Fr Stephen Smuts

Posts Tagged ‘Jerusalem

Hoard of Jewish Revolt Coins Discovered Near Jerusalem

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The World of the Bible:

On the outskirts of Jerusalem, near the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway, Israel Antiquities Authorities (IAA) archaeologists uncovered a trove of bronze coins dating back to the Year Four of the Jewish Revolt against Rome (around 70 AD). The hoard appears to have been buried only a few months before the fall of Jerusalem, perhaps by someone who anticipated the imminent turmoil of the region. A total of 114 coins was found. Each of the coins is decorated on one side with a chalice and the inscription “To the Redemption of Zion” in Hebrew, and on the other side with palm branches and citrons, as well as the Hebrew inscription “Year Four.” The coins could have been a form of pro-rebellion propaganda. The palm trees stamped on the coins, for instance, symbolize the land of Israel. The site of the discovery, today known as Hirbet Mazruk, used to be a Jewish stronghold during the Revolt, and as a result was entirely destroyed by the Romans.

For more information:


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

August 10, 2014 at 15:39

Dedication of the Holy Sepulchre: First and Foremost a Place of Worship

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From the Custos earlier this week:

Every fifteenth of July the Diocese of Jerusalem commemorates the day that the Crusaders’ Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre was consecrated as a religious building. In the same way as the Church joins together every November 9th to celebrate the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, all the parishes and Catholic communities present in the Holy Land celebrate the Dedication of the Holy Sepulchre. As mass is sung daily by the Franciscans in front of Christ’s tomb in the small hours of the morning, the Latin Church of Jerusalem joined the conventual community to celebrate this anniversary.

The dedication goes back to the year 1149, when the Crusaders consecrated the altar and sprinkled holy water in the newly rebuilt basilica. As Fra Stéphane reminds us, “We are not celebrating the glory of the Crusades. When the Franciscans came here in the 14th century and began to serve in the Holy Sepulchre, they were inserted into the country with their own values and ways of behaving: respect for others, dialogue and perseverance. This dedication recalls the primary purpose of the basilica—celebrating worship, a worship to which all the Christians in the world are invited.”

The Custos of the Holy Land being on a pastoral visit to Syria and Cyprus at the moment, the Custodial Vicar, Fra Dobromir Jasztal, officiated for the celebration. In his homily, Fra Dobromir recalled that over the centuries there have been several dedications. Orthodox Christians commemorate, for example, the dedication of the Byzantine basilica by Constantine on September 14th. “Several dedications, several basilicas, but only one tomb and one mystery; that is the essence,” he declared. Pilgrim or parishioner, everyone who prays at the Holy Sepulchre becomes a “witness of the Resurrection,” he concluded.

This mystery of the Lord is celebrated every day in the Holy Sepulchre in different languages and according to different rites, as defined in the Status Quo of 1842. The worship is sometimes “inconvenient” or at least surprising to the crowd of impatient pilgrims waiting to enter the tomb who quickly move to one or another of the chapels or simply remain in place in pious silence. This Dedication of the Holy Sepulchre reminds us that public worship takes priority over the private desires of individuals: a precious time of encounter in the place where God renewed his covenant with his people.

… public worship takes priority over the private desires of individuals.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

July 18, 2014 at 11:12

Temple Mount Flyover

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While flying over the Old City of Jerusalem is not allowed, permission for this video was granted and done by a remote control helicopter. It is slow, but really nice.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

July 17, 2014 at 16:49

‘Extraordinarily Rare’ Crusade-Era Seal Discovered in Jerusalem

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Discovery News reports on the find:

A rare Crusade-era lead seal used to secure a letter was uncovered in an ancient farmstead in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced today (May 27).

The 800-year-old seal was likely once fixed to a document delivered to the farm from a sprawling cliffside monastery in the Judean Desert that was founded by Saint Sabas (“Mar Saba” in Aramaic) and once housed hundreds of monks.

“This is an extraordinarily rare find, because no such seal has ever been discovered to date,” Benyamin Storchan and Benyamin Dolinka, excavation directors from the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a statement.

