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>Israel Faxx
>JN March 28, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 55

Netanyahu Prepares for the Worst

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is convinced that armed conflict with the Palestinians is unavoidable and has made remarks to this effect to close ides over the last few days. Arutz-7 News Editor Haggai Segal says Netanyahu is working to form a national unity government before that clash occurs.

Biblical Jerusalem is Being Reconstructed

By Patricia Golan (VOA-Jerusalem)

Pilgrims to Jerusalem will soon be able to walk along the 200-meter path where Jesus is believed to have walked the night before he was betrayed by Judas to Roman soldiers. The route is one part of an ambitious reconstruction project carried out by the Israeli authorities which also includes remnants of Herodian construction 2,000 years ago.

Standing on the top of the massive walls built by the Ottomans around the city in the 16th century, Israeli archeologist Ya'acov Billig points down to the archeological digs going on inside the Old City. "You can see that the street has marvelous paving stones, it has the main drainage system underneath and it goes much farther to the north...Another section of it was revealed a week ago in front of the Western Wall...So it's real proper urban planning."

Excavation of this area of ancient Jerusalem has slowly revealed a 70-meter stretch of the road that served as Jerusalem's main thoroughfare in the time of Jesus.

The street adjoins the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, the site of the ancient Jewish Temple built by Solomon, destroyed by the Babylonians in the 6th century BCE, and rebuilt by King Herod in the 1st century BCE.

The Second Temple, rebuilt by Herod a few years before the birth of Jesus, was one of the largest holy places of its time. The retaining walls of the Temple Mount were as high as a modern 12-story building, and as large around as 12 football stadiums. Hundreds-of-thousands people used to visit during important holidays. Billig explains all this was leveled in 70 CE when the Romans captured Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple.

"This was the largest Holy Sanctuary -- known as a terminus -- in the world, and these are just the retaining walls of the sanctuary. Inside was the Temple, surrounded by courtyards and other elements, the rabbinic high court and all sorts of other functions...All the stones here you see opposite you are the original building blocks from King Herod the Great...Above that it went up much higher, just the Romans knocked them down in their process of destruction in the summer of 70 onwards."

At the time of Jesus, Jerusalem was a major metropolis with a population of about 100,000. During major Jewish holidays, such as Passover, tens of thousands of pilgrims flocked to the Temple, doubling the city's population. The recently uncovered street was the main market place during that time. Archaeologists have uncovered stone-walled shops along the way, no bigger than present-day ticket booths.

Inside they found the ancient coins that could have been used by moneychangers, who exchanged pilgrims' foreign currency for local silver shekels. Pious Jews were required to pay half a silver shekel a year in "Temple tax." Archaeologists believe the episode of Jesus overturning the tables of moneychangers -- described in the New Testament -- probably took place inside the Jewish Temple.

At one end of the newly exposed street is a heap of huge, chiseled, beige limestone blocks. They originated on the top of the Temple Mount wall, but were thrown down by Roman soldiers, one by one, during the Temple's destruction in 70 CE. Burying the shops that lined the street below. Archaeologists have left this one pile of boulders to illustrate the havoc wreaked by Rome's Tenth Legion.

From these stairs one can see part of the last route walked by Jesus, known as the "galli canto." After the Last Supper with his disciples, traditionally said to have been held on Mount Zion, Jesus walked to the Garden of Agony on the Mount of Olives, where, the New Testament says, he wept and predicted the destruction of Jerusalem, and where he was seized by the Romans. Today, the restoration of the entire route is nearly complete.

Tour guide Yitzhak Yaacobi recalls showing these steps to former astronaut Neal Armstrong, who nearly two millennia after Jesus ascended the steps, became the first man to set foot on the moon. "At the end he took my hands and said to me...Are you sure these are the steps on which our Lord was walking, and I said yes we are certainly sure, and then he said those unforgettable words, 'I'm much more moved to walk in the footsteps of our Lord, than when I was walking on the moon.'"

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