CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

Friday, December 19, 2014

CHRISTMAS IN THE LAND OF JESUS CHRIST

 

 

Pictures of the Week: December 29, 2012

Sisters from the Franciscan order pray inside the Grotto at the Church of the Nativity in the biblical West Bank city of Bethlehem, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, on December 24, 2012. Thousands of Palestinians and tourists were flocking to Bethlehem to mark Christmas at the site where many believe Jesus Christ was born. AFP PHOTO/MUSA AL-SHAER

 

Entrance to King Herod the Great's palace unearthed: Complex set of corridors leads to elaborate hall of ruler

  • Discovery was made by Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologists
  • Entrance leads to Herodyan Hilltop Palace at the Herodium National Park
  • Palace was built after Herod defeated the Parthians between 23 and 15BC
  • He was said to have built a town and palace on the site 10 miles (16km) south of Jerusalem to celebrate this victory
  • Main feature of the entrance is a corridor with a complex system of arches
  • A series of hidden tunnels dug on the site by rebels were also found
  • They are said to have been part of guerrilla warfare waged against Romans

Excavations of a colossal fortress built by King Herod the Great have uncovered the palace's dramatic entrance way.

The arched entrance and corridor, built around 20 years before the birth of Christ, leads to a vestibule or lobby covered with coloured frescoes.

The palace was built after Herod defeated the Parthians, originally from Iran, and decided to build a town and palace on the site 10 miles (16km) south of Jerusalem to celebrate his victory. 

Archaeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Institute of Archaeology, discovered the colossal entrance (pictured) to the Herodium hilltop palace at the Herodyon National Park. The main feature of the entryway is a corridor with a complex system of arches spanning its width on three separate levels

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Archaeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Institute of Archaeology, discovered the colossal entrance (pictured) to the Herodium hilltop palace at the Herodyon National Park. The main feature of the entryway is a corridor with a complex system of arches spanning its width on three separate levels

The discovery was made by by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Institute of Archaeology.

It was part of a wider dig that is ongoing at the Herodium site in the Herodyon National Park.

The main feature of the entryway is a corridor with a complex system of arches spanning its width on three separate levels.

Thanks to the supporting arches, the 65ft (20 metre) long and 19ft (6 metre) wide corridor has been preserved to a height of 65ft (20 metres).

Hebrew University archaeologists, Roi Porat, Yakov Kalman and Rachel Chachy, said: ‘The corridor was built as part of Herod's plan to turn Herodium into a massive artificial volcano-shaped hill, a vast and impressive monument designed to commemorate the architect-King.

Herodium is a hill, situated in the Herodyon National Park (pictured). Between 23 and 15BC, King Herod the Great constructed a fortress, palace and small town on the cone-shaped mound and was later buried there. Herod died in Jericho in spring 4 BC and was said to have been buried on the site

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Herodium is a hill, situated in the Herodyon National Park (pictured). Between 23 and 15BC, King Herod the Great constructed a fortress, palace and small town on the cone-shaped mound and was later buried there. Herod died in Jericho in spring 4 BC and was said to have been buried on the site

HEROD’S HILLTOP FORTRESS AND PALACE

Herod (illustrated) was born around 73BC and was governor of Galilee until 40BC. With Roman support, he took back the kingdom three years later, and began building the fortress a decade after that.

Herod (illustrated) was born around 73BC and was governor of Galilee. He was appointed King of the Jews by the Roman senate

Herodium is a hilltop fortress situated in the Herodyon National Park.

Between 23 and 15BC, King Herod the Great constructed a fortress, palace and small town on the cone-shaped mound, and was later buried there.

Herod was born around 73BC and was governor of Galilee until 40BC.

The Parthian Empire then conquered Judea, which was under Roman control at the time, and Herod fled to Jerusalem.

He sought refuge in Petra, where his mother was said to have been originally from, and was later appointed King of the Jews by the Roman senate.

With Roman support, he took back the kingdom three years later, and began building the fortress a decade after that.

Archaeologists believe the palace was built by slaves and contractors and consisted of four towers - believed to have been where Herod lived - as well as frescoes, an aqueduct, elaborate mosaic floors and corridors connected by archways.

The site is the highest peak in the Judean desert, stretching 2,450ft (758 metres) above sea level.

Herod died in Jericho in spring 4 BC of an illness dubbed ‘Herod’s Evil’, which is thought to have been a combination of cirrhosis of the liver, hypertension, and diabetes.

Archaeologists believe the palace was built by slaves and contractors (illustrated) as well as frescoes, an aqueduct, elaborate mosaic floors and corridors connected by archways. His body was buried in a tomb on the site of the fortress, which archaeologists claimed to have uncovered in 2007 (pictured right)

 

Archaeologists believe the palace was built by slaves and contractors (illustrated left) as well as frescoes, an aqueduct, elaborate mosaic floors and corridors connected by archways. His body was buried in a tomb on the site of the fortress, which archaeologists claimed to have uncovered in 2007 (pictured right)

His body was buried in a tomb on the site of the fortress, which archaeologists claimed to have uncovered in 2007.

However, last year, experts ruled this location out because the tomb was too small for a ruler known for his decadence and love of ambitious, large scale architectural projects.

Experts at the time also said the said the building where the tomb was said to have been found has an awkward layout with two staircases above the tomb, and is not symmetrically aligned with the rest of the complex, which would have been a design faux pas not fit for a king.

They also believe that the ruler, known for his expensive taste, would not have settled for a coffin made of local stones.

The original palace vestibule, blocked when the corridor became redundant, was also exposed (pictured). This room was decorated with painted frescoes and also showed signs of the rebel occupation during the Great Revolt of 66 to 71 BC. These signs included Jewish Revolt coins and crude temporary structures

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The original palace vestibule, blocked when the corridor became redundant, was also exposed (pictured). This room was decorated with painted frescoes and also showed signs of the rebel occupation during the Great Revolt of 66 to 71 BC. These signs included Jewish Revolt coins and crude temporary structures

‘During the course of the excavations, it became evident that the arched corridor was never actually in use, as prior to its completion it became redundant.'

Experts believe that when Herod became aware of his impending death in 4BC, he decided to convert the hilltop complex into a memorial mound and royal burial monument.  

‘Whatever the case, the corridor was backfilled during the construction of the massive artificial hill at the end of Herod's reign,' continued the archaeologists.

‘The upper section of a new monumental stairway stretching from the hill's base to its peak, constructed during the course of this building phase, appears to have been built over it.’

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The palace was built after Herod defeated the Parthians and decided to build a town on the site 10 miles (16km) south of Jerusalem (marked) to celebrate his victory

The original palace vestibule, blocked when the corridor became redundant, was also exposed.

DO CLAY SEALS PROVE THE REIGN OF KINGS DAVID AND SOLOMON?

The discovery of official clay seals (pictured) may prove there was a ruler, or at least government activity, in the region during the 9th century BC

The discovery of official clay seals (pictured) may prove there was a ruler, or at least government activity, in the region during the 9th century BC

For centuries, scholars have either dismissed King David and King Solomon as mythological figures, or disputed the era in which they ruled over the Israelites, as told in the Bible.

But the discovery of six official clay seals may finally prove that there was a ruler in the region during the 9th and 10th century BC.

Although the bullae don't directly reference David or Solomon, they do suggest the presence of a government and political activity during their respective supposed reigns.

This room was decorated with painted frescoes and also showed signs of the rebel occupation during the Great Revolt of 66 to 71 BC.

These signs included Jewish Revolt coins and crude temporary structures.

In addition, the excavations in the arched corridor also showed evidence of the Bar Kokhba Revolt period that took place between 132 and 136 BC.

This included a series of hidden tunnels dug on the site by the rebels as part of the guerrilla warfare they waged against the Romans.

The archaeologists said: ‘Supported in part by wooden beams, these tunnels exited from the hilltop fortress by way of the corridor's walls, through openings hidden in the corridor.

‘One of the tunnels revealed a well-preserved construction of 20 or so cypress-wood branches, arranged in a cross-weave pattern to support the tunnel's roof.’

Shaul Goldstein, Director of Israel's Nature and Parks Authority, added: ‘In the future, the excavation of the arched corridor will allow visitors direct access to the Herodium hilltop palace-fortress, in the same way that Herod entered it two thousand years ago.

‘There are also plans to provide tourists with direct access to the structures on the slope, the Royal Theater and the Mausoleum, via the earlier monumental stairway, to the hilltop Palace.’

 

A photograph taken during a royal visit to Bethlehem to prove the biblical city's existence will be going on display among photographs and diary extracts from a royal tour 150 years ago.

Queen Victoria's eldest son King Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, was sent on an educational trip to the Middle East in 1862, accompanied by Francis Bedford - the first photographer on a royal tour.

His previously unseen photos include a view of Bethlehem from the roof of the Church of the Nativity, said to be built on the spot where Jesus was born.

Unseen: Royal photographer Francis Bedford took this picture of Bethlehem 150 years ago while on a visit with the Prince of Wales

Unseen: Royal photographer Francis Bedford took this picture of Bethlehem 150 years ago while on a visit with the Prince of Wales

Exhibition: Francis Bedford's photo of The Shepherds' Field, where the Angel Gabriel appeared according to the Bible, taken on a royal visit to Bethlehem in 1862

Exhibition: Francis Bedford's photo of The Shepherds' Field, where the Angel Gabriel appeared according to the Bible, taken on a royal visit to Bethlehem in 1862

Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem. Situated at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, according to the gospels, Jesus and his disciples are said to have prayed there the night before he was arrested

Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem. Situated at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, according to the gospels, Jesus and his disciples are said to have prayed there the night before he was arrested.

He also took a picture of the Shepherds' Field showing the area where the Angel Gabriel is said to have appeared to the shepherds. The photographs, which belong to the Royal Collection, will form part of a new exhibition Cairo to Constantinople: Early Photographs of the Middle East at The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, from March 8, 2013.

 

Curator Sophie Gordon said the purpose of taking the photograph from the Church of the Nativity was to show the Victorian audience that Bethlehem really existed and to add weight to the Christian tradition.

‘Bethlehem wasn't directly on the Prince's route - and so his party made a particular point of going there,’ she said.

Damascus, Syria, in ruins following the conflict of 1860, when very little was known about this part of the world at the time

Damascus, Syria, in ruins following the conflict of 1860, when very little was known about this part of the world at the time

The pyramids at Giza, Cairo, Egypt, part of the Cairo to Constantinople: Early Photographs of the Middle East collection

The pyramids at Giza, Cairo, Egypt, part of the Cairo to Constantinople: Early Photographs of the Middle East collection

Previously unseen: The Prince of Wales and his party among ruins in Karnak, Thebes in Egypt

Previously unseen: The Prince of Wales and his party among ruins in Karnak, Thebes in Egypt. Dr Gordon added: ‘Very little was known about this part of the world at the time, and what information they did have was largely based on knowledge of the Bible."  In the early 1860s, photography was still in its infancy and had only been introduced to the public in 1839.  ‘Bedford's camera would have been quite large to accommodate a 10 x 12in glass plate negative,' Dr Gordon added.  ‘He must have had porters to carry all his equipment, as the entire photographic process had to be done on the spot.

The Prince of Wales King Edward VII A diary entry by King Edward VII

Royal trip: The photographs were taken during the future King Edward VII's first royal tour to the Middle East whilst he was still the Prince of Wales,left, and right: a diary entry by  King Edward VII

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem. It is thought the royal photographer must have had porters to carry all his equipment, as the entire photographic process had to be done on the spot

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem. It is thought the royal photographer must have had porters to carry all his equipment, as the entire photographic process had to be done on the spot

‘Just before he took the photograph, Bedford would have coated and sensitised the plate, because the plate had to go in the camera when it was still wet.