This type of ancient seal was also known as a bulla in Latin. It consisted of two blank lead disks that would have been hammered together with a string between them. Opening the letter would cause obvious damage to the bulla, which was intended to discourage unauthorized people from breaking the seal.

One side of the seal bears the image of the bearded Byzantine-era Saint Sabas, who is wearing a himation (essentially a Greek version of a toga), brandishing a cross in his right hand and perhaps holding a copy of the gospel in his left hand. The other side of the seal is etched with a Greek inscription, translated as: “This is the seal of the Laura of the Holy Sabas.” (The monastery was also called the “Great Laura” of Mar Saba. A laura, or lavra, is a type of Orthodox Christian monastery that has a cluster of caves for hermit monks.)

“The Mar Saba monastery apparently played an important role in the affairs of the Kingdom of Jerusalem during the Crusader period, maintaining a close relationship with the ruling royal family,” Robert Kool, a researcher with the Israel Antiquities Authority who examined the seal, said in a statement. “The monastery had numerous properties, and this farm may have been part of the monastery’s assets during the Crusader period.”

The seal was uncovered during excavations in 2012 in southwestern Jerusalem’s Bayit VeGan quarter. The farm site was established during the Byzantine period (5th–6th centuries A.D.) and resettled during the Crusader period (11th–12th centuries A.D.).

A document in the archives of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem refers to a farming settlement known as Thora that was sold to the Mar Saba monastery in 1163–1164. The location of that farm was lost to history, but the Mar Saba seal could link the recently excavated farm to Thora, explained Storchan and Dolinka in a statement.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

May 28, 2014 at 21:43

Palestine 1896

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Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

February 24, 2014 at 15:31

Ancient Rural Town Uncovered in Israel

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On the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Main Entry Image

… archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 2,300-year-old rural village that dates back to the Second Temple period, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced.

Trenches covering some 8,000 square feet (750 square meters) revealed narrow alleys and a few single-family stone houses, each containing several rooms and an open courtyard. Among the ruins, archaeologists also found dozens of coins, cooking pots, milling tools and jars for storing oil and wine.

“The rooms generally served as residential and storage rooms, while domestic tasks were carried out in the courtyards,” Irina Zilberbod, the excavation director for the IAA, explained in a statement.

Archaeologists don’t know what the town would have been called in ancient times, but it sits near the legendary Burma Road, a route that allowed supplies and food to flow into Jerusalem during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The rural village located on a ridge with a clear view of the surrounding countryside, and people inhabiting the region during the Second Temple period likely cultivated orchards and vineyards to make a living, IAA officials said.

The Second Temple period (538 B.C. to A.D. 70) refers to the lifetime of the Jewish temple that was built on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount to replace the First Temple after it was destroyed. Archaeological evidence suggests this provincial village hit its peak during the third century B.C., when Judea was under the control of the Seleucid monarchy after the breakup of Alexander the Great’s empire. Residents seem to have abandoned the town at the end of the Hasmonean dynasty — when Herod the Great came into power in 37 B.C. — perhaps to chase better job opportunities in the city amid an economic downturn.

“The phenomenon of villages and farms being abandoned at the end of the Hasmonean dynasty or the beginning of Herod the Great’s succeeding rule is one that we are familiar with from many rural sites in Judea,” archaeologist Yuval Baruch explained in a statement. “And it may be related to Herod’s massive building projects in Jerusalem, particularly the construction of the Temple Mount, and the mass migration of villagers to the capital to work on these projects.”

The discovery was made during a salvage excavation ahead of a construction project that began last year; a 21-mile-long (35 kilometers) gas pipeline was supposed to run through the site, but engineering plans were revised to go around the ruins, IAA officials said. Salvage excavations are common in Israel to avoid building over ancient sites. For instance, remarkably well-preserved Byzantine church mosaics were recently revealed ahead of the construction of a park, and an ancient Roman road connecting Jerusalem to Jaffa was uncovered ahead of the installation of a drainage pipe.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

February 18, 2014 at 21:40

How to Take a Virtual Tour of Jerusalem Using Google Maps

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Wayne Stiles has a helpful look.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

February 12, 2014 at 13:42


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