Tag Archives: archeology

Josephus at Yodfat

Looking down at a line of simulated Roman attackers from near the top of Yodfat
Looking down at a line of simulated Roman attackers from near the top of Yodfat. The Roman camp was in the valley where the bus is parked.

Rome. Its name still evokes conquest, power, and empire over 1500 years after its final downfall. Yet the tiny province of Judea fought the mighty empire for more than three years. The Roman legions may have been unstoppable, but the stubborn Jews refused to give up. There were some exceptions; Yosef ben Mattityahu, better known by his Roman name Josephus, was the most famous.

Yosef was a Cohen who had worked in the Temple in Jerusalem. In his youth he lived with the ascetic Essene sect in the desert for three years. Later he traveled to Rome and pursued a classical education. On his return to Judea, at the start of the Great Revolt in 66 CE, he was appointed military commander of the Galil.

We have few details about his life, beyond what he chose to share in his autobiography. And for political reasons, his autobiography may not have been dedicated to the true facts of his life. What we do know is that as commander of the Galil, Yosef went to Yodfat, called Jotapata by the Romans, to command its defense against the advancing legions.

The city of Yodfat stands on a hilltop about 25 kilometers  west of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). With cliffs on the east side and very steep drops on two other sides, it is accessible only from the north. And even from the north, the climb is steep. Most of the people in my class, including me, were out of breath from climbing part way up the hill to a stopping place. We sat on rocks overlooking the parking lot where our tour bus was parked far below. That valley was where the Romans, under the command of Vespasian, had camped during the brief siege. They didn’t have to put up a tight perimeter wall as they did in other places; geography itself prevented defenders from leaving for supplies.

The path to the top was neither as long nor as winding as the famous Snake Path to the top of Masada. The ledge where we stopped to learn about the battle

Roman battering ram (replica).The end does look like a ram's head.
Roman battering ram (replica).The end does look like a ram’s head.

looked to the north, towards what would have been the camp of the  Roman 15th Legion. About a third of the way up the slope, two rows of long spears and shields stand as if held there by invisible Roman soldiers. Next to where we sat stood a replica of a Roman battering ram. The replica weapons were placed here to give visitors a hint of what the enemy might have looked like to defenders.

After conquering the hill, the Romans had destroyed what was up there, and left. The only evidence that remained were traces of foundations, a few mikves, and some cisterns. No one ever built there again. It was not of sufficient strategic value. But this is where Yosef ben Matityahu, and a band of fighters made a stand in 67 CE during the Great Revolt against the Romans.

At the beginning of the revolt, Yodfat was one of the towns that was fortified with a surrounding wall. Undeterred by the height of the hill or the city walls at its top, the Romans built a ramp to the top. Their archers and spearmen were able to shoot over the wall. A battering ram damaged the walls themselves.

The siege went on for 47 days. It was summer and although they had sufficient food, the town ran out of water. When Yosef instituted water rationing to preserve what little they had, the people complained that knowing they had so little each day made their thirst even worse.  And then the Romans broke through the wall. Titus, Vespasian’s son and one of the commanding officers, led the legionnaires into the city, where they killed all the men and captured 1200 women and children. The Romans then razed the city, and burned what was left.

Forty of the fighters survived the initial Roman onslaught and retreated to one of the caves that dot the sides of the hill. Yosef proposed that rather than allow themselves to be killed by the Romans, or be captured and taken into slavery, they should take their own lives. They would choose, by lottery, men who would be responsible for killing others. In the end, two would be left. One would kill the other and then kill himself. Maybe Divine Providence helped Yosef that day, maybe it was sheer good luck, or maybe he had somehow rigged the lottery. Whatever it was, Yosef was one of those last two men.

Perhaps he had already known when he arrived at Yodfat that the Jewish revolt was doomed to fail. Perhaps he realized it as he looked down on the Romans from the city walls. He does not write about his thinking. It is unclear what happened to the other man, whose name is unknown, but we know Yosef ben Mattityahu, Jewish commander of the north, surrendered to the Romans.

Somehow he managed to convince them not to kill him. Being able to write better than the Roman commanders, he suggested they needed an official historian. He offered his services. The captive Jewish general was useful to the Romans. Changing his name to Flavius Josephus, he wrote the history of the Great Revolt, The War of the Jews. This book is almost the only detailed written record we have of the end of the Second Temple period .