‘He would have then developed and fixed the image, while excluding all light, and washed the plate. To carry out this process, Bedford would have constructed a temporary dark room, perhaps on the church roof.'

The then Prince of Wales described the party's visit to Bethlehem in his diary entry for April 3, 1862, describing how ‘our tents were struck at 8.30am and we started at that time (on horseback of course) for Bethlehem, which we reached in about a couple of hours time, stopping on the way at Rachel's tomb, and it was ascertained for certain that the tomb is on the site of the real one’.

Temple of Jupiter, Baalbek, Lebanon, was also part of the heir to the throne's four-month trip

Temple of Jupiter, Baalbek, Lebanon, was also part of the heir to the throne's four-month trip

Gateway to the Luxor temple, Egypt in the early 1860s. Photography was only introduced to the public in 1839

Gateway to the Luxor temple, Egypt in the early 1860s. Photography was only introduced to the public in 1839

Abd al-Qadir, an Algerian Islamic scholar, Sufi, political and military leader who led a struggle against the French colonial invasion in the mid-19th century

Abd al-Qadir, an Algerian Islamic scholar, Sufi, political and military leader who led a struggle against the French colonial invasion in the mid-19th century . He recalls how they had 'some splendid refreshment' and how they saw a 'fine view' on the top of the church. On April 18, 1862, when the party encountered poor weather ahead of a ride to Nazareth, he wrote: ‘Early in the morning it blew a regular hurricane and poured with rain and all our tents were in gt. jeopardy.'

The heir to the throne's four-month trip to the Middle East was designed to increase his understanding of the area at a time when the Ottoman Empire was disintegrating and Britain needed to secure the route to India.  The church standing where Jesus is believed to have been born could become the Palestinian Territory's first World Heritage site, it was revealed today.

Bethlehem's venerated Church of the Nativity has been nominated for the honour before a UNESCO meeting later this month. The nomination, which includes the church and surrounding route taken by religious pilgrims, is the Palestinians' first bid for inclusion on the prestigious list.

Venerated: Christians march at Manger Square outside the Church of the Nativity in the Biblical town of Bethlehem

Venerated: Christians march at Manger Square outside the Church of the Nativity in the Biblical town of Bethlehem. Sites included are deemed as holding 'outstanding universal value' as part of the world's shared heritage.

It comes after Palestinian membership to UNESCO, the United Nations' heritage body, was granted in October 2011, when UNESCO's general assembly voted by 107-14 to accept the Palestinians. UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and is a sub-agency to the United Nations. Its purpose is 'to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information' and is most famous for its list of World Heritage sites.

UNESCO has 195 full members and 8 associate members. Bulgarian politician Irina Bokova has been the organisation's Director-General since 2009.

There are 936 World Heritage sites, the list include both man-made and natural wonders such as Stonehenge and Tower of London, The Grand Canyon, Notre Dame Cathedral, Machu Picchu and The Pyramids of Giza. The vote proved controversial with the U.S., which holds the view that a peace deal must be reached with Israel before the Palestinian Territories can be granted full membership of international organisations.

The U.S. and Israel's subsequent funding cut to the body saw UNESCO lose more than a fifth of its revenues. Bethlehem, situated in the West Bank, about five miles south of Jerusalem, is considered the Palestinian Territories' top visitor destination partly due to the religious significance of the church.

One of the oldest surviving Christian churches in the world, it drew two million visitors last year, according to Nada Atrash, an architect and head of the research and training unit at Bethlehem's Center for Cultural Heritage Preservation, which has been lobbying for the site's inscription as a World Heritage destination.  She told CNN the centre considered Bethlehem's inclusion on the list 'as a Palestinian dream, and as a reward of 11 years of work in the field of preserving the cultural and natural heritage in Palestine'.  Visitor numbers have hit record highs in recent years, but, according to a report into developing tourism in the town, Bethlehem has yet to properly capitalise on its potential.  The majority of the visitors were day trippers on short visits, meaning the full economic benefits of tourism did not flow into the town.  Atrash said it was hoped that gaining World Heritage status would help efforts to boost Bethlehem's appeal as a destination and keep visitors in the town for longer than a visit to the church.  'We are mainly seeking to extend the stay of the visitors, who usually drop (in) to Bethlehem for few hours to visit the church and leave without visiting the town,' she said. 'We hope that this inscription would contribute to both the promotion of the site and its protection.'

Holy site: Greek Orthodox Patriarch of the Holy Land Eireneos I conducts midnight mass in the crypt under the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

Holy site: Greek Orthodox Patriarch of the Holy Land Eireneos I conducts midnight mass in the crypt under the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

Palestinian Christian girls walk through the sunlit Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus

Palestinian Christian girls walk through the sunlit Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus.  The condition of the church, which has suffered extensive earthquake damage in its history, has been of concern.

A Christian pilgrim touches an icon of the Virgin Mary inside the Church of the Nativity

A Christian pilgrim touches an icon of the Virgin Mary inside the Church of the Nativity. One of the issues is that responsibility for its administration is shared between three religious authorities -- the Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic churches. On occasion, tensions between the groups have spilled over into violence; in December, about 100 Greek Orthodox and Armenian clerics fought with brooms when a tussle broke out while cleaning the church.  One of Christianity's most holy places, the site's focal point is the Grotto of the Nativity, a rectangular cavern beneath the church that has been considered the site of Christ's birth since at least the 2nd century.  A 14-pointed silver star set into the marble floor marks the precise spot where Jesus is said to have been born.

In the 4th century, Emperor Constantine founded a church on the site, which was destroyed in the year 529, only to be replaced by larger structures, which form the basis of the church today.  UNESCO's World Heritage Committee will consider the Church of the Nativity among 36 sites nominated for inclusion on the list at its next meeting, to be held from June 24 to July 6, in St Petersburg, Russia.

Tis the season when we celebrate a baby and his mother. Nutty vicars may tell us we can't sing O Little Town Of Bethlehem because it's no longer relevant to life in Jesus's birthplace, but the Madonna and Child remains one of the most moving images ever created. Mary cradling her newborn son is the logo of love without end.  You need faith to believe in Christ, but anyone can place hope in the power of a mother's love.

Madonna and Child

Madonna and Child, the logo of love between a mother and child. Right Photo, Stable where he was born, a simple silver star set in marble marks the spot where Jesus was born. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is one of the oldest continuously operating churches in the world. The structure is built over the cave that tradition marks as the birthplace of Christ, and it is considered sacred by followers of both Christianity and Islam (see Islamic View of Jesus). The antiquity of this tradition is attested by the Christian apologist Justin Martyr (c. 100 - 165), who noted in his Dialogue with Trypho that the Holy Family had taken refuge in a cave outside of town. Origen of Alexandria (185 AD–ca. 254) wrote: In Bethlehem the cave is pointed out where He was born, and the manger in the cave where He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. And the rumor is in those places, and among foreigners of the Faith, that indeed Jesus was born in this cave

 

The traditional birthplace of Jesus celebrated its merriest Christmas in years as tens of thousands of tourists descended on Bethlehem. Officials said the turnout was shaping up to be the largest since 2000. Unseasonably mild weather, a virtual halt in Israeli-Palestinian violence and a burgeoning economic revival in the West Bank all added to the cheer. By nightfall a packed Manger Square was awash in red, blue, green and yellow Christmas lights. Merrymakers blasted horns, bands sang traditional Christmas carols in Arabic, Boy Scout marching bands performed and Palestinian policemen deployed around the town to keep the peace.

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal carries the statuette of baby Jesus during the midnight Mass ceremony which marks the beginning of Christmas Day at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal carries the statuette of baby Jesus during the midnight Mass ceremony which marks the beginning of Christmas Day at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

A nun takes communion from Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fuad Twal during the midnight mass ceremony which marks the beginning of Christmas Day

A nun takes communion from Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fuad Twal during the midnight mass ceremony which marks the beginning of Christmas Day

A group of 30 tourists from Papua New Guinea wearing red Santa hats walked around the nearby Church of the Nativity, built on the site where tradition holds Jesus was born. Both church officials and the Palestinian president voiced hopes for peace. Bethlehem used to attract tens of thousands of tourists from around the world for Christmas celebrations, but attendance dropped sharply following the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising in 2000. As the fighting tapered off over the last five years, attendance steadily climbed. The town's 2,750 hotel rooms were booked solid for Christmas week, and town chiefs say more hotels are being built.

Israeli officials said they expected about 90,000 visitors in Bethlehem during the current two-week holiday season, up from 70,000 last year. But the bloodshed has left its mark. Visitors entering the town must cross through a massive metal gate in the separation barrier Israel built between Jerusalem and Bethlehem during a wave of Palestinian attacks last decade.

Christian pilgrims pray in the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, in Bethlehem

Christian pilgrims pray in the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus, in Bethlehem

A Christian pilgrim arrives at the Church of the Nativity last night

A Christian pilgrim arrives at the Church of the Nativity last night. The Roman Catholic Church's top clergyman in the Holy Land, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, crossed through the gate in a traditional midday procession from Jerusalem. Later he celebrated Midnight Mass, the peak of the Christmas events.

In his homily, he issued a conciliatory call for peace between religions and urged an 'intensification' of dialogue with Jews and Muslims. 'We need to unite and integrate the many values we have in common: prayer, piety, fasting, almsgiving, and ethical values,' he said. 'Our hope for Christmas is that Jerusalem not only become the capital of two nations, but also a model for the world, of harmony and coexistence of the three monotheistic religions. 'During this Christmas season, may the sound of the bells of our churches drown the noise of weapons in our wounded Middle East, calling all men to peace and the joy.' The crowds continued to swell throughout the day and by last night, Israeli military officials, who co-ordinate movement in and out of the West Bank, said the number rose to around 70,000 people, compared with 50,000 last year.

Raed Arafat, the 40-year-old owner of the Stars and Bucks Cafe, played Christmas songs over loudspeakers and handed out free Arabic coffee at his shop near Manger Square. Tourists took photos and bought mugs emblazoned with the cafe chain's green logo, modelled after the American Starbucks company.

A Palestinian policeman stands guard at a roof watching the celebrations at the square of the Church of the Nativity, where Christians believe the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ

A Palestinian policeman stands guard at a roof watching the celebrations at the square of the Church of the Nativity, where Christians believe the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (L) attends the midnight mass ceremony which marks the beginning of Christmas Day

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (L) attends the midnight mass ceremony which marks the beginning of Christmas Day

The holiday had its surreal moments. Many visitors were local Palestinians, including a large number of Muslim women whose faces were covered by veils. The loud Muslim call to prayer from a mosque next to Manger Square briefly drowned out the celebrations.

'Because of the hard situation and the pressure we are living in, we take advantage of any joyful moment and bring our children to play,' said Khitam Harazallah, a housewife from the nearby Deheishe refugee camp who came with her two young children.

Today, just one-third of Bethlehem's 50,000 residents are Christian, down from about 75% in the 1950s. The rest are Muslims.

The Christian population throughout the Middle East has shrunk in recent decades as people flee violence or search for better opportunities abroad. Christians make up roughly 2% of the population in the Holy Land.

With the end of fighting, the West Bank has undergone an economic revival in recent years, illustrated by new shopping malls and widespread construction projects in the bustling city of Ramallah.

A priest blesses the statue of the baby Jesus inside in the grotto which marks the spot where Christians believe Christ was born

A priest blesses the statue of the baby Jesus inside in the grotto which marks the spot where Christians believe Christ was born

But a deadlock in Middle East peace talks between Israel and the West Bank government of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, along with a flare-up in violence between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip, threatened to cast a pall over the celebrations.

Mr Abbas, a Muslim, travelled to Bethlehem to greet revellers, saying he hoped the coming year would finally bring peace.

'We are seekers of peace in the path of Jesus,' he said. 'We hope that next year will be a year of peace by establishing the independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side with Israel in peace and security.'

