Day 9 on our itinerary was a “Free Day” with no scheduled tours. Our tour guide had the day off and offered anyone interested a several-hour walking tour to places in Jerusalem we had not yet visited. Hubby and I jumped at this opportunity.
Our guide took us first to view some tombs from the first temple period. Seven caves were found at this site. From the information plaque:
“Seven burial caves from the late First Temple period were found at the site. The caves, which were hewn into the cliff above which the Scottish Church of St. Andrew was built, were found partially destroyed by later quarrying. All the caves were hewn into hard limestone and were meticulously designed… These caves were intended for family burials over a number of generations.
“… High burial benches on which the deceased were laid were cut into the walls. Raised headrests were carved into some of the benches. Spaces were hewn under some of the benches to serve as repositories for bones that had been collected in order to make room for the newly deceased.”
Because valuables were often buried with the deceased, these graves were the target of robbers. Treasures they missed were two tiny rolled up silver scrolls meant to be worn as amulets. As per the information plaque:
“After the scrolls were unrolled, it emerged that they were made of pure silver, measured 27 x 97 mm and 11 x 39 mm, and had been incised with inscriptions in early Hebrew made by a sharp delicate instrument. Both plaques bore versions of the biblical priestly blessing (Numbers 5:24-26), attesting to the fact that this blessing was familiar in the First Temple period (the seventh century BCE).
“The Priestly blessing … is the oldest biblical text, dating from the late First Temple period (the seventh and early sixth centuries BCE).
We passed a striking fountain: the Loewen Brunnen Fountain.
The Jewish banker and philanthropist, Moses Montefiore built this windmill in 1857 to serve as a flour mill. Three years later a Jewish neighbourhood came into existence here. Today the windmill is a small museum dedicated to Montefiore’s achievements.
We walked through a picturesque Jewish neighbourhood.
From here we walked into the Old City where we passed through the Armenian Quarter and into the Jewish Quarter.
The Jewish Quarter is relatively new. It was sacked by the Arabs in 1948 when Jewish homes and synagogues were destroyed. Israel retook it during the Six Day War in 1967. The map and large mosaic murals have been created since then, as a representation of the Jewish Quarter’s life and commerce from past times.
Our guide took us finally to a section of the Jerusalem where a portion of the city wall built by Hezekiah has been unearthed. If only stones could talk!