When we read history, we always ask, how reliable is this author? Does he take an objective stance, or does he have some agenda to promote? In The War of the Jews, Josephus clearly has an agenda—his own survival. He needs to flatter the Roman generals, so they will allow him to live. By the time he writes Antiquities of the Jews many years later, he is no longer worried about his survival, and is somewhat more objective. So should we trust him as a historian? Yes, and no.

As Shulie Mishkin often says when referring to Josephus, “When he does not have a reason to lie, he tells the truth.” So when he writes about life in the Second Temple period, or about geography, he is trustworthy. Indeed, many of his observations and comments have been supported by archaeological finds. But when he is talking about war and the Romans, that’s another story.

Although Josephus wrote War of the Jews in a way that glorifies Rome and the achievements of her brave legions and its officers, the book nonetheless tells us many details that we would otherwise not know. Even if in doing so, he invented some of those historical details. For example, he reports the speech made by Elazar ben Yair on top of Masada the night before it was captured by the Romans. It was a stirring inspirational speech. Josephus most likely wrote and polished every word himself, since the only survivors at Masada were two women and five children who would not have heard Elazar’s words. I wonder how much of Elazar ben Yair’s speech came from Josephus’ own words to his men at Yodfat.

But most other non-military details in his history are accurate. Some of us climbed further from the ledge where we had paused to catch our breaths and hear the story of the site. Josephus wrote that the Romans killed 40,000 people in Yodfat, and, indeed, the flat top of the hill is large enough for a city with that size population. We could see traces of building foundations, but not much h

Near the eastern edge of the city--the dark green hills are on the other side of the Yodafat wadi
Near the eastern edge of the city–the dark green hills are on the other side of the Yodfat valley

ad been excavated. We walked towards its eastern edge. The drop to the valley far below was breathtaking. It induced thoughts of slipping on a pebble and dropping so fast and far it would take a team of dedicated mountaineers and people being lowered from a helicopter to rescue you. I backed away as quickly—and carefully– as I could. Although two people went even closer to the drop, no one dared standing on the absolute edge. No wonder the defenders of the city felt invulnerable. Unfortunately for them, the Romans had enough men and supplies to make the word “invulnerable” meaningless.

When the archaeologists finally came to Yodfat, they found one cistern had been filled with bones. They also found a stone nearby with two drawings carved on it. One was the ancient symbol of a mausoleum, the other a crab, the zodiac sign of the month of Tammuz, the month that the Romans conquered the city. After the Romans left the area, someone had come to Yodfat to take care of the dead, depositing their remains in this one place, and marking it with a memorial stone.

Tour guide Shulie Mishkin at monument to fallen defenders of Yodfat
Tour guide Shulie Mishkin at monument to fallen defenders of Yodfat

Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael, known in the US as the Jewish National Fund, has erected a monument to the defenders of Yodfat at the foot of the hill. Above the story of Yodfat are the two strange symbols. The fight against the Romans may have been futile, but we remember the stubborn fighters who tried to restore Jewish rule to the land.

Yodfat’s location

The View from Ramat Rachel

Hypothetical Destruction, one of four sculptures at Ramat Rachel, Jerusalem, marking area of a building thought to have once stood there
Hypothetical Destruction, one of three sculptures at Ramat Rachel marking the corners of a building thought to have once stood there

If geography and topology give a place strategic importance in one era, they make it important in other eras as well. Once again, on a tour to see an ancient site, I saw this point demonstrated. This time my tour was part of a course on the Second Temple Period; the place was Ramat Rachel, in the southern part of Jerusalem.

A ramah is a high place, and at 818 meters above sea level, Ramat Rachel is this highest place for miles around. At one time it was halfway between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Over several thousand years both cities grew, until today Ramat Rachel is within the southern borders of Jerusalem, less than two kilometers from the outskirts of Bethlehem. From one spot on the hilltop, you can see almost to the Dead Sea, and turning around, you can see, first, western Jerusalem, and further around, the Mount of Olives. It is obviously a strategic piece of real estate.

I’ve been there twice—both times the wind made it feel cooler than the lower surrounding areas. It may have been the cool breeze that led one of the last kings of Judah to build a palace here, but it was probably the height of the hill that brought the Roman Tenth Legion 800 years later.