Israel maintains an embargo on Gaza, which is governed by Mr Abbas' rival, the Islamic militant group Hamas. In a goodwill gesture, Israel allowed 500 members of Gaza's tiny Christian community to travel to Bethlehem.

Niveen Wadia, a 40-year-old Gaza woman, said coming to Bethlehem was 'a very beautiful feeling.'

'In Gaza we don't have any celebration atmosphere. We are the minority there,' she said.

An extraordinary brawl between clergymen broke out yesterday at the very site where Jesus is said to have been born.

The annual cleaning of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem descended into a battle between the rival Christian denominations that share it.

Brooms, fists and vicious insults  flew in all directions between 100  priests and monks dressed in their  traditional robes.

Clash: Riot police are forced to defend themselves from broom-wielding holy men at the traditionally accepted birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem

Clash: Riot police are forced to defend themselves from broom-wielding holy men at the traditionally accepted birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem

FIST FIGHTS ON HOLY GROUND: A TURBULENT HISTORY DATING BACK CENTURIES

The Church of Nativity is a basilica built over the grotto where it is believed that the Virgin Mary gave birth to the baby Jesus.

In 333 A.D. the Emperor Constantine completed the basilica, which still attracts thousands of pilgrims from around the world every year. Although it was destroyed during a Samaritan riot in 529 A.D. it was rebuilt and reconfigured under Emperor Justinian. After the Holy Land was taken over by Muslims in the 7th Century, the Muslim caliph guaranteed the integrity of the church to the Byzantines. This meant the building survived a Persian invasion in 614 and an order by the Fatamid caliph in 1000 to destroy all Christian shrines.

Crusaders took over the church without a fight when Jerusalem was captured away from the Muslims in 1099. After this Franciscan monks backed by the Pope took over the church, creating a rivalry that lasted for centuries between them and the Greek Orthodox church, which can trace its early origins back to the 2nd Century, who were the successors of the Byzantine, over who would control of the church. The Church of Nativity has now been divided into Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian sections for several centuries. Each group is very possessive about the parts of the church and objects under its control. Decisions about who takes care of what is based on Ottoman Empire status system, dating back to 1299, which mandates that things be done as they have always been.

The fight ended only after Palestinian police, bending their heads to squeeze through the church’s low ‘door of humility’, rushed in with batons to restore order. The row is believed to have begun after a clergyman of one order – either Greek Orthodox or Armenian Apostolic – accidentally pushed his broom into space  ‘controlled’ by the other group. Conflict is easily sparked by any perceived encroachment of jurisdictional boundaries within the church, where control is split between the two denominations along with Roman Catholics. All three groups were cleaning the church for annual Orthodox Christmas celebrations, which will be held next week.

Palestinian police lieutenant-colonel Khaled al-Tamimi tried to play down the incident, saying there had been a ‘trivial problem’. 

He added: ‘Everything is all right and things have returned to normal. No one was arrested because all those involved were men of God.’ The 6th century church is the oldest in the Holy Land and a very fragile status quo governs relations among the three denominations. To repair or clean a part of the structure is to own it, according to accepted practice. That means that letting other sects clean part of the church could allow one to gain ground at another’s expense. Tensions between rival clergy at the church have been a fact of life for centuries and the site has often been caught up in international politics. In the 19th century, tensions over the church – and the wider issue of Orthodox Christians in Ottoman lands – was a factor in the outbreak of the Crimean War. Although the roof has needed urgent work for decades, and  leaking rainwater has ruined much of the priceless artwork inside, renovation has been delayed for years by disagreements among the denominations over who would foot the bill.

'Guarding their denominational turf': Clerics were said to be defending their areas of the Church when the 100-strong scuffle broke out

'Guarding their denominational turf': Clerics were said to be defending their areas of the Church when the 100-strong scuffle broke out

Skirmish: A member from the Armenian clergy raises his arms as Palestinian police officers try to restore order at the Church of Nativity

Skirmish: A member from the Armenian clergy raises his arms as Palestinian police officers try to restore order at the Church of Nativity.  Officials hope work will begin next year under a deal brokered by the Palestinian Authority.  In the annual clean-up session, the entire church is swept, dusted and cleaned with kerosene to remove the grime of the past 12 months in preparation for the onslaught of more pilgrims, clergy and tourists.  Several hundred clergy take part with help from worshippers. In the 1980s, monks battled each other with chains and broomsticks over who had the right to clean a particular section of wall and beams.

Keep back: The clashing denominations each control sections of the church and fiercely guard their turf, which spilled over into violence in the holy building

Keep back: The clashing denominations each control sections of the church and fiercely guard their turf, which spilled over into violence in the holy building. At one point a ladder was yanked out from under a cleric, who was working 16ft overhead.  A fight over the dusting of chandeliers at Christmas 2006 landed  several men in the hospital after the Greek Orthodox contingent placed a ladder in Armenian territory.  Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is built on the  traditional site of the crucifixion, has seen similar incidents.

Peace restored: Palestinian special forces watch as Greek Orthodox and Armenian clergy perform the annual cleaning of the church

Peace restored: Palestinian special forces watch as Greek Orthodox and Armenian clergy perform the annual cleaning of the church

This is what they should have been doing: Greek Orthodox clean the floor of the Church of Nativity after the brawl

This is what they should have been doing: Greek Orthodox clean the floor of the Church of Nativity after the brawl . They are one of the most recognised symbols of the festive season, emulated in nativity plays all over the world and whose imagery adorns the front of millions of Christmas cards. However the three wise men who presented the newborn baby Jesus with gold, frankincense and myrrh could have been larger in numbers if a new interpretation of an ancient document is correct.  An eighth-century script has been translated into English for the first time and throws an incredible new light on the Christmas story.

Nativity scene: The imagery of the three wise men has been recreated on Christmas cards all over the world

Nativity scene: The imagery of the three wise men has been recreated on Christmas cards all over the world.  The translation of the mysterious 'Revelation of the Magi' describes how the three wise men actually numbered over a dozen and came from a faraway land, possibly China. The Magi was the term, used from at least the fourth century BC, for ancient stargazers who were able to read and manipulate the fate foretold in the skies. The script also reveals how it was Jesus himself who was the famous star followed by the Magi. Brent Landau, a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Oklahoma, spent two years translating the eighth-century text from its original Syriac. The document has been held in the Vatican for 250 years and the story is thought to have been first told in the late second, or early third, century.

This takes it back to possibly just 100 years after Matthew wrote his Gospel - the only one to include the story of the Magi. Matthew never mentions how many the Magi numbered; they are described as three wise men simply because there were three gifts.

You might need a bigger cast: The latest revelation could change the face of nativity school plays across the world (file photo)

You might need a bigger cast: The latest revelation could change the face of nativity school plays across the world (file photo) There could have been several scores of them, according to the new translation.

The authors of the document claim it was penned by the Magi. However experts do not believe this to be the case and say it could have been written by their descendents, as it carries detailed accounts of their prayers and rituals. Professor Landau thinks the sect that wrote it identified with the mystics. The story tells how the Magi were descended from Adam’s third and righteous son, Seth. It says they came from a semi-mythical place called Shir, which is on the eastern edge of the world - where modern-day China is.  Prof Landau said: 'The story says that Seth passed down a prophecy that at some point a star would appear that would signal the birth of God in human form.  'The Magi waited thousands of years, passing down the prophecy and then the star appeared where the Magi were.  'It transformed into a small luminous human being who was Christ himself in a pre-existent, celestial form.

New light: The document has been held in the Vatican (pictured) for 250 years and the story is thought to have been first told in the late second or early third century

New light: The document has been held in the Vatican (pictured) for 250 years and the story is thought to have been first told in the late second or early third century. 'It is saying that Jesus Christ and the Star of Bethlehem are the same thing and Jesus Christ can transform himself into anything. 'The star guides them to Bethlehem and into a cave where it transforms into a human infant who tells them to go back and be preachers of the Gospel. 'Later the Apostle Thomas turns up and baptises the Magi and tells them to go into the world.

Timeline of an Ancient Text

2nd/3rd century: Original story written

8th century: Current manuscript produced

- For a millennium, it is unclear where the text was -

18th century: a collector finds the manuscript - written on a parchment made from animal skin- in a Turkish monastery

It was given it to the Vatican library and archived away into obscurity 1927: The Vatican publishes the text into Syriac (a dialect of Aramaic used by Christians in the Middle East ) but it is again overlooked and forgotten

2000s: Harvard Divinity School scholar Brent Landau finds the document and spends seven years translating the text from Syriac to English

'The story does say that the Magi brought gifts to Jesus, but interestingly the text never tells us if they are the familiar gold, frankincense, and myrrh.' Prof Landau said it is unknown who wrote the text but added: 'Somebody was really fascinated by the wise men to have created this big, long story and tell it from their perspective.  'The Revelation of the Magi is part of the Christian Apocrypha and was written in the Syriac language that was spoken by Christians from Syria through Iran and Iraq. 'There might have been a community who were using the Magi or its persona to get its religious perspective across.

'There are many details of strange rituals, praying and silence. There is a description of a sacred mountain and purification at a sacred spring. 'The detail is so great I wondered if it was the community’s actual practices that were being described.

'There is much in the Revelation of the Magi which is not self evident why it is there. 'Nobody knows where Matthew got the story from so along with Matthew’s Gospel this is as close as you can get to the Magi.' In terms of the text itself, very little is known about its origins. It is unclear who wrote it or when, though academics think it is an 8th century manuscript written from a story from the second or third century. After, it is unsure where the text was for a millennium until a collector stumbled across it in a Turkish monastery in the eighteenth century. The collector then transferred the document, written on Vellum, a type of parchment made from animal skin, to the Vatican Library. It was then lost, archived away in Syriac until a Harvard student, Brent Landau, spent almost a decade translating the text.

 

 

Stable where he was born, a simple silver star set in marble marks the spot where Jesus was born. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is one of the oldest continuously operating churches in the world. The structure is built over the cave that tradition marks as the birthplace of Christ, and it is considered sacred by followers of both Christianity and Islam (see Islamic View of Jesus). The antiquity of this tradition is attested by the Christian apologist Justin Martyr (c. 100 - 165), who noted in his Dialogue with Trypho that the Holy Family had taken refuge in a cave outside of town. Origen of Alexandria (185 AD–ca. 254) wrote: In Bethlehem the cave is pointed out where He was born, and the manger in the cave where He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. And the rumor is in those places, and among foreigners of the Faith, that indeed Jesus was born in this cave.

 

Captured: Christmas

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A cross is seen back dropped by the Church of Nativity, traditionally believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, during a Christmas parade in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Friday, Dec. 24, 2010. Thousands of tourists, pilgrims and clergy converged on Bethlehem on Friday as the town of Jesus' birth prepared to celebrate Christmas Eve. Church of Nativity inside Palestinian Authority. The Church of the Nativity in the heart of Bethlehem marks one of Christianity's most sacred sites - the birthplace of Christ. Situated on Manger Square 8 kilometres (5 miles) from Jerusalem, the church is built over a grotto where the Virgin Mary is said to have given birth to Jesus. The church's large fortress-like exterior stands as a testament to its turbulent history. For centuries, it was one of the most fought over holy places. It was seized and defended by a succession of armies - including Muslim and Crusader forces. It is controlled jointly by three Christian denominations - the Armenian Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church.

Captured: Christmas

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A nun prays at the Church of the Nativity, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on December 24, 2010 as the Holy Land prepares to mark Christmas. (MUSA AL-SHAER/AFP/Getty Images) #

Captured: Christmas

The Sugar Plum Fairy, Sharon Wehner, prepares to take the stage during a production of The Nutcracker by the Colorado Ballet, Tuesday December 21, 2010. This is the Colorado Ballet's 50th Anniversary Season and the 50th year presenting the classic story of Clara and the Nutcracker Prince in the Land of Sweets.

