Saturday, April 18, 2015

Jerusalem in Judah's Judean Hills of Judea, Plains and It's History

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                  

Judea and Samaria;  the so called West Bank.  The tribe of Judah lived in the southern part of Israel, and broke off from it after King Solomon died as the state of Judah.  Romans called it Judea.  Through Israel and Judah one can see the Judean Hills.  This is the mountainous region of the central part of the land.  They were fertile and held many people in biblical days.  One can understand this, since the higher up one goes, the cooler the temperature is, and Israel is in a hot climate. During the 2nd Temple days, rabbinic studies were pursued in the Academy, another term for the University, a school of higher Jewish learning.  After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, they became the central authority of the Jewish people who remained.
The hills  were neglected and suffered severely from soil erosion after the Jews were taken away forcefully or scattered after 70 CE.  However, the 1st Academy founded after 70 CE was that set up by Johanan ben Zakkai at Jabneh (Jabneel) in Judah south of Jaffa.  It had been used as a barrier against Philistine expansion earlier.  . Zakkai  set the Academy up with a group of scholars and reestablished the  Great Sanhedrin which  sat in Jabneh until the Bar Kokhba revolt.  .  Later, others sprang up under the leadership of great scholars, such as that at Lydda which had been built by the tribe of Benjamin and became part of Judah in 145 BCE,  under Eliezer Ben Hyycanus, and that at Pekiin in Upper Galilee (Baka)  under Joshua Ben Hananiah.

 Pekiin was where Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai and his son Eleazar hid from the Romans in a cave for 13 years.  According to local tradition, the Jews of Pekiin never left their village and continued to live there from the times of the 2nd Temple; unbroken residence certain from the 16th century.  Population in 1990 was 3,400 mostly Druze and some Arab Christian and only one Jewish family left.  After Bar Kokhba's rebellion in 132-135 CE and the catastrophic decline in the population of Judea, the center of Jewish learning had moved north, to the Galilee. Again, they may have enjoyed the cool breezes there as the elevation was higher.

 The central school of authority was moved to Usha, where the pupils of Rabbi Akiva were the majority. It was near Haifa.  A synod was held here where far-reaching legislation was enacted.  It was also for a time the seat of the Sanhedrin.  It's Academy was led by distinguished scholars including Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yose ha-Gelili.  A modern settlement was founded in 1937 by Zionist youth.  By 1990 the population was 393.   Later it moved to Shepharam,  in Lower Galilee where Druze and Christian Arabs live today.  In the 2nd century CE it was the seat of the Sanhedrin under Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi.
The Crusaders fortified the town with a fortress, and later it was Saladin's base in his siege of Acre. Then the Sanhedrin moved to Bet Shearim which was a spiritual center in 170 CE when Judah Ha-Nasi transferred his academy and Sanhedrin there from Shepharam.  He was buried there which was a central burial -place for Jews from the Diaspora as well as from Palestine. The new building there is 3 miles from the ancient site now in the western valley of Jeezreel, founded in 1936 with a population in 1990 of 383,  and finally moved to Sepphoris in the Galilee, capital in late 2nd Temple times.  Sepphoris's population favored peace with the Romans and surrendered in 67 CE.  It was the seat of the patriarchate from Ha-Nasi until its removal to Tiberias in the 3rd century.    It was here that Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi compiled  the Mishnah.  After he died, the center moved to Tiberias which remained the chief school of Jewish learning for centuries.  It was here that the Jerusalem Talmud and later, the Masorah were compiled.  It was renamed Diocaesarea from the 2nd century but remained a Jewish city in Byzantine times, and was the center of revolt in 315.Finally, Jews were expelled after the 6th century.  Population in 1990 was 329.

Jews returned 2000 years later starting in 1892 and brought in 25,000 to 35,000 Jews.  In 1894  the First Aliyah of Jewish returnees from Yemen and then 7 months later, Eastern Europe   made up the foundation group of Motza.  This was a rural settlement near Jerusalem.  "While all throughout history Jews immigrated to Israel (such as the Vilna Gaon's group), these were generally smaller groups with more religious motives, and did not have a purely secular political goal in mind."  