Like most ancient sites, it has been excavated more than once. The first modern people to dig here were not doing so to uncover historical artifacts. They were members of the IDF digging trenches to fortify the border and protect themselves from the sight and the bullets of the Jordanian army. What they found piqued the interest of archeologists, but the site was too dangerous to excavate. During an archeological conference in 1956, a gathering on the hilltop drew the attention of Jordanian soldiers stationed nearby, who opened fire. Five people were killed, and fourteen more were wounded.

Nonetheless, archeologists were determined to explore the site, and Yohanon Aharoni dug here in the early 1960s. He uncovered remains of a huge palace, which he thought had been built by King Yehoyakim. After all, had not the Prophet Jeremiah railed against the King’s magnificent palace, which he was building? Jeremiah mentioned the fine dressed stones and “red stuff smeared on the windowsills.” One bit of evidence that this was indeed Yehoyakim’s palace came with the discovery of carefully cut stones that had remnants of red paint still clinging to them under the windows .

Gabi Barkai came to excavate here in the early 1980s. It was much safer for him and his team to dig here, since the surrounding area was now in Israeli hands. He found a lower layer of remains. In this layer, he found pottery jug handles with stamped with tax collectors’ seals from the time of King Hezekiah.So a palace may have stood on the site 100 years before Jeremiah’s complaints about Yehoyakim’s construction project.

The history Israeli archeology always includes the name of Yigal Yadin—he seems to have an opinion about every site excavated from the 1950s to the 1980s, and Ramat Rachel is no exception. After learning about an underground passage leading from the palace, Yadin concluded that this was the palace of Queen Athaliah of Judah. She seized power when her son, King Ahaziah, died, and cemented her hold on the throne by killing all the members of the royal family who might challenge her, including her sons and grandsons. It is easy to understand why she might have felt the need for an escape tunnel. However, Yadin’s theory is not generally accepted.

The question of whose palace these remains were part of remains open, but that is not the end of the story. Tons of pottery jug handles with the letters yud-heh-daldet on them had been found, and they did not fit in with what was already known. The letters spell Yehud, the Persian name for this province of their kingdom. The stamped jug handles are Persian tax stamps, from a few hundred years after the Kings of Judah reigned. Ramat Rachel’s ruins have yielded more of these Persian tax stamps than any other site. Indeed, the majority of Persian tax stamps found in the country were uncovered here. These artifacts did not fit the royal palace story.

Many water channels were found surrounding a platform, a platform too high to be natural. Between the channels were layers of imported garden soil. Obviously an elegant garden had been constructed on the site. The problem is that large elaborate gardens are not a native Israeli idea.

The discovery of these Babylonian/Persian style gardens, has led to further revision of thinking on the function of ancient Ramat Rachel. It is now surmised that Ramat Rachel may have been an ancient administrative center. Conquering nations usually wanted to increase the accessibility of their own administrators. Jerusalem was

Persian Proto Aeolian capital at kibbutz Ramat Rachel, Israel
Persian Proto Aeolian capital at kibbutz Ramat Rachel

surrounded by mountains higher than it was, and difficult to get to. Conquerors generally wanted to de-emphasize Jerusalem as a religious center, in an effort to get the native people to worship their gods and thus become assimilated into their own populations. There is no destruction layer in the ruins, so this site was probably never conquered in battle. A series of foreign governments, starting with the Assyrians, simply built their centers in a scenic spot outside what had been the Jewish capital. After the Assyrians, the Babylonians governed the land from this hill, and then the Persians did as well. Ramat Rachel is one of the few places in Israel where we can see remains of monumental Persian architecture.

When the Persians were succeeded by the Seleucids, the successors of Alexander the Great, all went well for a while. Then Antiochus Epiphanes made a mistake—he moved his center to Jerusalem and set up a statue of himself in the Temple. This latter action inspired Judah Maccabee to revolt. Judah’s victory, celebrated by the holiday of Chanukah, led to the Hasmonean period, the last Jewish kingdom. The Hasmoneans, in their anger over what Antiochus had done and wanting to wipe out all traces of foreign powers, dismantled the governmental structures at Ramat Rachel.

Later the Roman Tenth Legion would encamp here. During the Byzantine period, Christians built a monastery on the site because of its proximity to the holy cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The hill remained insignificant until Jews, returning to the land, established Kibbutz Ramat Rachel in 1926.