 

 

 

 

 

Captured: Christmas

 

A Russian tourist touches a column inside the Church of the Nativity, where many Christians believe Jesus Christ was born, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010. So far this year, 1.4 million tourists have visited the traditional birthplace of Jesus and 90,000 are expected during the Christmas season, a significant increase over last year, according to Israeli government figures. The numbers of visitors have been rising steadily in recent years.

 

 

 

 
     

Mysterious 60,000 ton stone 'grave marker' at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee baffles archaeologists

4,000-year-old cairn  found at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee - where Jesus gave his sermons. Structure is ten meters high, 70 meters wide and 200 meters under water. A 60,000 tonne stone structure has been discovered at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. The giant cone-shaped cairn, which is made of basalt cobbles and boulders up to one meter long, has left archaeologists baffled as to its purpose and age. Heavier than most modern-day warships, the structure is nearly ten meters high and 70 meters wide.

The structure, which is more than 200 meters below the surface of the water, is made from rocks stacked on top of each other

The structure, which is more than 200 meters below the surface of the water, is made from rocks stacked on top of each other

A 60,000 tonne stone structure has been discovered at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee in Israel

A 60,000 tonne stone structure has been discovered at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee in Israel

THE SEA OF GALILEE

The Sea of Galilee is the largest freshwater lake in Israel - it is approximately 13 miles long and eight miles wide. It has a total area of 64 square miles and a depth of 141 feet. It is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and it is fed partly by underground springs and partly by the Jordan River. It was first discovered in 2003 by researchers carrying out a sonar survey of the sea, but divers have now been down to investigate further and have published their findings in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. They believe that the structure, which is more than 200 meters below the surface of the water, is made from rocks stacked on top of each other which could indicate that it was design to mark a grave. It is thought that it was made on land and then submerged as sea levels rose. However, there is also a theory that it could have been created below the water as a fish nursery -similar smaller structures have been discovered in the past which were built for that purpose. The researchers will now carry out underwater archaeological excavations in an attempt to find associated artefacts that could tell them more about it.

Researcher Dr Yitzhak Paz, of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Ben-Gurion University, told LiveScience that it could date back more than 4,000 years making it an Early Bronze Age artefact.

The giant cone-shaped cairn, which is made of basalt cobbles and boulders up to one meter long, has left archaeologists baffled as to its purpose and age (the map shows where it was found)

The giant cone-shaped cairn, which is made of basalt cobbles and boulders up to one meter long, has left archaeologists baffled as to its purpose and age (the map shows where it was found)

He said: ‘The most logical possibility is that it belongs to the third millennium B.C., because there are other megalithic phenomena [from that time] that are found close by.’

If it does prove to be from this era, then it could be connected to the city Bet Yerah which was one of the biggest sites in the area at the time.

THE LOCATION OF JESUS'S SERMONS

Jesus and the miraculous catch of fish, in the Sea of Galilee, by Raphael

Jesus and the miraculous catch of fish, in the Sea of Galilee, by Raphael. Many of Jesus's sermons were preached on the shores of the lake at a time when there was a string of villages around the water's edge. In the time of the Byzantine Empire the lake's significance in Jesus's life made it a major destination for Christian pilgrims. Its importance declined when the Byzantines lost control and the area came under the control of the Umayyad Caliphate. At this time all of the major cities in the area, other than Tiberias, were abandoned. In 1187, Saladin defeated the armies of the Crusades at the Battle of Hattin, largely because he was able to cut the Crusaders off from the valuable fresh water of the Sea of Galilee

Dr Paz told LiveScience: ‘It's the most powerful and fortified town in this region and, as a matter of fact, in the whole of Israel.’

While details about the structure remain sketchy, the researchers are confident that it was created by a well-organised society and that it’s building was a community effort.

Sonar signatures revealed the scale of the find

Sonar signatures revealed the scale of the find

Heavier than most modern-day warships, the structure is nearly ten meters high and 70 meters wide

Heavier than most modern-day warships, the structure is nearly ten meters high and 70 meters wide

Is this the first ever portrait of Jesus? The incredible story of 70 ancient books hidden in a cave for nearly 2,000 years

The image is eerily familiar: a bearded young man with flowing curly hair. After lying for nearly 2,000 years hidden in a cave in the Holy Land, the fine detail is difficult to determine. But in a certain light it is not difficult to interpret the marks around the figure’s brow as a crown of thorns.

The extraordinary picture of one of the recently discovered hoard of up to 70 lead codices – booklets – found in a cave in the hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee is one reason Bible historians are clamouring to get their hands on the ancient artefacts.

If genuine, this could be the first-ever portrait of Jesus Christ, possibly even created in the lifetime of those who knew him.

Discovery: The impression on this booklet cover shows what could be the earliest image of Christ

Discovery: The impression on this booklet cover shows what could be the earliest image of Christ

The tiny booklet, a little smaller than a modern credit card, is sealed on all sides and has a three-dimensional representation of a human head on both the front and the back. One appears to have a beard and the other is without. Even the maker’s fingerprint can be seen in the lead impression. Beneath both figures is a line of as-yet undeciphered text in an ancient Hebrew script.

Astonishingly, one of the booklets appears to bear the words ‘Saviour of Israel’ – one of the few phrases so far translated.

More...

The owner of the cache is Bedouin trucker Hassan Saida who lives in the Arab village of Umm al-Ghanim, Shibli. He has refused to sell the booklets but two samples were sent to England and Switzerland for testing.

A Mail on Sunday investigation has revealed that the artefacts were originally found in a cave in the village of Saham in Jordan, close to where Israel, Jordan and Syria’s Golan Heights converge – and within three miles of the Israeli spa and hot springs of Hamat Gader, a religious site for thousands of years.

Precious: This booklet shows what scholars believe to be the map of Christian Jerusalem

Precious: This booklet shows what scholars believe to be the map of Christian Jerusalem

According to sources in Saham, they were discovered five years ago after a flash flood scoured away the dusty mountain soil to reveal what looked like a large capstone. When this was levered aside, a cave was discovered with a large number of small niches set into the walls. Each of these niches contained a booklet. There were also other objects, including some metal plates and rolled lead scrolls.

The area is renowned as an age-old refuge for ancient Jews fleeing the bloody aftermath of a series of revolts against the Roman empire in the First and early Second Century AD.

The cave is less than 100 miles from Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, and around 60 miles from Masada, scene of the last stand and mass suicide of an extremist Zealot sect in the face of a Roman Army siege in 72AD – two years after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

It is also close to caves that have been used as sanctuaries by refugees from the Bar Kokhba revolt, the third and final Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire in 132AD.

The era is of critical importance to Biblical scholars because it encompasses the political, social and religious upheavals that led to the split between Judaism and Christianity.

It ended with the triumph of Christianity over its rivals as the dominant new religion first for dissident Jews and then for Gentiles.

In this context, it is important that while the Dead Sea Scrolls are rolled pieces of parchment or papyrus containing the earliest-known versions of books of the Hebrew Bible and other texts – the traditional Jewish format for written work – these lead discoveries are in book, or codex, form which has long been associated with the rise of Christianity.

The codices seen by The Mail on Sunday range in size from smaller than 3in x 2in to around 10in x 8in. They each contain an average of eight or nine pages and appear to be cast, rather than inscribed, with images on both sides and bound with lead-ring bindings. Many of them were severely corroded when they were first discovered, although it has been possible to open them with care.

The codex showing what may be the face of Christ is not thought to have been opened yet. Some codices show signs of having been buried – although this could simply be the detritus resulting from lying in a cave for hundreds of years.

Unlike the Dead Sea Scrolls, the lead codices appear to consist of stylised pictures, rather than text, with a relatively small amount of script that appears to be in a Phoenician language, although the exact dialect is yet to be identified. At the time these codices were created, the Holy Land was populated by different sects, including Essenes, Samaritans, Pharisees, Sadducees, Dositheans and Nazoreans.

One lucky owner: Hassan Saida with some of the artefacts that he says he inherited

One lucky owner: Hassan Saida with some of the artefacts that he says he inherited

There was no common script and considerable intermingling of language and writing systems between groups. Which means it could take years of detailed scholarship to accurately interpret the codices.

Many of the books are sealed on all sides with metal rings, suggesting they were not intended to be opened. This could be because they contained holy words which should never be read. For example, the early Jews fiercely protected the sacred name of God, which was only ever uttered by The High Priest in the Temple in Jerusalem at Yom Kippur.

The original pronunciation has been lost, but has been transcribed into Roman letters as YHWH – known as the Tetragrammaton – and is usually translated either as Yahweh or Jehovah. A sealed book containing sacred information was mentioned in the biblical Book of Revelations.

If genuine, it seems clear that these books were, in fact, created by an early Messianic Jewish sect, perhaps closely allied to the early Christian church and that these images represent Christ himself.

One plate has been interpreted as a schematic map of Christian Jerusalem showing the Roman crosses outside the city walls. At the top can be seen a ladder-type shape. This is thought to be a balustrade mentioned in a biblical description of the Temple in Jerusalem. Below that are three groups of brickwork, to represent the walls of the city.

A fruiting palm tree suggests the House of David and there are three or four shapes that appear to be horizontal lines intersected by short vertical lines from below. These are the T-shaped crosses believed to have been used in biblical times (the familiar crucifix shape is said to date from the 4th Century). The star shapes in a long line represent the House of Jesse – and then the pattern is repeated.

This interpretation of the books as proto-Christian artefacts is supported by Margaret Barker, former president of the Society for Old Testament Study and one of Britain’s leading experts on early Christianity. The fact that a figure is portrayed would appear to rule out these codices being connected to mainstream Judaism of the time, where portrayal of lifelike figures was strictly forbidden because it was considered idolatry.

If genuine, it seems clear that these books were, in fact, created by an early Messianic Jewish sect, perhaps closely allied to the early Christian church and that these images represent Christ himself. However another theory, put forward by Robert Feather – an authority on The Dead Sea Scrolls and author of The Mystery Of The Copper Scroll Of Qumran – is that these books are connected to the Bar Kokhba Revolt of 132-136AD, the third major rebellion by the Jews of Judea Province and the last of the Jewish-Roman Wars.

The revolt established an independent state of Israel over parts of Judea for two years before the Roman army finally crushed it, with the result that all Jews, including the early Christians, were barred from Jerusalem.

Wonder: The cave in Jordan where the metal books were discovered

Wonder: The cave in Jordan where the metal books were discovered

The followers of Simon Bar Kokhba, the commander of the revolt, acclaimed him as a Messiah, a heroic figure who could restore Israel. Although Jewish Christians hailed Jesus as the Messiah and did not support Bar Kokhba, they were barred from Jerusalem along with the rest of the Jews. The war and its aftermath helped differentiate Christianity as a religion distinct from Judaism.

The spiritual leader of the revolt was Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who laid the foundations for a mystical form of Judaism known today as Kabbalah, which is followed by Madonna, Britney Spears and others. Yochai hid in a cave for 13 years and wrote a secret commentary on the Bible, the Zohar, which evolved into the teaching of Kabbalah. Feather is convinced that some of the text on

the codices carry the name of Rabbi Bar Yochai.

Feather says that all known codices prior to around 400AD were made of parchment and that cast lead is unknown. They were clearly designed to exist for ever and never to be opened. The use of metal as a writing material at this time is well documented – however the text was always inscribed, not cast.

The books are currently in the possession of Hassan Saida, in Umm al-Ghanim, Shibli, which is at the foot of Mount Tabor, 18 miles west of the Sea of Galilee.

Saida owns and operates a haulage business consisting of at least nine large flatbed lorries. He is regarded in his village as a wealthy man. His grandfather settled there more than 50 years ago and his mother and four brothers still live there.

