September 2, 2013 1 Comment
August 28, 2013 1 Comment
Those of us who seek to understand the meaning of the Bible strongly believe in interpreting a passage in its context. But context is more than words. When one reads the Bible, it becomes clear how geography is the stage on which the redemptive narrative takes place.
The land God chose was not arbitrary, for He designed even the land itself to develop the spiritual lives of His people. The land was never intended to be just a place to live…
Read rest at Wayne Stiles here.
August 27, 2013 2 Comments
The new Mayor of the city of Rome, Ignazio Marino, just announced his intention to destroy one of the city’s central roads, the Via dei Fori Imperiali, and turn the area around the old Roman Forum into the world’s largest archaeological park. Reactions have ranged from commuters’ groans to declarations from classicists that this single act proves the nobility of the human species.
This curious range of reactions seems the perfect moment for me to discuss something I have intended to talk about for some time: the shape of the City of Rome itself. We all know the long, rich history of the Roman people, and the city’s importance as the center of an empire, and thereafter as the center of the memory of that empire, whose echo, long after its end, still so defines Western concepts of power, authority and peace. What I intend to discuss instead is the geographic city, and how its shape and layers grew gradually and constantly, shaped by famous events, but also by the centuries you won’t hear much about in a traditional history of the city. The different parts of Rome’s past left their fingerprints on the city’s shape in far more direct ways than one tends to realize, even from visiting and walking through the city. Rome’s past shows not only in her monuments and ruins, but in the very layout of the streets themselves…
It’s a fascinating and informative post.
December 24, 2012 Leave a comment
Ferrell Jenkins has some good news on and for Israel:
Having watched the rise and fall of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) over a period of 45 years, it is exciting to learn that winter storms have pushed the lake to the sharpest December rise in 20 years.
According to an article in Haaretz the lake “is expected to have risen 26 centimeters [9.84"] since heavy rains began Thursday, it sharpest December rise in 20 years. [1991 and 1992]“
As a result of the increased flow in northern streams, the Kinneret’s water level rose sharply, reaching 212.07 meters [695.77 feet] below sea level Saturday morning.
And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. (Matthew 14:34 ESV)
Rain also fell as far south as Ashdod and Kiryat Gat, “but failed to affect the Negev this time.” This reminds us of the days of the Patriarchs whose lives were often disrupted by lack of rain in the Negev.
According to the report, almost 20 inches of snow has fallen on Mount Hermon.
Geographer Carl Rasmussen says,
All of us who have traveled in Israel and the surrounding countries are well-aware of the importance of the winter rains for the well-being of the inhabitants of the area, local agriculture, and the water supply in general.
July 28, 2012 Leave a comment
The map, sketched by a German tourist in 1823, is considered to be the second modern map of the city; ‘It replicates the boundaries and key structures with precision,’ says Israeli historical geographer.
A map of Jerusalem that was drafted some 190 years ago by a German tourist was recently unearthed by two researchers – one Israeli, the other German – in an archive in Berlin. The map, sketched by hand in 1823, was discovered in the course of a study conducted in tandem by Israeli researchers and scholars at the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, in Leipzig, Germany.
The study, funded by the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development, is intended to conduct a profound reappraisal of the cartography of 19th-century Palestine between the years 1830-1880.
The rediscovered map is highly significant. “It was sketched by hand by a German tourist named Westphal, who arrived in Jerusalem for a visit in 1823,” Prof. Chaim Goren, a historical geographer at the Tel Hai Academic College, told Haaretz. Goren is conducting the study together with Prof. Rehav Rubin of the Hebrew University and scholars from the German institute, including Dr. Bruno Schelhaas.
“We know that additional maps were subsequently drafted on the basis of this one and that numerous research studies of the history of Jerusalem, conducted by scholars all over the world, relied on them,” explains Goren.