A kibbutz is a communal agricultural settlement, unique to Israel. Although today this kibbutz is within the city boundaries of Jerusalem, when it was founded it was well outside the city. Those who lived and worked here were farmers. Because it has such a commanding view of the surrounding area, it was of strategic importance in the War of Independence.

The Egyptian and Jordanian armies rarely worked together, but in 1948 they both attacked Ramat Rachel. The battles fought here were intense. The Arabs captured it three times and Israel recaptured it each time. At one point, the defenders of the kibbutz saw Israeli soldiers approaching. Thinking they were about to be relieved, the defenders excitedly left their base in the dining hall, only to be fired on by their own army. The oncoming soldiers could not believe that Jews were still there, fighting to keep the land. When the armistice agreement was signed, Ramat Rachel remained in Israeli hands, almost completely surrounded by Jordan.

In 1967, at the behest of Egyptian President Nasser and encouraged by false reports of Egyptian victories, the Jordanians launched an assault on Jerusalem by attacking Ramat Rachel and the nearby UN headquarters. Under attack from Jordan, Israel fought back, regaining territory it had lost in 1948.

Since then, Ramat Rachel has thrived. It is no longer strictly agricultural. It still owns some cherry orchards but it has sold much of its land to real estate developers. Most kibbutz members today earn their living working in the Ramat Rachel Hotel or country club, or in hi-tech.

A lookout point, designed by the sculptor Ron Morin, sits on top of an old IDF fortification. From the top, you can see all of Jerusalem in front of you. Because of the distance from the Old City, it was obvious why King David wrote “Jerusalem, the mountains surround her.” Shulie Miskin, our guide, had to point out the golden Dome of the Rock, which seem nestled within the surrounding mountains like a bright bird’s egg tucked into its nest.

Ramat Rachel is a popular site for social events because of its scenic location. On my visit, a photographer was busy taking wedding pictures. He directed the participants to move just a little, to turn this way or that, until he had the perfect setup. As we left the lookout point, I looked back. The bride was standing near the edge, the blue and lavender hills in the background, her veil romantically floating behind her in the breeze. I treasure that picture in my mind. It is a reminder that even in difficult times, peace is possible.

Location of Ramat Rachel

Ein Kerem’s Holy Hill

St. John of the Mountains Church, Ein Kerem       photo: biblewalks.com
St. John of the Mountains Church, Ein Kerem
photo: biblewalks.com

When the second Temple stood in Jerusalem, Ein Kerem was part of the belt of towns around Jerusalem that supplied the city. Each small town had its specialty: wood, oil, animals, grain. As its name—the Spring of the Vineyard–suggests, Ein Kerem’s specialty was grapes for wine.

When the Muslims conquered the land from the Persians in 614 CE, wine production ceased. Alcoholic beverages of any kind are forbidden to them, and growing wine grapes was forbidden. Vineyards throughout the country were uprooted and wine production ceased. But even though there were no more grapes, the name of the town persisted.

Ein Kerem is no longer an isolated town, a long four and half mile hike through the mountains away from the city. It has become another neighborhood within today’s Jerusalem. Like many other neighborhoods, however, it has retained its unique character.

Mary's Spring, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem
Mary’s Spring, Ein Kerem
photo: Yehudit Reishtein

The spring from which the town took its water as well as its name is a holy site for Christians. The story is told in the book of Luke how Mary, pregnant at the time, came to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was also pregnant. When they met near the spring, Elizabeth’s baby moved in response to Mary’s presence. Elizabeth then blessed Mary and her child. Elizabeth’s baby was John the Baptist; Mary’s baby was Jesus. Because the women met here, and John the Baptist grew up here, many Christian groups have built churches and monasteries in the area. The golden domes of the Muskovia, a large Russian Orthodox church on the hill just beyond the spring, can be seen for miles. When we went to Castel, more than four miles away (by car, 5.3 miles), it was easy to see the sunlight reflecting off the Muskovia’s domes. Just below the Muskovia stands the Roman Catholic Church of the Visitation.