Saida, who is in his mid-30s and married with five or six children, claims he inherited the booklets from his grandfather.

However, The Mail on Sunday has learned of claims that they first came to light five years ago when his Bedouin business partner met a villager in Jordan who said he had some ancient artefacts to sell.

The business partner was apparently shown two very small metal books. He brought them back over the border to Israel and Saida became entranced by them, coming to believe they had magical properties and that it was his fate to collect as many as he could.

The arid, mountainous area where they were found is both militarily sensitive and agriculturally poor. The local people have for generations supplemented their income by hoarding and selling archeological artefacts found in caves.

More of the booklets were clandestinely smuggled across the border by drivers working for Saida – the smaller ones were typically worn openly as charms hanging from chains around the drivers’ necks, the larger concealed behind car and lorry dashboards.

In order to finance the purchase of booklets from the Jordanians who had initially discovered them, Saida allegedly went into partnership with a number of other people – including his lawyer from Haifa, Israel.

Saida’s motives are complex. He constantly studies the booklets, but does not take particularly good care of them, opening some and coating them in olive oil in order to ‘preserve’ them.

Masterpiece: Later versions of Christ, including Leonardo Da Vinci's interpretation in his fresco The Last Supper, give Jesus similar characteristics

Masterpiece: Later versions of Christ, including Leonardo Da Vinci's interpretation in his fresco The Last Supper, give Jesus similar characteristics

The artefacts have been seen by multi-millionaire collectors of antiquities in both Israel and Europe – and Saida has been offered tens of millions of pounds for just a few of them, but has declined to sell any.

When he first obtained the booklets, he had no idea what they were or even if they were genuine.

He contacted Sotheby’s in London in 2007 in an attempt to find an expert opinion, but the famous auction house declined to handle them because their provenance was not known.

Soon afterwards, the British author and journalist Nick Fielding was approached by a Palestinian woman who was concerned that the booklets would be sold on the black market. Fielding was asked to approach the British Museum, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and other places.

Fielding travelled to Israel and obtained a letter from the Israeli Antiquities Authority saying it had no objection to their being taken abroad for analysis. It appears the IAA believed the booklets were forgeries on the basis that nothing like them had been discovered before.

None of the museums wanted to get involved, again because of concerns over provenance. Fielding was then asked to approach experts to find out what they were and if they were genuine. David Feather, who is a metallurgist as well as an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls, recommended submitting the samples for metal analysis at Oxford University.

The work was carried out by Dr Peter Northover, head of the Materials Science-based Archaeology Group and a world expert on the analysis of ancient metal materials.

The samples were then sent to the Swiss National Materials Laboratory at Dubendorf, Switzerland. The results show they were consistent with ancient (Roman) period lead production and that the metal was smelted from ore that originated in the Mediterranean. Dr Northover also said that corrosion on the books was unlikely to be modern.

Meanwhile, the politics surrounding the provenance of the books is intensifying. Most professional scholars are cautious pending further research and point to the ongoing forgery trial in Israel over the ancient limestone ossuary purporting to have housed the bones of James, brother of Jesus.

The Israeli archeological establishment has sought to defuse problems of provenance by casting doubt on the authenticity of the codices, but Jordan says it will ‘exert all efforts at every level’ to get the relics repatriated.

The debate over whether these booklets are genuine and, if so, whether they represent the first known artefacts of the early Christian church or the first stirrings of mystical Kabbalah will undoubtedly rage for years to come.

The director of Jordan’s Department of Antiquities, Ziad al-Saad, has few doubts. He believes they may indeed have been made by followers of Jesus in the few decades immediately following his crucifixion.

‘They will really match, and perhaps be more significant than, the Dead Sea Scrolls,’ he says. ‘The initial information is very encouraging and it seems that we are looking at a very important and significant discovery – maybe the most important discovery in the history of archaeology.’

If he is right, then we really may be gazing at the face of Jesus Christ.

 

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Sea of Galilee

 

Daniel's 70th week, the seven-year tribulation (or the Time of Jacob's Trouble) began in 66 A.D. when General Vespasian of Rome, under orders from Nero Caesar, invaded Judea. After the death of Nero, Vespasian went on to become emperor of Rome in 68 A.D. and his son, Titus, took over the Judean campaign against the rebelling Jews. Titus sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Jewish Temple in 70 A.D. and then went through the rest of Judea killing all Jewish rebels until finally ariving Masada in 73 A.D. where he destroyed the last rebel stronghold. Titus then returned to Rome and became emperor himself on June 24th, 79 A.D. upon the death of his father Vespasian.
The destruction of Jerusalem, and of the Jewish temple was, of course, all prdicted by both the Prophet Daniel and by Jesus Christ.
Here are just a couple of Jesus Christ's prophecies concerning these things:
"Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, [Jesus] said, "These things which you see—the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down."" -Luke 21:5-6
""But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled."" -Luke
21:20-24

Sea of Galilee, Kibbutz Ginosar Sea of Galilee, View on Kibbutz Ginosar

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Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee (Sea of Christ), 23 kinds of fish, 13 miles long, Jordon river flows in North end from Mt. Hermon. 150’ deep, 600’ below sea level. Harod Antipus ruled Galilee during Christ’s ministry and he hated Jesus. Tiberius in the background facing SW. Tiberius built 20AD when Christ was 25. It was made capital of Galilee by Harod Antipus. Tiberius, during Christ’s time was inhabited by Helenistic Jews (Jews inclined towards foreigners (Gentiles) and their pagen rituals. Tiberius was built on Mt. Arbel and was deemed unclean by Jews because it was built on top of tombs. This is why Jesus did not settle here at first.

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Sea of Galilee. Sea of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes

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Sea of Galilee. Wild wheat by the Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee. Boatman demonstrates fishing technique on the Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee. Fishing net hits the water of the Sea of Galilee

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Sea of Galilee. Swimming in the Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee. Pilgrims paddle in the Sea of Galilee

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Sea of Galilee. Fertile land by the Sea of Galilee

Mount Sinai. Pilgrims and tourists ascending Mount Sinai

Sea of Galilee. Sower's Cove or the Bay of the Parables

 

Found: The bathtub that could have belonged to a priest who condemned JESUS to death and a town where Christ rested after the miraculous feeding of the 5,000

  • Archaeologists from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, have found a bathtub and ritual pool in a ruined mansion on Jerusalem's Mount Zion
  • They believe the mansion, built close to the walls of the Second Temple erected by King Herod, could have been home to one of Jesus' archenemies
  • The scientists think the ruins survived the destruction of the city as they were deliberately buried beneath rubble
  • Archaeologists from the University of Reading believe they have found the lost Biblical town of Dalmanutha, believed to be a prosperous fishing hub

Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient bathtub in a first-century mansion that could have belonged to one of the priests who was responsible for Jesus' death, while another expedition has found a town where Jesus is believed to have stayed following the feeding of the 5,000 miracle.

The mansion, which houses the bathtub and is situated on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, would have belonged to wealthy owners, signified by its size and features such as intricate carvings, a luxurious oven and the bathtub, which is similar to others found in King Herod's palace and a priest's residence.

Archaeologists believe the mansion, which was built close to the walls of the Second Temple erected by King Herod, could have been home to one of Jesus' archenemies - a man belonging to the Sadducees class, which was typically wealthy, powerful and allied with the Romans.

Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient bathtub

Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient bathtub (pictured) in a first-century mansion. The bathtub is the biggest clue as to who lived in the house as two similar tubs were unearthed in Herod's palaces at Jericho and Masada , while a third was located at a priestly residence also in Jerusalem

The building is an example of an early Roman period mansion, which historians hope will yield plenty of domestic details abut the ruling classes of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. James Tabor, who specialises in early Christian history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, told NBC News: 'We might be digging in the home of one of Jesus' archenemies.' Shimon Gibson, who is leading the expedition, believes the house could have belonged to the high priest Caiaphas or Annas but they were both members of the ruling priest class.

These ruins could be a mansion that was inhabited by one of the priests that condemned Jesus to death

These ruins could be a mansion that was inhabited by one of the priests that condemned Jesus to death, according to archaeologists. The ruins are located on Jerusalem's Mount Zion close to the walls of the old city

The bathtub is the biggest clue as to who lived in the mansion as two similar tubs were unearthed in Herod's palaces at Jericho and Masada, while a third was located at a priest's house also in Jerusalem.

It is buried in a vaulted chamber adjacent to a large underground ritual cleansing pool called a mikveh and is only the fourth bathroom of its kind to be found in Israel.

Dr Gibson said: 'It is only a stone's throw away, and I wouldn't hesitate to say that the people who made that bathroom probably were the same ones who made this one. It's almost identical, not only in the way it's made, but also in the finishing touches, like the edge of the bath itself.'

The location of the mansion is a strong indication of a high-status resident.

The bathtub was found in a vaulted chamber adjacent to a large underground ritual cleansing pool

The bathtub was found in a vaulted chamber adjacent to a large underground ritual cleansing pool called a mikveh (pictured). Little is known about the daily lives of priests at the time and archaeologists hope to build up a better picture of their lives from the newly-discovered mansion

Dr Tabor said: 'Whoever lived in this house would have been a neighbor and would have been able to pop into the palace.

'If this turns out to be the priestly residence of a wealthy first century Jewish family, it immediately connects not just to the elite of Jerusalem – the aristocrats, the rich and famous of that day – but to Jesus himself.

'These are the families who had Jesus arrested and crucified, so for us to know more about them and their domestic life and the level of wealth that they enjoyed, would really fill in for us some key history.'

The team hopes to learn more about the household activities that might have been undertaken by priests at the time, as there are very few historical reports about their activities outside the holy temples in Jerusalem.

Dr Tabor also believes that the details of the first-century Jewish ruling class could provide fresh insights into New Testament history.

The mansion would have belonged to wealthy owners

The mansion would have belonged to wealthy owners, signified by its size and features such as intricate carvings and a luxurious oven (pictured). Archaeologists believe the mansion could have been home to one of Jesus' archenemies - a man belonging to the Sadducees class

He said: 'Jesus, in fact, criticises the wealth of this class. He talks about their clothing and their long robes and their finery and in a sense, pokes fun at it. So for us to get closer to understanding that, to supplement the text, could be really fascinating.'

The archaeologists also found plenty of animal bones and cooking pots inside a cistern some 10 metres deep, which could have become a makeshift hiding place for Jewish residents during the Roman siege that led to the City's destruction in 70AD.

A Roman historian said over 2,000 bodies were found underground in similar cisterns and many of the occupants had died of starvation.

Dr Gibson said: 'We still need to look at this material very carefully and be absolutely certain of our conclusions, but it might be that these are the remnants of a kitchen in use by Jews hiding from the Romans -- their last resort was to go into these cisterns.

The archaeologists also found plenty of animal bones

The archaeologists also found plenty of animal bones and cooking pots inside a cistern some 10 metres deep, which could have become a makeshift hiding place for Jewish residents during the Roman siege that led to the City's destruction in 70AD

'It was a common practice, but this conclusion is theoretical. It makes for a very good story and it does look that way, but we’ve got to be certain.'

Archaeologists believe this particular residence survived because of its location after the city was ruined.

Mount Zion was left unoccupied until around 400 AD and the beginning of the Byzantine period, when people simply built on top of older walls.

Around 200 years later Dr Gibson believes what remained of the house was covered with landfill material from the construction of a church called Nea Ekklesia of the Theotokos near the site.

He said: 'The area got submerged. The early Byzantine reconstruction of these two-story Early Roman houses then got buried under rubble and soil fills. Then they established buildings above it. That's why we found an unusually well-preserved set of stratigraphic levels.'

