Two fascinating new books about Jerusalem
Adventure in the City of David
By Ahron Horovitz
Megalim and Maggid Books, 2015, 200 pages
Although this exceptionally beautiful book was designed for youngsters, the book should be read by people of all ages and religions, for the book teaches many things about Jerusalem that most people do not know, information they will appreciate knowing. The format of the book, the easy to read writing, and the many pictures and diagrams make this book one that is not only a joy to read, but also a splendid book that can be given as a gift.
There are at least three Jerusalem sites: the city that King David conquered and established as the capital of Israel some 4,000 years ago, the city that was destroyed together with the second temple in the year 70, and the current large city of Jerusalem. Ahron Horovitz, the head of Israel’s Ministry of Tourism School for Tour Guides and the author of several books on ancient and modern Jerusalem, focuses on the City of David in this volume.
Among much else, readers will learn:
- The City of David was captured by King David from the Jebusites for political reasons. He wanted to establish his capital in an area that did not belong to any of the twelve tribes so that each tribe could relate to it.
- When the Israelites entered Canaan, as Israel was called at that time, none of the twelve tribes were able to capture Jerusalem from the Jebusites because it was so well fortified.
- David had to find a way that others could not think of to conquer the city, and the book tells us how he accomplished this unusual feat.
- Yoav ben Zeruiah was the first person of David’s army to enter Jerusalem and was made a commander because of his bravery.
- The City of David was named after him because of this feat.
- The City of David is not in the current city of Jerusalem.
- Archeologists are digging in the City of David and have discovered many ancient items, including coins, arrow-heads, and a bell that was probably from the gown worn by Israel’s ancient High Priest.
- One of the problems facing David’s new capital was that the city itself had no springs or other water supply within the city itself. The spring was outside the city wall. So, both during the time of David and afterwards, the City’s leadership has to assure that if the city was besieged and its citizens could not leave the city to obtain water, they could go to the spring through an underground tunnel. The description of the long tunnel and how it was constructed is fascinating. For example, one group started the digging from one end and another group stated from the other end and, almost miraculously, the two groups met. Scholars do not know how they were able to do it.
- The small, poor City of David, where Jerusalem started, was covered over by debris from various wars and was found in 1867 by Captain Charles Warren sent to Israel by a British group.
- The story of the conquest of the City of David is told in two biblical books.
- The “old” city walls of Jerusalem were built by Suleiman the Magnificent the sultan (king) of the Ottoman Empire from 1520 to 1566. The Western Wall is not part of the ancient temple, but a wall designed to hold-off enemy attackers. The part of the Western Wall used for prayer is 57 meters long, but the entire western wall is 488 meters.
A Temple in Flames
By Gershon bar-Cochva and Ahron Horovitz
Megalim and Maggid Books, 2014, 142 pages
This is an easy to read comprehensive epic story of the Israel’s final battle from 66 to 70 to save Jerusalem from Roman invaders. The two authors are experts in their field. Gershon Bar-Cochva is a military historian specializing in the study of the ancient Roman army, especially how the Roman army waged war against the Jews and how the Jews defended themselves. Ahron Horovitz is the head of Israel’s Ministry of Tourism School for Tour Guides and the author of several books on ancient and modern Jerusalem and knows Israel and its history well. The book is filled with diagrams making the story clear as well as short biographies of people involved in the war, and pictures of various parts of Jerusalem and its temple that were attacked, of Roman war equipment, and much else, including the following:
- The book tells the 130 year history how the Romans annexed and controlled Judea (Israel) from the year 63 BCE when the famed Roman general Pompey forced Israel to accept as king the man Pompey wanted as their leader until the year 73 when Israel’s last stronghold, Masada fell. During this period, from 63 BCE until 6 CE, Judea was a “client state” of Rome, which meant that its leaders had to do what Rome dictated. From 6 CE until 41, Judea was ruled by a series of seven Roman praefects, for three years by a Jewish king, then from 44 to 70 by a series of seven Roman procurators. The fourteen praefects and procurators treated the Jews very badly.
- The story of these years is in several sources, including Josephus’ History, the Talmud, and several Roman sources. The authors state that although Josephus’ History is very detailed, it is not always correct, and they explain why this is so.
- Josephus was a general at the outset of the rebellion against Roman tyranny, but he was captured early in the war and accompanied the Roman army and saw all that occurred.
- The Romans were able to beat the Jews because of violent internal struggles between various Jewish groups that killed one another and that made it impossible for the Jews to consolidate and fight the Romans.
- Nevertheless, the Jews defeated the first Roman army sent against them to quell the rebellion.
- The Roman emperor Nero felt he had to send a more experienced general against the Jews, but he was afraid that if he sent a person with noble blood and this general succeeded in winning against the Jews, he might try to wrest the crown from him. So he chose Vespasian. Vespasian began the battle, but when Nero died, Vespasian was made emperor.
- Vespasian appointed his son Titus general over the invading Roman forces even though Titus lacked military skills because he felt, like Nero, that if he selected another person as general, this man might usurp his crown. Vespasian made Tiberius Julius Alexander, the scion of an Alexandrian Jewish family, Titus’ advisor. Titus did not always listen to Tiberius and was almost killed a couple of times by Jews when he made mistakes.
- After winning his war against Judea, Titus marched home to Rome with many Jewish prisoners. He amused himself during his journey with two public games in which some 5,000 Jewish prisoners were forced to fight wild animals or to fight against each other.
- Vespasian died in 79 CE, nine years after the destruction of the temple, and his eldest son Titus was crowned emperor. Soon after his coronation, a huge fire broke out in Rome, the city burned for three days, many Romans died, and the large temple of Jupiter was destroyed. This was followed by a plague that killed more Romans. Four months after Titus was crowned, Mount Vesuvius erupted and wiped out the city of Pompeii, which was named after the general who began controlling Judea in 63 BCE.
- Titus died two years after succeeding his father in the same farmhouse where his father died. He was 42 years old.
- On May 14, 1948, the day that David Ben-Gurion declared the founding of the State of Israel, the Jewish community of Rome, led by the chief rabbi of Rome, marched through the Arch of Titus in the opposite direction than that of their ancestors, away from Rome, in the direction toward Israel, to signify the reversal of Jewish history and the return of Jews to their homeland which was once again under Jewish control.