These Europeans, a lot from Russia, were escaping political persecution being anti-Semitism.  "Russian persecution of Jews was also a factor. In 1881, the czar Alexander II of Russia was assassinated, and the ruling bodies blamed the Jews for the assassination.  They were being raided by Cossacks on horses periodically and attacked and injured or killed.  My own grandmother in Poland suffered from such an ordeal as a young girl and had both legs broken.  Golda Meier suffered from a pogrom like this and she came to the USA first.  "Anti-Semitic attacks affected Jewish societies in the Pale of SettlementGalicia, and Romania."

Motza was a biblical town near Jerusalem and belonged to the tribe of Benjamin.  It still existed in 2nd Temple times.  After the destruction of the 2nd Temple, Vespasian ordered 800 Roman legionaires to settle at Motza, which was now known in Latin as Colonia Amasa.  The modern settlement was erected nearby.  In 1990, the population was 708.

The first king of Israel was from the tribe of Benjamin and was Saul, the son of Kish. The tribe of Benjamin occupied territory between Ephraim and Judah which included Jerusalem.     They were being threatened militarily by the Philistines and the Ammonites.  It was the prophet, Samuel (11th cent. BCE), a Levite, from the tribe of Levi, the same as Moses and Aaron, who selected Saul as king.   Saul immediately organized a trained army and started to defeat the enemy.   They also had to fight against the Moabites, Ammonites and Arameans.  Saul also worked on their religion brought to them by Moses.  He eliminated witchcraft.  Friction occurred and Samuel replaced Saul with David.

The second king, King David, was king from about 1,000 BCE to 960 BCE and was the youngest son of Jesse, who was the grandson of Ruth and Boaz., born in Bethlehem.  He had married Saul's daughter,  Michal.  He chose Hebron as his first capital as the king of Judah.  He later captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites and made it his capital.  It was there that he moved the Ark of the Covenant.

The territory belonging to the tribe of Benjamin was a bone of contention between the kingdoms of Israel and Judah after the division of the kingdom when King Solomon died.Eventually, it was partitioned between the two tribes.
1898 Kindergarten in 1st Aliyah 
These 5 year-olds would have been 50 years old on May 14, 1948 if they all lived. They were from Rishon LeZion on the Judean coastal plain.  
 Rosh Pinna in the upper Galilee as the 1st Jewish agricultural settlement in the modern periodZikhron Ya'akov on Mt. Carmel (with height of 1,742, not a part of the Judean hills) but great for grapes for wine, and Gedera in the southern Judean plain etc were started in the 1st Aliyah as farming sites.  

From 1948 to 1967, only a small area of the Judean Hills, otherwise called the Jerusalem Corridor, and some of the foothills was incorporated into Israel at the time of its rebirth on May 14, 1948.  The rest of the hills were in the kingdom of Jordan.  This is because Israel lost 80% of their promised land that had been thee ancient  site of Israel to King Abdullah who was a king in need of a kingdom, and the Brits with the mandate went ahead and allowed him to take this from the Jews.
Jerusalem's Wall at night
After the 1967 Six Day War when Israel was attacked by her many neighbors  pulled a miracle and won the war,  the entire area has been under Israeli rule.  This happens when one wins a war that one does not start or want.  It turned out that she got her original land back, however.

This mountain range is crucial because this is where Jerusalem lies.   Jerusalem is situated roughly in the center of the Judean Mountains.  The original city was slightly east of the watershed between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea.  The New City of Jerusalem has spread across the watershed into a series of ridges and valleys facing west.   The hills reach 1,000 meters or 3,280 feet high.  Jerusalem can have snow in the winter.  Safed is about as high as Jerusalem.
"An Israel Railways line runs from Beit Shemesh along the Brook of Sorek and Valley of Rephaim into Jerusalem Malha Train Station."  The old joke was telling people not to put their arm outside the window or it would be in Jordan.  Truly, 9 miles width for Israel is not much at that point.  There's truth to this joke.  

Judea's history is the most integral part of the history of the Jews.  From Israel's southern end  to Judah,   the burning of Jerusalem in 70 CE and onward, the history has extended to today.   

Resource:  The New Jewish Encyclopedia,+pictures&biw=984&bih=636&tbm=isch&  pictures

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