View looking southwest showing Ginosar Valley in Israel

The Ginosar Valley in Israel. Archaeologists found pottery remains, tesserae and architectural fragments indicating a town flourished in the area from the second or first century BC. They think Jesus could have rested after performing the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 at an ancient town near this site

A separate group of Archaeologists have uncovered an ancient town on the northwest coast of the Sea of Galilee, which they believe was where Jesus rested after performing the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000, where he is said to have fed a large group of people with less than seven loaves of bread and two fish.

The town is 2,000-years-old, situated in Israel's Ginosar Valley and is thought to be 'Dalmanutha', which is described in the Gospel of Mark as the location of Jesus' next journey after the miracle, Live Science reported.

The town is only mentioned once in the Gospel of Mark, which states that after feeding 5,000 people Jesus sailed to Dalmanutha, where he was questioned by the Pharisees and aked to provide a sign from heaven.

Roman column fragments lying on the side of a road

Roman column fragments lying on the side of a road in the modern-day town of Migdal are thought to be part of a newfound ancient town. Locals use artefacts as garden ornaments in the modern town

Ken Dark, of the University of Reading, who led the archaeological team, believes the town was prosperous in ancient times due to the vessel glasses and amphora discovered.

The team said a 2,000-year-old boat found in 1986 on a shoreline nearby, adds to the picture of a thriving town.

Writing in the journal Palestine Exploration Quarterly, he said: 'stone anchors along with the access to beaches suitable for landing boats and of course, the first-century boat…all imply an involvement with fishing'.

The team thinks the town survived for a number of centuries as hundreds of pieces of pottery from as early as the first century BC as well as later pieces from the Byzantine Empire were scattered between the modern town of Migdal and the coast.

They also found cubes called tesserae associated with Jewish practices in the early Roman period, suggesting a Jewish community lived there, as well as basalt ashlar blocks used as garden ornaments in the modern town, which they believe were found in the local area and probably the newly-discovered town.

Key finds include Corinthian column pieces and a pagan altar made of light grey limestone.

Constantine's church was built as two connected churches over the two different holy sites, including a great basilica (the Martyrium visited by Egeria in the 380s), an enclosed colonnaded atrium (the Triportico) with the traditional site of Golgotha in one corner, and arotunda, called the Anastasis ("Resurrection"), which contained the remains of a rock-cut room that Helena and Macarius identified as the burial site of Jesus. The rockface at the west end of the building was cut away, although it is unclear how much remained in Constantine's time, as archaeological investigation has revealed that the temple of Aphrodite reached far into the current rotunda area,[10] and the temple enclosure would therefore have reached even further to the west.

According to tradition, Constantine arranged for the rockface to be removed from around the tomb, without harming it, in order to isolate the tomb; in the centre of the rotunda is a small building called the Kouvouklion (Kουβούκλιον; Modern Greek for small compartment) or Aedicule[11](from Latin: aediculum, small building), which supposedly encloses this tomb, although it is not currently possible to verify the claim, as the remains are completely enveloped by a marble sheath. The discovery of the kokhim tombs just beyond the west end of the Church, and more recent archaeological investigation of the rotunda floor, suggest that a narrow spur of at least ten yards length would have had to jut out from the rock face if the contents of the Aedicule were once inside it. The dome of the rotunda was completed by the end of the 4th century.

Each year, the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates the anniversary of the consecration of the Church of the Resurrection (Holy Sepulchre) on September 13[12] (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian calendar, September 13 currently falls on September 26 of the modern Gregorian calendar).

 

 

 

Dead sea scrolls go up for sale as family sells off fragments it secretly stashed in a Swiss safety deposit box

  • Palestinian family who originally sold them admits if kept fragments in a Swiss safe deposit box
  • Scraps are postage-stamp-sized, and some are blank

Nearly 70 years after the discovery of the world's oldest biblical manuscripts, the Palestinian family who originally sold them to scholars and institutions is has begun selling fragments it kept hidden in  a Swiss safe deposit box.

Most of these scraps are barely postage-stamp-sized, and some are blank.

But in the last few years, evangelical Christian collectors and institutions have spent millions buying parts of the archaeological treasure.

A Rabbi studies one of the 'Scrolls from the Dead Sea' on display in Glasgow. now the family that discovered them is set to sell more 'fragments' to collectors

A Rabbi studies one of the 'Scrolls from the Dead Sea' on display in Glasgow. now the family that discovered them is set to sell more 'fragments' to collectors

WHAT ARE THE SCROLLS?

The Dead Sea Scrolls consist of more than 10,000 manuscript fragments representing 900 separate texts, including the oldest biblical texts ever found.

They were discovered in caves in the Judean desert alongside the Dead Sea.

Most of the scrolls are animal skin parchment, a few are papyrus, and one is made of copper.

At least 90 percent are written in Hebrew, while the rest are in Aramaic and Greek.

They include 200 manuscripts representing every book in the Hebrew Bible except Esther, most in small fragments.

They predate the era of Jesus by about 80 years.

They also include previously unknown works, thought to have been composed by a community or communities that believed the End of Days was imminent.

This angers Israel's government antiquities authority, which holds most of the scrolls, claims that every last scrap should be recognized as Israeli cultural property, and threatens to seize any more pieces that hit the market.

'I told Kando many years ago, as far as I'm concerned, he can die with those scrolls,' said Amir Ganor, head of the authority's anti-looting squad, speaking of William Kando, who maintains his family's Dead Sea Scrolls collection.

'The scrolls' only address is the State of Israel.'

Kando says his family offered its remaining fragments to the antiquities authority and other Israeli institutions, but they could not afford them.

 

'If anyone is interested, we are ready to sell,' Kando told The Associated Press, sitting in the Jerusalem antiquities shop he inherited from his late father.

'These are the most important things in the world.'

The world of Holy Land antiquities is rife with theft, deception, and geopolitics, and the Dead Sea Scrolls are no exception.

Their discovery in 1947, in caves by the Dead Sea east of Jerusalem, was one of the greatest archaeological events of the 20th century. Scholarly debate over the scrolls' meaning continues to stir high-profile controversy, while the Jordanian and Palestinian governments have lodged their own claims of ownership.

But few know of the recent gold rush for fragments - or Israel's intelligence-gathering efforts to track their sale.

Written mostly on animal skin parchment about 2,000 years ago, the manuscripts are the earliest copies of the Hebrew Bible ever found, and the oldest written evidence of the roots of Judaism and Christianity in the Holy Land.

They are also significant because they include the Hebrew originals of non-canonical writings that had only survived in ancient translations, and because they prove that multiple versions of Old Testament writings circulated before canonization around 100 AD.

While some of the scrolls are nearly identical to the traditional Hebrew text of the Old Testament, many contain significant variations.

The scrolls were well preserved in their dark, arid caves, but over the centuries most fell apart into fragments of various sizes.

A section of the Dead Sea Scrolls: now smaller, blank fragments are set to be sold to collectors

A section of the Dead Sea Scrolls: now smaller, blank fragments are set to be sold to collectors

Israel regards the scrolls a national treasure and keeps its share of them in a secure, climate-controlled, government-operated lab on the Israel Museum campus in Jerusalem. Pnina Shor, who oversees the antiquities authority's scroll collection, said the trove of fragments is so numerous - at least 10,000 - that staff haven't finished counting them all.

Israel has been criticized for limiting scholarly access, but is partnering with Google to upload images of scrolls online.

How most of the Dead Sea Scrolls ended up in Israeli hands is a tale that begins with a Bedouin shepherd who cast a stone inside a dark cave and heard the sound of something breaking. He found clay jars, some with rolled-up scrolls inside.

After a return visit, he and his Bedouin companions had found a total of seven scrolls.

They sold three of them through an antiquities dealer to a Hebrew University professor, and four to William Kando's father, a Christian cobbler in Bethlehem who in turn sold them to the archbishop of the Assyrian Orthodox church.

On the eve of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the archbishop smuggled the scrolls to the U.S. and advertised them in a Wall Street Journal classifieds ad.

Yigael Yadin, Israeli war hero and later one of Israel's pre-eminent archaeologists, bought them through a front man.

For the next decade, archaeologists dug up thousands more scroll fragments in Dead Sea area caves and began to assemble them, like a jigsaw puzzle, in the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum in east Jerusalem, then ruled by Jordan.

Bedouins also found fragments and sold them to Kando, who in turn sold most of them to the museum.

Other fragments went to Jordanian and French state collections, and universities in Chicago, Montreal and Heidelberg, Germany.

In the 1967 Mideast war, Israel seized the Rockefeller collection, and sent soldiers to Bethlehem in the West Bank, 8 kilometers (5 miles) south of Jerusalem, where Kando was rumored to hold another important scroll.

After a brief imprisonment, Kando revealed the parchment scroll in a shoe box under a floor tile in his bedroom, and sold it to Israeli authorities for $125,000, according to a written account by Yadin.

It is called the Temple Scroll, because it partly describes the construction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. At 8.15 meters (26.7 feet) long, it is the longest ever found.

but now more fragments have emerged

In 2001 scholars announced that the scrolls, dating between 250 B.C. and A.D. 70, have nearly all been published, 54 years after their discovery by archaeologists in caves on the western shore of the Dead Sea - but now more fragments have emerged

But Kando held much more than he surrendered to Israel.

William, his son, said his father had fragments tucked away which he eventually transferred to Switzerland in the mid-1960s.

In 1993, just as scholars finally began publishing research of Israeli-held scrolls, and the world was abuzz with Dead Sea Scroll fever, Kando died, bequeathing his secret collection of fragments to his sons.

It was the perfect time to sell.

Norwegian businessman Martin Schoyen, a 73-year-old collector of biblical manuscripts, purchased his first Dead Sea Scroll fragment a year later, said Torleif Elgvin, a scholar with the Schoyen Collection.

He eventually purchased a total of 115 fragments, many of them from Kando and some from an American scholar and a British scholar who kept them as souvenirs in the early days after their discovery.

A few years ago, Schoyen suffered financial losses in a business investment and could not afford to continue collecting scrolls, said Elgvin.

William Kando then took his business to the U.S., startling manuscript collectors who didn't know there was any scroll material still available for purchase.

'These were the hurdles I had to pass with collectors in America,' said Lee Biondi, a California dealer who sold pieces on behalf of Kando.

'The impossibility of it; people saying, `you can't get a Dead Sea Scrolls fragment. That's impossible.''

In 2009, Asuza Pacific University, an evangelical Christian college near Los Angeles, bought five fragments, along with biblical antiquities, for $2,478,500, according to Azusa's 2010 tax form.

The college said it had purchased the fragments through Biondi and a private collection. Kando told The Associated Press he was the source of all the fragments.

Between 2009 and 2011, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, negotiated with Kando for the acquisition of eight fragments kept in the Kando family's safe deposit box at UBS Bank in Zurich, according to a book published last year by the seminary president's son, Armour Patterson.

The Seminary did not disclose the sum of the acquisition, but one family said it donated $1 million for the exhibit, and another family said it donated $500,000 for the purchase of a Leviticus fragment, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Qumran in the West Bank, Middle East, where parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found

Qumran in the West Bank, Middle East, where parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found

That scroll fragment includes passages from chapters 18 and 20 concerning the laws of sexual morality, and carried a special price tag because of the text's significance, said Bruce McCoy of the Seminary.

'The particular passage is a timeless truth from God's word to the global culture today," said McCoy.
In 2009 and 2010, the Green family, evangelical Christians in Oklahoma City and owners of the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts retailer, bought 12 fragments for its private collection, the world's largest of rare biblical manuscripts.

Jerry Pattengale, who oversees the scrolls in the Green Collection, would not say who sold them and for how much, and Kando denied they came from his collection.

Representatives of the collections in Norway and the U.S. say they will publish their research on the writings in a few years.

