Fed by abundant springs and close to the Dead Sea, Jericho is probably the oldest city in the ancient world, with archaeological discoveries on the tel going back between eight and ten thousand years. The readily available fruit of the oasis tempted the ancient nomadic hunter to settle. Trading the salt, without which man cannot live, from the Dead Sea provided a source of wealth.
More than three thousand years ago, after leaving Egypt and spending forty years in the desert the children of Israel were led across the Jordan river by Joshua at Gilgal. “On the seventh day … they compassed the city seven times … the priests blew their horns … the people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down flat”. (Josh. 6:1-21)
Pre-historic burial tombs were discovered during the excavations in the ancient tel of Jericho but most of the architectural remains, the foundation of an impressive wall as well as a pagan temple area, have not been conclusively dated. Close to the tel is the Spring of Elisha, where he sweetened the bitter water of Jericho. (II Kings 2ff)
Centuries later , after the destruction of the tel, the city moved to its present place. Then as now, on the journey from the Galilee to Jerusalem one would have passed through Jericho. Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector of Jericho, who was short, climbed a sycamore tree to be able to see Jesus as he was passing through Jericho. (Luke 19:1-8).
Towering over Jericho is the Mount of Temptation where Jesus was tempted by Satan. (Mat 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13). A short cable car ride brings one to the summit close to the Qarantal monastery. Originally caves used by hermits the present monastery was built at the end of the nineteenth century and is home to a few monks.
Not far are the excavated remains of Hasmonean, Herodian and Omyyad palaces and the “Shalom al Israel” (peace on Israel) synagogue.
Text content copyrights: Bein Harim Ltd., Beryl Ratzer (www.ratzer.com)
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