Muskovia Church, Ein Kerem      photo: Yehudit Reishtein
Muskovia Church, Ein Kerem

Holy sites retain their holiness even when the dominant religion changes. Just uphill from the spring in the other direction stands the Franciscan church St. John of the Mountains. Ein Kerem’s history goes back to Canaanite times; this church stands on the hill where Ba’al was once worshiped.  After Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, his mother Queen Helene, visited the holy land to identify the sites holy to Christianity. She identified this hill as the place where Elizabeth and her husband Zachariah had lived, over three hundred years after their deaths. The hill was therefore holy; she built a church here and named it for Elizabeth.

The church stood for less than two hundred years, before being destroyed in the Samaritan revolt against the Byzantines. Another six centuries passed. When the Crusaders came to liberate the Holy Land from the Muslims, the Hospitallers built a new church on the ruins of the Byzantine one and named it for St. John. When the Muslims reconquered the area, they once again destroyed the church.

The sultan gave permission to Franciscan monks to buy land and settle in the area in the late 17th century. They completed the monastery about 120 years later, but the modern church was not completed until 1920.

The church has a large courtyard, which the British took advantage of during World War II to station tanks. The treads of the heavy tanks made a mess of the courtyard paving. What was left of it needed to be dug up and replaced after the war. The Franciscans decided to use the opportunity to excavate the courtyard and under the nearby portion of the church. As frequently happens with archaeological excavations in the Middle East, they found much more than they expected.

They had expected to find the remains of the Byzantine church. But in addition to that, they found several Roman statues, including several of Aphrodite. And they found a second Temple period wine press. Like any good scientist, the priest in charge of the excavations, Father Saler, wrote up what he found. His report languished in the Franciscan library for about half a century until a Jewish woman, interested in the history of the Ein Kerem, pulled it out.

Father Saler had been able to identify everything he found under the church and its courtyard, but one structure puzzled him. He found a square hole, whose walls were plastered, which made them watertight. He did not think it had been used to store water, because stairs led down into its pool. As Shulie, the tour guide, read the priest’s description, I thought it sounded like a mikve.

Shulie continued the story. The woman went to the abbot of the monastery, and asked if it was possible to see this structure. At first he said no, it was inaccessible under the church. However, when questioned further he said that although it had been built over, it was possible to get to it through a small passageway under the church. She was persistent, and eventually he gave her permission. She crawled through a tight dusty passage under the church to the chamber. She examined the square plastered hole, the stairs into it, and found the small hole in its wall that would have connected it to the larger pool of fresh water necessary for a kosher mikve. She took several photos of the mikve and left.

Shulie passed copies of the photos around. What had puzzled Father Saler was obvious to the observant Jews and the archeology buffs in our group; he had found an ancient mikve, proof of Jewish presence in Ein Kerem in Second Temple times.

Perhaps some trace of the holiness of the ritual bath still radiating through the ground had attracted Queen Helene to this site. As a Cohen serving in the Temple, Zachariah would have been very concerned with ritual purity. Even if he and Elizabeth had not lived in this exact spot, he may have used the mikve.

No matter where you go in Israel, there are almost always Biblical connections.

Ein Kerem in relation to the rest of Jerusalem:

Behind the Kotel Plaza

Children play on Jerusalem's Cardo. In background are original Roman/Byzantine wall and pavement. Photo: Yehudit Reishtein
Children play on Jerusalem’s Cardo. In background are original Roman/Byzantine wall and pavement. Photo: Yehudit Reishtein

For years the back of the Kotel Plaza at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount was been blocked off with temporary eight foot high metal barriers. I assumed the barriers were to protect people on the plaza from construction on the cliff rising up to the Jewish Quarter. But when Aish HaTorah’s new building was completed, the barriers remained.

Recently, I found out why. They surrounded an active  archeological dig.

Roman cities were built with two main streets. They had an east-west street and a north-south street, called a Cardo. When the Romans came to Jerusalem, they built new streets through the city. Their east-west street ran from the Jaffa Gate to the Temple Mount. Today’s David Street in the Christian Quarter, which continues as the Street of the Chain through the Muslim (Arab) Quarter follows its route. The north-south street ran from the Damascus Gate to the Zion Gate. This Cardo is one of the Jerusalem landmarks shown on the 5th century mosaic map of the Holy Land found on the wall of a church in Medaba, Jordan. 

