the Temple
also never surfaced, though ac-
cording to legend, they were spir-
ited away to a secret cave
awaiting the rebuilding of the
Temple.
Another riddle plagued Chris-
tians for a long time — that of the
exact site of the crucifixion and
of the tomb ofJesus. True, a mag-
nificent church had been erected
as early as the fourth century on
what was believed to be that site.
However, many Christian schol-
ars were uneasy. The site was
well within city limits and Jew-
ish religious law does not permit
burial within the municipal lim-
its of Jewish cities.
The question is, where exact-
ly did the boundaries of
Jerusalem stand at the time of
the death ofJesus? There is no
decisive answer, but the consen-
sus today is that the site was well
beyond the city wall.
A group of Protestant church-
es have evolved a theory of their
own. They believe the tomb and
site of the crucifixion stand well
away from present-day ramparts,
in a garden situated by a skull-
shaped hill outside Damascus
Gate on the north side of the Old
City.
The "Golden Tomb" theory,
suggested as early as 1840, was
made famous when British Gen-
eral Gordon endorsed it. The site
still draws large numbers of vis-
itors today.
Even the origin of the name
"Jerusalem" is unclear. For some
it is the city of the god Salem; oth-
ers insist that it means "Vision
of Peace." Perhaps the advent of
the fourth millennium, even if it
does not dissipate some of the
mysteries, will indeed usher in a

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