The dominating theme this week was “tombs,” and the picture above captures some of the tombs I visited in the Kidron Valley. In the middle is the Tomb of Zachariah, the pyramid topped structure cut away from the side of the mountain. To the left, one can see two columns, which is the family Tomb of Bene Hezir, later considered by some Byzantines to be the tomb of James, brother of Jesus. The tree to the left of the Tomb of Bene Hezir covers the top of another tomb, Absalom’s Monument. The size of Absalom’s Monument astonished me. It appears to be as tall as the tree, but it is actually about twice as tall because Absalom’s Monument is cut away from the side of the mountain, similar to the Tomb of Zachariah. Two inscriptions on Absalom’s Monument from the Byzantine Period, show that it was first considered to be the tomb of Zachary, the father of John the Baptist, and later the tomb of Simeon, most probably referencing the Simeon from Luke 2:25.

Many other tombs are not in the picture. Almost directly to the right of where I took this picture is the Tomb of Pharaoh’s Daughter. On the other side of the Old City, in the Western Section of the New City, I looked at Jason’s Tomb and Herod’s Family Tomb. To the south of the Old City, in the Hinnom Valley, I intended to visit more tombs located in the monastery at Aceldama, but I went on Wednesday when the monastery does not have visiting hours. I went back the next day, during their posted visiting hours only to learn that the monastery is only open for a few hours Saturday morning.

The monastery’s weird and changing hours were not the biggest disappointment of the week. Almost everything in the Armenian Quarter is currently off limits. The only exceptions were the Cathedral of St James and the Church of St Mark, but my access was extremely limited. In both cases, I was allowed to enter the first room, but go no further. At least tomorrow I will be able to visit the monastery.

On the whole, this week has been successful. In the City of David, I was able to cover more than I anticipated because of the ongoing excavations. On Mount Sion, I was given easy access to everything I wanted to see, especially the Essene Gate. I spent a day in the Bible Lands Museum and the Israel Museum. One final highlight was that I saw the wonderful excavations of the Nea Church in the Jewish Quarter.

This upcoming half week will be my last in Jerusalem. Before I fly back to the United States on Thursday morning, I still have two more sections to cover: the Northern Section and the Southern Section of the New City. I expect to be able to cover these sections and finish some things I was unable to cover the first time around, like the mosaic at the Church of St Anne.


  1. Monica Cronin says:

    I’m researching the U.S. infantry in WWI and WWII, and as I’ve traveled across France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany, I’ve visited around 15 cemeteries – American, French, British, and German. I’m ceaselessly astonished by the amount of information we’re able to learn about people from their grave sites. And not only the people, but the society in which they lived. I’ve gotten some of my best information from cemeteries and mausoleums. I can’t imagine what it was like to be at tombs this ancient. It sounds incredible!