Pattengale would only provide a basic inventory of the Green Collection's fragments: it includes material from Genesis through Leviticus; Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, Micah, Daniel, and Nehemiah; a Psalm and a mysterious extra-biblical Hebrew document known as an Instruction text.

'They are really small pieces, but they are important because you may have two or three lines that may have not been found anywhere else.

'And suddenly it adds a lot to the history of the Dead Sea Scrolls,' Pattengale said.

'There is at least one rather amazing discovery in one of them.'

Two examples of the pottery jars that held some of the Dead Sea Scrolls documents found at Qumran

Two examples of the pottery jars that held some of the Dead Sea Scrolls documents found at Qumran

He said a non-disclosure agreement bars him from revealing the finding until it is published.

He estimated it would be released in about 18 months and published by Brill, the leading publishing house of Dead Sea Scroll scholarship.

For decades, scholarly access to the scrolls was tightly controlled by a small circle of researchers. Access is freer now, but digital sharing of the artifacts among Israel, Schoyen, and U.S. institutions is limited.

Governments have also jockeyed for ownership of the scrolls, a dispute rooted in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and the redrawn borders that changed control of the desert region where the scrolls were found.

Palestinian officials claim rights to the material because it was found in today's West Bank, Jordan claims rights because the material was discovered when it ruled the territory, and both have unsuccessfully petitioned to seize scrolls when they were displayed abroad in Israeli government-sponsored exhibitions.

Israel considers the scrolls its national patrimony, and says all fragments should be in its large repository for best preservation and research.

Ganor of the antiquities authority said under Israeli law, all scrolls located abroad were removed illegally.

'Whoever buys these takes a risk that the State of Israel would sue," Ganor said.'

But Kando said his father transferred fragments to Switzerland in the mid-1960s - before Israel passed its 1978 law preventing the unauthorized removal of antiquities from the country.

Biondi, the California dealer, said if it weren't for private collections able to pay large sums, fragments would still be languishing in the Kandos' safe-deposit box, and important historical discoveries would not see the light of day.

'It was kind of like a rescue operation, to get this stuff out of the vault,' said Biondi.
Kando would not say how many more fragments are in his family's collection.

But since 1995, Israeli officials have been keeping tabs on his attempted sales - and the correspondence of dealers and middlemen - in an effort to determine what Dead Sea Scrolls his family has left. They estimate that the Kandos are still holding onto around 20 fragments.

The Associated Press was given partial access to the contents of a classified Israeli dossier - a thick red binder which includes photocopies of foreign passports, photos of tiny scroll scraps, letters written by Kando to prospective buyers, and testimony from informants on attempted sales.

One such testimony alleges that in 2007, a well-known professor in Jerusalem offered to facilitate the sale of a Deuteronomy fragment to a U.S. dealer for $250,000.

A document dated May 17, 2012, marked 'confidential,' listed eleven scroll fragments and their sizes, only a few centimeters large.

WHERE ARE THE SCROLLS?

Dead Sea Scrolls are currently located in the following collections:

- Israel Antiquities Authority (More than 10,000 scroll fragments)
- Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum (Seven of the most complete Dead Sea Scrolls)
- France National Library (377 scroll fragments representing 18 scrolls)
- Amman Museum (fragments of 20 scrolls, including the Copper Scroll)
- Heidelberg University in Germany (four phylactery pieces)
- Franciscan private museum in Jerusalem's Old City (two fragments)
- Terre Sainte Bible Museum in Paris (two scroll fragments)
- University of Chicago (one fragment)
- McGill University in Montreal (a few fragments)
- St. Mark's Syrian Orthodox Cathedral in Teaneck, N.J. (fragments of three scrolls)
- Schoyen Collection in Oslo, Norway (115 fragments)
- Asuza Pacific University in Asuza, Ca. (5 fragments)
- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Tx. (3 fragments)
- Green Collection in Oklahoma City, Ok. (12 fragments)
- Private collection of Spaer family, Jerusalem (2 fragments)
- Private collection of Kando family in Bethlehem, West Bank (the family does not reveal how many fragments remain in its collection, but estimates range between 20 and 40.)

Israel is keen to obtain one scrap in particular from Kando: a well-preserved Genesis fragment shaped like a butterfly and about the size of a cereal box - 'The largest fragment in private hands,' Kando claims.

About 5 years ago, Israeli diamond billionaire and antiquities collector Shlomo Moussaieff offered to buy the piece and donate it to the country. Ganor, of Israel's antiquities authority, said Kando's price of around $1.2 million was too high.

The fragment includes passages that tell the story of Joseph, and is written in Paleo-Hebrew, an ancient Israelite script pre-dating the Hebrew block characters adopted by Jews around the 5th century B.C. and still in use today.

The Kando family agreed to display the Genesis fragment, for the first time, in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's exhibit.

After the exhibit closed in January, Kando said the fragment returned to his family's Swiss safe deposit box, still mounted in the glass frame in which it was displayed.

Kando is said to be asking for about $40 million for the Genesis piece, according to Pattengale of the Green Collection. Kando would not disclose financial details of his dealings, and said his family is currently not participating in any new negotiations for additional scroll sales.

Scholars consider Kando's fragments to be authentic because his father was directly involved in the sale of scrolls when they were first discovered.

Scholars examining the Dead Sea Scroll fragments

Scholars examining the Dead Sea Scroll fragments

New scroll fragments from the Dead Sea region have surfaced in recent years from different sources.
In 2005, Israeli police raided the home of Hanan Eshel, an Israeli scrolls scholar, after he facilitated the purchase of scroll fragments from a Bedouin man who said he discovered them in a cave a year before.

The fragments were unrelated to the Dead Sea Scrolls trove, but were found in the same region and dated to the 2nd century A.D.

Eshel had already given the fragments to Israeli authorities before the raid, and had said it was never his intention to purchase them for himself, but Israel's antiquities authority said he had acted illegally. Eshel died in 2010.

In mid-2010, a team of 30 Israeli undercover agents and officers staged a stakeout at Jerusalem's Hyatt Hotel, posing as interested buyers, and seized a papyrus fragment dating to the 2nd century A.D. The Palestinian dealers offering the papyrus for sale were arrested.

It is likely more ancient manuscripts, and even Dead Sea Scrolls, remain hidden in caves next to the

Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, waiting to be discovered.

Many cave entrances are hidden by vegetation and rock falls, or their approaches are eroded, said Lenny Wolfe, a Jerusalem manuscripts dealer.

'I would not at all be surprised if more material were to be found,' Wolfe said.

According to the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus selected this town as the center of his public ministry in Galilee after he left the small mountainous hamlet of Nazareth (Matthew 1:12-17). Capernaum has no obvious advantages over any other city in the area, so he probably chose it because it was the home of his first disciples, Simon (Peter) and Andrew. The Gospel of John suggests that Jesus' ministry was centered in a village called Cana.

File:Golgotha cross-section.svg

 

 

   

Barefoot, dressed in white robes, Carl James Joseph, a Catholic pilgrim from Detroit, Michigan, has been living without money and depending on the generosity of others for the past 20 years.

Joseph calls himself Jacob but is better known by many as ‘the Jesus guy’, a moniker he has earned as a result of his Jesus-like appearance and active choice to live like he believes the Bible figure did more than 2,000 years ago.

He has visited about 20 countries in the world as a missionary, and has become a well-known figure in the old city of Jerusalem, where he explores the life and path of Jesus Christ.

Holy way: James  Joseph , a Catholic pilgrim originally from Detroit, Michigan,  rest  in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the Old City of Jerusalem, where he has become a well-known figure as a result of his resemblance to Jesus

Holy way: James Joseph , a Catholic pilgrim originally from Detroit, Michigan, rest in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the Old City of Jerusalem, where he has become a well-known figure as a result of his resemblance to Jesus

'The Jesus guy' does not carry objects or money, and walks around the streets of the Old City barefoot, wearing white robes and carrying a woollen blanket and Bible.

He spends most of his day praying at the Church of the Holy Seprulchre and talks to people who he meets on his way. Mr Joseph explains that as he loves Jesus, he wants to live the same lifestyle as the Bible describes; in total poverty with the simplest of clothes, no possessions and sharing the gospel.

The long-haired evangelist earned the nickname 'the Jesus guy' while crossing United States in the 90s where local and international media began asking questions about the soft-spoken man in the robe, walking barefoot across western Pennsylvania.

Carrying his cross: James Joseph carries a cross at the Via Dolorosa ninth station at the Old City of Jerusalem as he explores the life and path of Jesus Christ

Carrying his cross: James Joseph carries a cross at the Via Dolorosa ninth station at the Old City of Jerusalem as he explores the life and path of Jesus Christ

Copy cat: James Joseph has earned himself the nickname 'The Jesus Guy', and is living the life of the man the Bible calls 'The Son of God' in bare feet and robes, seen here as he sleeps near the ancient Jewish cemetery in Mount of Olives with the background of the Old City of Jerusalem

Copy cat: James Joseph has earned himself the nickname 'The Jesus Guy', and is living the life of the man the Bible calls 'The Son of God' in bare feet and robes, seen here as he sleeps near the ancient Jewish cemetery in Mount of Olives with the background of the Old City of Jerusalem

Cross to bare: James Joseph proclaims that as he loves Jesus, he wants to live the same lifestyle Jesus did; in total poverty with the simplest of clothes, no possessions and sharing the gospel

Cross to bare: James Joseph proclaims that as he loves Jesus, he wants to live the same lifestyle Jesus did; in total poverty with the simplest of clothes, no possessions and sharing the gospel

Simple life: The pilgrim from Detroit, Michigan has spent more than two decades living the life he believes Jesus led over 2,000 years ago

Simple life: The pilgrim from Detroit, Michigan has spent more than two decades living the life he believes Jesus led over 2,000 years ago

Mr Joseph featured in Time Magazine and the Washington Post and a few years later became the subject of a documentary - unsurprisingly named 'The Jesus Guy'.

Mr Joseph was born in Detroit and grew up in Toledo, Ohio, where he was invited to join the local Catholic Church aged 12, he eventually set out on his long journey in 1991, wearing just his robes and carrying a Bible and a rosary.

'Like Jesus, it s through experience,' he told the Toledo Blade in a 2007 interview. 'It s one thing to learn by reading; it s another to learn by experience.'

'I've always been open to whatever God may want. I never really set out with the intention of living this particular lifestyle, he said. But once I recognized it was what God was calling me to do, I went along with it.'

Bringing the message: Like his Messiah, 'The Jesus Guy' lives solely on the charity and goodwill of others, walking barefoot clad in a robe and blanket

Bringing the message: Like his Messiah, 'The Jesus Guy' lives solely on the charity and goodwill of others, walking barefoot clad in a robe and blanket

Famous face: 'The Jesus Guy' poses for a picture with some tourists in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the Old City of Jerusalem

Famous face: 'The Jesus Guy' poses for a picture with some tourists in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the Old City of Jerusalem

Holy man: Mr Joseph has been preaching the word of the Bible since 1991 - and only puts sandals on when he visits hospital to spread the word of Jesus

Holy man: Mr Joseph has been preaching the word of the Bible since 1991 - and only puts sandals on when he visits hospital to spread the word of Jesus

Long walk: 'The Jesus guy' has walked across around 20 countries and through most of the states of America barefoot, clad in a robe

Long walk: 'The Jesus guy' has walked across around 20 countries and through most of the states of America barefoot, clad in a robe

 

   
 

 

  • A new film celebrates the rich history and religious significance of the city of Jerusalem
  • The makers of 'Jerusalem' were granted special rights to film using low-altitude planes to capture stunning hi-def images of one of the oldest cities in the world
  • The film, being distributed by National Geographic Entertainment, also explores the religious significance of the city through the eyes of three young girls - one Christian, one Jewish and one Muslim

The iconic city of Jerusalem, so rich in history, religion and science, is celebrated in a new movie shot using high definition cameras by filmmakers granted special access rights to capture unprecedented views of the Holy Land.

