Dung gate

So picture this:
You are a guide in Israel and you stop with your group to catch your breath and you lean on a piece of a column jutting out of the ground and suddenly …..What is this thing? And again, suddenly it becomes a really big deal with archeological and political ramifications.
And that is what happened recently in the tiny Arab village of Silwan.
So Silwan aka as the city of David,, is again a center of attention with the recent discovery of an impressive ancient column jutting out of the ground.
It is thought that, when the dirt is cleared, it will lead down to the foundations of, and perhaps even more of, a structure of some importance. As often is the case, political sensitivities play an important role.
This would be  an Israeli led archeological dig. The discovery is on privately owned Palestinian land.
So when or if this new find is excavated remains to be seen and the Israeli’s are shushing up the matter hoping to keep a lid on it as they try to negotiate its uncovering with the Arab land owners. .Also a case of follow the money i would assume.
The location of this find is quite significant.

Kedron valley excavations

Much excavation is taking place in Israel


Silwan is an nondescript Arab village that clings to the sides of the Kedron Valley to the south of the present Old City walls of Jerusalem, extending from the Dung Gate where people now enter to visit the wailing or Western wall of Temple Mount, south, into the Kedron valley and the excavations of the ancient city of David.

One could make the case that Silwan is part of the remains of David’s ancient capital beginning about 1000 BC.
It was to this place David first brought the Ark of the Covenant. And this is where it was stored until his son Solomon built the 1st temple to the north on the plateau of Mount Moriah. So for Old Testament scholars this is sacred ground

In the area of Silwan is the Pool of Siloam where Jesus brought sight to the blind man by spitting in the dirt and putting the mud on the man’s eyes. He told him to “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam” Also see my blog about Hezekiah’s marvelous tunnel. Fascinating story.
This is also where David, 3100 years ago, first captured the then Jebusite city which became his capital . The nearby Gihon Spring is probably where David planted his gardens and it still yields fruit. Remember when you read about water and Jerusalem in the Old Testament it is probably refering to this same spring that continues to pump out water today
Also this is where King David, the first King of Israel, was finally buried.

So this discovery could be of major importance, but we will just have to wait as politics plays out its role and we probably get, to follow the money, as they say.

But now, a more personal story about Silwan that might interest you.
Ali has been my taxi driver for more than 40 years. He is a rotund little arab man who, when I first met him, was not a very good Muslim.
He favored Araq, a popular local liquor too much, and we used to tease him when he appeared to be in his cups, with ”Ali drinks too much Arak”. To which he would remonstrate “No, No, Ali not guilty”
In more recent years, Ali has gotten serious about life and Allah. He has now gone to Mecca and so is now called Haj and now refuses to drink Araq …….unless, that is, he has back slidden since I last saw him.

Ali lived and still lives in Silwan in a humble little mud walled home with his plump little wife and, probably now, grandchildren.
About 40 years ago, Judy and I were accorded the honor of being invited to have dinner in their home and we went, not quite knowing what to expect.
As I recall there were 2 small rooms sparsely furnished. In the one there was a small kitchen table with oil skin on top and with a sheet of clean butcher’s paper and on that paper was the full carcass of a roasted lamb. Three kitchen chairs were available. . Knives and forks were not provided or expected. Around the corner just out of sight in the other room sat his little wife cross legged on the dirt floor as we ate.
She did not join us nor was she expected to do so.
The meal began with Ali bringing a cleaver to the table and beginning to chop up the carcass with the fat flying in all directions, Judy reminded me.
It was a meal to be remembered. Culture shock. .
But it was an act of friendship and respect that we sincerely appreciated. Difficult for Judy as she does not like to think of where meat comes from and prefers to think of it as falling off a tree rather from a living creature. There was no escaping the fact that we were then consuming an animal that some hours ago had walked around.

Flash forward 40 years. By contrast I had dinner February in the lovely home of Bethlehem’s George Nissan who owns a large restaurant where we take our groups to eat and a large shop. It too was a meal to be remembered but for a different reason.
The Arabs are beautiful and hospitable people who treasure friendships whether they are affluent or struggling.

Herod built things to last

The huge stones at the base of the western wall of the temple mount were placed there by Herod the Great at the time of Jesus

We appreciated Ali’s hospitality as it was important for him to offer this gesture. But, as I stated,  it was a struggle for Judy to eat the lamb as it looked too much like an animal, and besides, that was all that was on the table. No salad or vegies or anything else. Just the lamb.
Well, we got it down. What else we could do?

We thanked our sweet hosts profusely and stored this tale up so that I could share it with you here and now.
Travel to other cultures sure does broaden our understanding of the world. Everybody does not live like we do in America. For some first time travelers to the Holy Land this comes as a bit of a shock.

Dr. Robert Grant has been traveling to the Holy land for more than 46 years and has gone there on more than 125 occasions as he hosts groups of friends on holy land tours. As a result he has also been dubbed  “The Holy land Guru”

written  6/24/13