During the reconstruction of the ruined Jewish Quarter after 1967, the original Roman-Byzantine Cardo was found. Part of it remains open to the air, and several reconstructed Roman columns stand in it. Part of it runs under more recent construction. The old roof was repaired, and new shops were opened within the stone framework of the ancient ones. Much of the pavement is modern. But near the entrance to the roofed Cardo is a wide area where you can see, and walk on, the ancient paving stones. One rainy day I was walking there and saw young children riding their tricycles and bimbas. Their mothers stood nearby, chatting with each other. No doubt they were glad to have  the dry place for their youngsters play outside. The Romans thought they had destroyed the Jewish people when they destroyed the Temple. I wondered, what they would have thought if they could see these Jewish children playing on their street, almost 2000 years later?

In Jerusalem, a secondary Cardo was built in the central valley that separated the Temple Mount from the western hill. The Medaba map clearly shows this street running along the side of Temple Mount. The Byzantines had not been able to rebuild the secondary Cardo. Too many huge boulders lay embedded in it from the earlier Roman destruction of the city.

This street was forgotten, hidden under centuries of other buildings and debris. During the reconstruction of the Jewish quarter after 1967, the archaeologist Roni Reich discovered this secondary Cardo while clearing the Kotel Plaza. But making the Jewish Quarter livable again and constructing homes were higher priority. Although no building was permitted in this area, it was not excavated either. It took 35 years before the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter was ready to allow archaeologists to explore the second Cardo.

Excavated secondary Cardo at back of Kotel Plaza. Photo: Yehudit Reishtein
Excavated secondary Cardo at back of Kotel Plaza. Arches are entrances to what were once small shops..
Photo: Yehudit Reishtein

When the archeologists did start work in the this part of the Kotel Plaza, they found remains and artifacts from the First Temple period through the 12th century. They determined that this part of Jerusalem had been an administrative and commercial center. Government functionaries and merchants worked here long before the Romans came to this side of the Mediterranean, and even before the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem.

 Today, before you can build anything or open a business, you need official approvals at many steps along the way, in the form of stamps and signatures. So it was in ancient times. Their stamps were made of clay, which made an impression on soft wax seals to indicate official approval. These clay stamps are called bullae, and hundreds of them were found in this excavation, primarily in the remains of a four room house built in typical First Temple period style.

When the First Temple stood, Jewish names usually included G-d’s name. Often the name ended with “-el” or “-yahu,” (Hebrew words for G-d), and many of the bullae were inscribed with such names.

Among other artifacts, excavators found a signet ring bearing the name Netanyahu ben Yoash. All artifacts found in archaeological digs belong by law to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), but the authority has lent this ring to the current Prime Minister,   Benjamin

Clay seal from 8th century BCE with name "Netanyahu" in ancient Hebrew writing.  Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority
Clay seal from 8th century BCE with name “Netanyahu” in ancient Hebrew writing. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority

Netanyahu. He is said to keep it with him at all times. When challenged about Jewish rights in Israel, he pulls this bulla from his pocket as proof that Jews lived and worked here in Jerusalem over 2500 years ago. In showing this ring, Netanyahu is not trying to prove that his personal lineage in the land of Israel has been continuous since First Temple times. I’m sure he is well aware that his father changed the family name to Netanyahu. Rather, he is saying that Jews, carrying names that are still used by today’s Israelis, have been present in the land, and particularly in Jerusalem, for all this time.

While walking around the excavated area in the Kotel Plaza, I noticed some round holes in the stone pavement. They were the size of a large mixing bowl or a wash basin. Because they were cut into the stone of the street, they could not have been used for cooking, and because they were open to the air they would not have been used for water storage. I wondered if they had been used for dying cloth, but then rejected the idea. I was about to ask when the guide preempted my question.

“Did you see those round holes full of water? What do you think they are?”

No one answered him.

“These holes are much later than the street itself. They were used for dye. Cloth dying was always a trade practiced by Jews in Jerusalem. When Moses Maimonides came to Jerusalem in the 12th century, the only Jews he found in the city were dyers.”

Despite the Crusaders having banned Jews from the city, two Jewish dyers lived in Jerusalem in the late 1100s. Even in times when the authorities tried to keep Jews away from their holy places, the economic needs of the inhabitants could override their edicts. For the sake of clothes in nice colors, Jewish dyers were allowed to lived and work in Jerusalem.

I have visited the Kotel Plaza at least a hundred times, but I never realized so many additional links to our history were found under and around it. Discovering such unexpected links in what I felt were familiar places is one of the many things I love about living in Jerusalem.