Maps are an important basis for every research study, Goren notes. In the history of the cartography of Israel, the mapping of Jerusalem holds a special place, given the city’s holiness and meaning to the three major monotheistic religions. “The development of cartography began with imaginary maps that showed the city in the mind’s eye and perspective of the mapmaker. Later, these maps became realistic maps, which are based mainly on compilation – the compiling of material from various sources, such as textual accounts, graphic depictions and so on,” he says.
The more advanced stage is represented by the survey maps, which rely on the execution of measurements by means of various devices. In the 19th century, these devices were primitive and very simple, but during the 20th century they became more sophisticated. It was not until the end of the second decade of the 19th century that the scientific mapping of Jerusalem began. It was based on exact geographic and topographic data, and on trigonometric calculations and measurements.
“The first survey map of Jerusalem known to scholars was drafted in 1818 by the physician and naturalist Franz Wilhelm Sieber. Prof. Yehoshua Ben-Arieh was among the first scholars to write about these maps,” says Goren.
Aside from this initial map, scholars were aware of another map that was sketched in 1823, according to which later maps were drawn. However, the 1823 map has only now come to light.
In the framework of the current research project, Goren met several months ago with Schelhaas at the map archive of the University of Berlin, where hundreds of thousands of maps have only recently been catalogued.
“It took quite a few years to consolidate and catalogue the two map collections, one of which had been in eastern Berlin and the other at the university in western Berlin,” says Goren. “We sat for weeks on end and studied all of the maps that might have been related to Palestine in general and to Jerusalem specifically, when suddenly we found six sketches done by this same Westphal, drafted in his handwriting. They included the Old City, its division into quarters, the important structures, holy sites, etc.”
“When you’re sitting in an archive, you just pounce on things like this. You’re looking at thousands of items, and you have to be patient and have to love what you’re doing. In the end, the 1001st item gives you what you were looking for.”
The map is drafted on A5 greaseproof paper. It correctly and precisely reflects the boundaries of the city, the correct outline of the city’s walls and the location of the key structures,” says Goren. “This map constitutes a very important – and until now, unknown – stage in the history of cartographic research of Jerusalem,” he concludes.
May 14, 2012 2 Comments
If you keep a sharp eye open as you drive the world’s lowest road, along the Israeli side of the Dead Sea, you may spot a short black line painted on a cliff face some feet above your head. It was made a century ago by British geographers, floating on a boat on the sea’s surface, to mark its level at the time.
But if you then turn, as I did this week, to look for the present-day sea, you’ll only spot it far beneath you, at the bottom of another cliff. For its level has since fallen by more than 80 feet, mainly over the past few decades.
At the same time the sea more here.
March 23, 2012 Leave a comment
On the Bible Places blog:
The best maps for detailed work in historical geography of Israel are the 1:50,000 series published by the Survey of Israel and the Survey of Western Palestine maps produced in the 1880s by the Palestine Exploration Fund. The first set comprises 20 maps and the second 16 (only going as far south as Beersheba), indicating the level of detail involved. Maps in the first set cost about $20 each and the second set costs in the thousands of dollars in the rare event that one comes on the market. In order to gain access to the Survey of Western Palestine, when one went on the market for sale in Germany some years ago, we purchased it and “shared the cost” by making an electronic version available.
An excellent new resource is available that combines the two maps in a single (free) website entitled amud anan (“pillar of cloud”). You can navigate on either map and then toggle to the other to see the land 130 years earlier (or later). The differences are dramatic. In addition, a “3D” option overlaps the maps on Google Earth topography so that the hills and valleys look like hills and valleys.
The 1:50,000 maps are in Hebrew. If you need to use detailed maps of Israel, and you don’t think you need to know Hebrew for anything else, these maps provide sufficient justification to learn the alphabet. (It really doesn’t take that long; there are only 22 letters and everything is phonetic.)
With a a tablet and a good internet connection (or with purchase of the iPad app; Android coming), hiking in Israel may never be the same!
Northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, Survey of Western Palestine sheet 6