The result is a visually stunning piece of film-making which offers viewers breathtaking aerial perspectives of the Old City and other famous landmarks.

Jerusalem is like nowhere else on earth, not only is it one of the oldest cities in the world, but it is considered holy by three major world religions - Christians, Jews and Muslims.

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The sun rises over the Mount of Olives, framed between the Al-Khanqah al-Salahiyya Mosque on the left and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the right

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Tens of thousands of Jewish pilgrims congregate at the Western Wall during Passover for the Birkat Kohanim, meaning 'Priestly Blessing'

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Muslim women from nearby villages on their way to noon prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan

 

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A breathtaking aerial view of Masada, once a mountain fortress built by order of Herod the Great during the 1st Century BC

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A Greek Orthodox youth choir from the town of Beit Sahour sings in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, built on the traditional site where Jesus was born

'We were thrilled with the opportunity to provide audiences with the story of the Old City on this grand scale, and offer unique perspectives, aerials and access to this part of the world in a way you could never get in any other format.' said Daniel Ferguson, who produced the movie along with Taran Davies and George Duffield.

'Jerusalem' presents the story from several perspectives and features three teenage girls, one from each faith - Farah Ammouri, a Muslim, Nadia Tadros, from a Greek Orthodox and Catholic family, and Revital Zacharie, a Jew – who each took Ferguson on a (separate) one-day tour of Jerusalem, which he filmed.

'Our goal was to look at the roots of the universal attachment to Jerusalem: Jewish, Christian and Muslim,’ explained Ferguson.

For those of the Jewish faith, Jerusalem represents their homeland. Every synagogue in the world faces Jerusalem, and three times a day, Jews pray towards the temples that once stood here above 'the Kotel' or Western Wall. They believe prayers pass through the Kotel to God.

For Christians, Jerusalem is the place where Jesus was arrested and sentenced to death nearby in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Via Dolorosa, or ‘Way of Sorrows,’ is said to be the path Jesus took on his way to crucifixion.

Video: Watch the trailer for the breathtaking film 'Jerusalem'

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A group of Armenian Apostolic priests descend the stairs to the Chapel of St Helena in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Tradition holds that Helena, mother to the Emperor Constantine, discovered remnants of the True Cross here in the 4th century AD during the construction of the original church

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The Dome of the Rock, one of the old and holiest sites in Islam: The iconic city of Jerusalem is celebrated in a new movie shot using high definition cameras by filmmakers granted special access to capture unprecedented views of the Holy Land

For Muslims, Jerusalem is the city of the prophets. Muslims believe that Mohammed was taken on a miraculous journey from Mecca to Jerusalem where he ascended to Heaven on a ladder of light, which they associate with the 'Dome of the Rock.'

From the Damascus Gate and the Dome of the Rock, to the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the girls each reveal the Holy City from their own perspective.

‘What was really amazing was that they would bring me to some of the same places in the city and tell me entirely different things,' said Feriguson.

'Revital would point out Jewish history, but when I asked her if she knew about the Christian or Muslim attachment to the same places, she didn’t. The same was true of the other girls.'

‘We hope the juxtaposition of these different religions and cultures - all with profound spiritual and historical connections to the city - will reveal how much Jews, Christians and Muslims have in common and inspire all of us to better understand each other.'

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A computer-generated recreation of Jerusalem in the 1st century AD, featuring the latest archaeological consensus on what the 2nd Temple might have looked like

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A rare view of the rock at the center of the Dome of the Rock. Muslims refer to it as 'as-Sakrah', the rock from where they believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. In Jewish tradition, it known as 'the Foundation Stone,' where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son and where the Temples stood. Many historians believe the biblical Jebusites worshiped here nearly 5000 years ago

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Throughout its checkered history, Jerusalem has been fought over more than any other place in history; conquered and destroyed, rebuilt and reinvented and remains to this day both a thriving modern city and a living museum to over 5,000 years of history

With thousands of archaeological sites, Jerusalem is one of the most excavated cities on the planet, with so much more waiting to be discovered.

The film features renowned archaeologist and religious studies professor Dr. Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who explains the many layers that chronicle this important crossroads of civilizations.

'It's a living city, and it's a city that's been inhabited continuously for thousands of years,' Magness told NBC News. 'Unless, God forbid, the city is ever completely abandoned, we'll never get a complete picture.'

In the film, Dr. Magness leads a group of students through an ancient water tunnel beneath the biblical-era city of Jerusalem, which conveyed water from the Gihon Spring outside the city walls to the residents of the city in the event of a siege by an invading army.

She also gives audiences a tour of excavations around the Western Wall, marveling at one of the greatest feats of engineering in the ancient world.

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Built into a canyon in the Judean Desert, the Mar Saba Monastery was founded by the Greek Orthodox monk, Saint Sabas, in the 5th century AC, and is still inhabited today

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Jerusalem is like nowhere else on earth, not only is it one of the oldest cities in the world, but it is also considered holy by three major world religions - Christians, Jews and Muslims

The sensitivity to all those traditions is one of the biggest challenges facing archaeologists as they try to piece together the story of Jerusalem's past, going back to the Jebusites (also known as the Canaanites) who settled there 5,000 years ago.

'Understanding ancient Jerusalem is like trying to put together a giant puzzle, where we're missing most of the pieces and we don't know what the original picture looked like,' Magness said in the film. 'Everything that we dig up out of the ground is a new piece of the puzzle.'

One of the most thrilling scenes in 'Jerusalem' starts out with Magness showing a tour group around the monumental walls of the Temple Mount, and ends up morphing into a computer-generated reconstruction of the Second Temple.

Other scenes compare present-day settings with how the same location looked in historical photographs or virtual views of the ancient past.

The film, which is narrated by British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, will premiere in giant-screen, IMAX and digital 3-D cinemas in the USA and worldwide beginning September 20, 2013.

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Al-Masjid al-Aqsa, meaning 'The Furthest Mosque' is one of the three most important sites in Sunni Islam. At its center is the Dome of the Rock. The entire area takes up one sixth of the walled city of Jerusalem

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Jerusalem's iconic Citadel (now the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem) is a fortress with archaeological findings spanning over 2,000 years

 

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The Western Wall plaza illuminated at night, left, musicians lead a Bar Mitzvah boy towards the Western Wall, right

Throughout its checkered history it has been fought over more than any other place in history; conquered and destroyed, rebuilt and reinvented and remains to this day both a thriving modern city and a living museum to over 5,000 years of history.

Jerusalem,’ which is being distributed by National Geographic Entertainment, explores this ancient, enigmatic place on a grand scale. It has been shot especially in 3D for IMAX and Giant Screen cinemas which immerses audiences in a spectacular cinematic journey.

Audiences get a rare glimpse of the storied city, as well as exclusive access to iconic holy sites including the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Jordan River, the Sea of Galilee and the mountain fortress of Masada.

Although a strict no-fly zone has existed over the region for many years, the filmmakers were granted special permission to capture aerial images using low-altitude planes.

 

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An aerial view of the Jordan River, which lies about 30km East of Jerusalem and flows from north of the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, left, and an aerial view of the  Church of the Beatitudes by the Sea of Galilee near Capernaum, the traditional site where Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount as told in the New Testament, right

The Wailing Wall today. The base of the section seen today is from the period of the second temple, which was destroyed in the year 70AD. It's upper parts were added during later periods. The hight of the Western Wall is 18 meters, and it consists of 24 stone layers, when the lower layers are made up of larger stones. A significant part of the Western Wall is still buried beneath the surface (19 layers of stones). It is possible that the lower layers are from the period of the first temple. The height of the buried part of the Western Wall is almost as high as the visible part.

Jews congregate at this site to bewail the loss of their Temple. The Temple in Jerusalem was the most sacred building in Judaism. Herod the Great built vast retaining walls around Mount Moriah, expanding the small, quasi-natural plateau on which the First and Second Temples stood into the wide open spaces of the Temple Mount seen today.

 

Western part of the wailing Wall. The Kotel, is a retaining wall in Jerusalem that dates from the time of the Jewish Second Temple (515 BCE - 70 CE). It is sometimes referred to by gentiles as the Wailing Wall, the term that may be considered derogatory, as it implies the image of Jews wailing and moaning over the hardships they have endured throughout Jewish history. The Western Wall is part of the larger religious site in the Old City of Jerusalem called (the Temple Mount) to Jews and some Christians

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Although a strict no-fly zone has existed over the region for many years, the filmmakers were granted special permission to capture aerial images using low-altitude planes

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Dawn over the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem's Old City, left. A Tokes (which literally means 'blaster') blows into a shofar in the Congliano Synagogue in Jerusalem to announce the Jewish New Year, right

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the holiest Christian site in Jerusalem and Israel. The Church contains the Chapel of Golgotha and three Stations of the Cross, as well as the place of Jesus Christ's burial and resurrection. Today's Church of the Holy Sepulchre stands in the place where a temple dedicated to Aphrodite used to stand. This temple was built during the Roman Empire's time on the location where Christ was crucified and buried, so it will be forgotten. Ironically, the building of the temple actually preserved the exact burial site's location.

Slab of stone, where they believed, the body of Jesus was cleaned prior to burial.The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built by Constantine I the Great during the fourth century, after he became christian, and turned Christianity to the official religion of the Roman empire. In the year 326, Constantine I sent his mother, Helena, to seek the Crucifixion location in Jerusalem. Helena found the place and also found the remains of the cross itself. In that same place, 7 years later, Constantine I founded the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the year 333.

Jesus' birthplace Since it was distinguished above every other city as the birth-place of "Him whose goings forth have been of old" (Micah 5:2), it was here that the birth of Christ was expected. Accordingly, the gospels (Luke 2:4 and Matthew 2:1) report that Jesus, whom they proclaim as the Messiah, was born in Bethlehem, although he grew up in Nazareth. Matthew reports that Herod had "all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under" killed when Jesus was born (Matt. 2:16, 18; Jer. 31:15). Jesus' family escaped this fate for him, by fleeing to Egypt and then returning after Herod had died, shortly thereafter.

The Church of All Nations, also known as the Church of the Agony or the Basilica of the Agony, is located on Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, next to the Garden of Gethsemane. It enshrines a section of bedrock where Jesus is said to have prayed before the night of his arrest.

In the 1160s the nave of the Church of the Nativity was redecorated with mosaics showing the councils of the church. On the south wall, an inscription in Greek reads: "the present work was finished by Ephraim the monk, painter and mosaicist, in the reign of the great emperor Comnenus and in the time of the great king of Jerusalem, Amalric." Interestingly, the emperor's name was placed first, in recognition of his role as overlord and protector of the Crusaders at the time. However, in 1187, Saladin captured Bethlehem from the Crusaders, and the Latin clerics were forced to leave. Saladin agreed to the return of two Latin priests and two deacons in 1192. Bethlehem was briefly returned to Crusader control by treaty between 1229 and 1244. In 1250, with the coming to power of Baibars, tolerance of Christianity declined, clergy left the town, and in 1263 the walls of the town were demolished. The Latin clergy returned to the town over the right to administer and maintain the Basilica.

The Grotto of the Nativity contains the manger that is believed to be the place where the baby Jesus was laid after he was born. The grotto is encased in white marble. The site of the birth is marked by a 14-point star on a marble stone. The High Altar standing above the Grotto. The site has been venerated by Christians since St Justin Martyr identified it as the site of Jesus' birth in the second century

The Palestinian Authority was given control over Bethlehem in December 1995, when Israeli troops pulled out. Bethlehem is mentioned in Genesis as Ephratah, the burial place of Rachel - a place of pilgrimage for both Jews and Muslims. It is also referred to in the Old Testament as the home of King David's family.

 

 

     

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