Jericho Tourist Attractions
Descendants of the Mesolithic hunters who had established the sanctuary by the spring at Jericho had made remarkable progress. In the course of a period which Carbon-14 evidence suggests is about a thousand years, they had made the full transition from a wandering to a settled existence in what must have been a community of considerable complexity, for the imposing defenses are evidence of an efficient communal organization ... The earliest villages known elsewhere were dated more than two thousand years later, and the pyramids of Egypt, the first great stone buildings of the Nile valley, are four thousand years younger than the great tower of Jericho" (Kathleen Kenyon).The inhabitants of Jericho in this period had a cult of fertility and of the dead.
They covered the skulls of their dead with a layer of plaster and set them up in their houses (finds in the Rockefeller Museum, Jerusalem, and Archeological Museum, Amman).After the destruction of the town, either by war or in an earthquake, the site was occupied in the sixth millennium B.C. by men of a different race who had mastered the craft of pottery but built very simple houses.In the Chalcolithic period (fifth millennium B.C.) the settlement moved west to the mouth of the Wadi Qilt, perhaps because the spring had altered its position, but it soon returned to the original site. Square houses were now built within a strong outer wall.The period around 2000 B.C. is represented by pottery vessels in the form of human faces. In the Hyksos period (18th-16th century B.C.) a new town wall was built of rammed earth, with a pronounced batter. This town was destroyed about 1400 B.C.The Bible gives a detailed account (Joshua 2-6) of the conquest and destruction of Jericho by the Israelites, coming from east of the Jordan. This event was formerly dated to the 15th century B.C., but the 13th century (the time of Pharaoh Ramesses II) is now considered a more likely date. In the distribution of territory after the Israelites occupied the Promised Land the Jericho area was assigned to the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18,21). In the reign of King Ahab of Israel (ninth century B.C.) the destroyed city was rebuilt. During this period the prophet Elijah and his disciple Elisha came to Jericho (2 Kings 2). Elijah crossed the Jordan, and "there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire. .. and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven" (2 Kings 2,11). Elisha returned to Jericho, where the inhabitants complained that the water of the spring harmed the crops. Then he took some salt and "went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land. So the waters were healed unto this day" (2 Kings 2,20-22). Accordingly the spring is known as Elisha's Spring.In 586 B.C. the Babylonians held the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, who had fled from Jerusalem, as a prisoner in Jericho, blinded him and carried him off to exile in Babylon (2 Kings 25,7). During the Persian period the tell of Jericho was once again abandoned as it had been in the fifth millennium. After 332 B.C. the Hellenistic city of Jericho was built farther south, at the mouth of the Wadi Qilt. In 161 B.C. it was captured by the Maccabees. In 30 B.C. Octavian (the future Emperor Augustus) gave the oasis to Herod, who made it his winter residence, built the fortress of Cyprus (named after his mother) to defend it and died here in 4 B.C. His body was then conveyed in a splendid cortege to the Herodeion.When Jesus was traveling for the last time from Galilee through the Jordan valley to Jerusalem he was hailed near Jericho by two blind men as "Son of David". He restored their sight, and "they followed him" (Matthew 20,30-34).The Hellenistic/Herodian city of Jericho was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. Later a settlement grew up on the site of the present town, to the southeast of the tell. A number of churches and a synagogue have been identified as dating from the Byzantine period. A new era began in 634 with the Arab conquest. The Omayyad Caliphs, ruling from Damascus, built a fortress and a mosque, and in 724 Caliph Hisham built a palace (Khirbet el-Mafyar). Thereafter Jericho gradually lost importance, declining into a modest village.Under the British Mandate, between the two world wars, the old Roman road through the Wadi Qilt was replaced by a modern road from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea and Jericho. In 1940 the town had a population of 4000, who gained their living from the sale of bananas and citrus fruits grown in the oasis. The population has now risen to 7,000.The townJericho is located on the West Bank and has seen some political upheavel in the first decade of the 21st Century. Thanks to its abundant springs of fresh water it is surrounded by lush green vegetation. The main street is lined by garden restaurants.
Some 2.5km/1.5mi northwest of Jericho's central square, opposite Elisha's Spring (also known as the Sultan's Spring, Ain es-Sultan), is the tell which marks the site of ancient Jericho. Archeological investigation of the site began in 1860, but at first was unrewarding (in his test dig Charles Warren just missed a stone tower). In 1906-07 Sellin and Watzinger continued the work, but no major successes were achieved until the British excavations of 1930-31. The thorough investigations of Kathleen Kenyon in the 1950s marked an important step forward.On the tell of Jericho, standing 21m/69ft high and covering an area of 40,000sq.m/44,000sq.yd, Kathleen Kenyon identified 23 occupation levels. The oldest traces of human settlement date from around 8000 B.C. To the ordinary visitor the remains of this early period in human history will not appear particularly sensational. The most noticeable feature is the broad trench which the archaeologists cut through the hill in order to investigate the various occupation levels down to undisturbed soil. In the trench can be seen remains of the Neolithic town of around 7000 B.C., consisting of a section of the town wall and the 9m/30ft high round tower built against it. On the east side can be seen the entrance leading to the 22 steps of a spiral staircase and an opening higher up.To the north of this Kathleen Kenyon found a shrine of the Mesolithic nomads, dating from about 8000 B.C.
This 8th C palace was only occupied for 22 years before it was destroyed by an earthquake. It was excavated in the 1930s.
Going north from Elisha's Spring in Jericho and in 1km/0.75mile turning right into an avenue of cypresses, we come to a house which has in the cellar a mosaic pavement from a synagogue of the Byzantine period (fifth-sixth century). In the center is a medallion containing a menorah, a palm branch, a ram's horn and the Hebrew inscription "Shalom al Israel" ("Peace for Israel").
Mount of Temptation
Northwest of Old Jericho is a prominent hill, known to the Arabs as Qarantal, which Christian tradition identifies as the Mount of Temptation, on which Jesus fasted after being baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist and was tempted by the devil: "If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4,1-4).In 340 St Chariton built a chapel on the summit of the hill, and another was built by the cave in which Jesus sheltered. The Greek Orthodox church acquired the site in 1875, and in 1895 built the Sarandarion monastery (a name which refers to the forty days of Jesus's fast) half way up the hill. From the monastery a steep path runs up to the summit, on which are the remains of St Chariton's chapel and the Hasmonean fortress of Dok (views).
2.5km/1.5mi west of Jericho, at the point where the Wadi Qilt enters the Jordan plain, recent excavations by Yehud Netzer have brought to light a large palace which shows clear signs of Hellenistic influence. It is thought to have been built by the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 B.C.) and to have been occupied by the last Hasmonean rulers and then by Herod, who enlarged and embellished it and died there. While the palace at Masada was intended rather as a private residence this palace was designed for official and state occasions.The palace stood in a park laid out with terraces and water channels and was built on a symmetrical plan round a spacious courtyard. Among the structures identified are a large audience chamber, rooms decorated with frescoes, Roman baths and Jewish ritual baths. The most striking feature, however, is a large swimming pool measuring 32m/105ft by 18m/60ft and 4m/13ft deep which Netzer believes was the bath in which Herod had his 18-year-old brother-in-law Aristobulus drowned, only a year after he himself had appointed him high priest (Flavius Josephus, I,22,2). Soon afterwards he also caused his wife Mariamne, a Hasmonean princess and Aristobulus's sister, to be killed.