Sunday, November 24, 2013

Rumor has it, Rumor has it...another great reason to bring along a tour guide.

This week we finished our study of First and Second Temple Jerusalem with a trip to various sites in both the Old and New City.  Many of the sites carry with them longstanding traditions of what happened there.
However, as is common with many sites in Israel, these traditions, as well as the names of the Sites can be very deceiving.
Lets check out some examples:

Absalom's (Avshalom Ben David) Tomb, Absalom's Pillar

Absalom's Pillar
While this monumental grave marker looks like a building, it is actually a sculpture carved directly from the mountain on which it is situated.  For hundreds of generations, the story was told that this is the burial place of King David's son, Absalom.  Killed in battle with his father David's forces as he tried to usurp the throne, Absalom is the picture a rebellious son.  In Samuel 2 18;18 it is written, "Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar, which is in the king's dale: for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance: and he called the Monument after his own name: and it is called unto this day, Absalom's Monument."  Throughout the years, fathers would bring their sons to this building as a reminder to them of what happens when sons rebel against their father.
However in the last decade, it has been proven that this building actually dates to around the 1st Century CE, an is a burial monument for adjacent Jehoshaphat's Cave.  Still  science cannot undo thousands of years, the site still bears the name of Absalom, ready to lead unsuspecting visitors astray.

Another interesting monument in the area is known as Zechariya's Tomb.

Zecharya's Tomb

Attributed as the burial place of Zecharia son of Jehoiada (Chronicles 2 Chapter 24), this monument is actually empty and was never used as a burial tomb.  Some modern archaelogists believe it may be the burial monument for the Hazir Tomb, a cave found nearby.

Hazir Tomb
Regardless, this spot became a tribute to Zecharyia and bravery, and many Jews were buried on top of the tomb for years.  When the area was excavated, layer upon layer of  Jewish grave markers were found and many can still be seen beside the site.  As such it is recommended that Kohanim not walk on the path along the tombs itself, but rather take the stair pathway and get a good look from above.
Jewish grave makers of people buried near or on Zechariya's tomb
Magnificent view from the stair path, helpful for Kohanim, also the way to the tombs from the City of David

At the end of the day, I can't tell you who started these rumors, who perpetuated them, or which is worse. But I can tell you that these incredible works of art, no matter what their original intentions, are spots rich with history and definitely worth a stop on your next trip to Jerusalem.

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