Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Purpose of the Peruvian Temple Tunnels – Part I

In Jerusalem, the entire length of the Western Wall, sometimes called the Wailing Wall, is 1500 feet. Today, we see only about one hundred and eighty feet of this wall.
The Western Wall in Jerusalem as seen today
    In 70 B.C., when Rome destroyed the Second Temple, only one outer wall remained standing. The Romans probably would have destroyed that wall as well, but it must have seemed too insignificant to them; it was not even part of the Temple itself, just an outer wall surrounding the Temple Mount. For the Jews, however, this remnant of what was the most sacred building in the Jewish world quickly became the holiest spot in Jewish life.
   Throughout the centuries Jews from around the world made the difficult pilgrimage to Palestine, and immediately headed for the Kotel ha-Ma'aravi (the Western Wall) to thank God. The prayers offered at the Kotel were so heartfelt that gentiles began calling the site the “Wailing Wall.” This undignified name never won a wide following among traditional Jews; the term “Wailing Wall” is not used at all in Hebrew.
Inserting messages and praying at the Western Wall 

    Over centuries a tradition was developed, placing notes between the holy stones, asking for divine support, expressing wishes and prayers. The tradition has been adopted by members of many faiths around the world, and is so widespread that some American-Jewish newspapers carry advertisements for services that insert such prayers on behalf of sick Jews. The mystical qualities associated with the Kotel are underscored in a popular Israeli song, a refrain of which runs: “There are people with hearts of stone, and stones with hearts of people.” A rabbi in Jerusalem once told me that the Hebrew expression “The walls have ears” was originally said about the Western Wall.
 Most of the wall is unseen except through special tours in the tunnels below the city 

    However, the more than 1200-feet of the wall today is unknown to most visitors to Jerusalem and is completely hidden and covered by the houses of the Muslim Quarter.
    Anciently, anyone coming to Jerusalem and ascending to the temple mount had to purify himself by bathing in a ritual bath, called a mitveh, which was accessible through a series of tunnels. Even Jesus himself bathed in a mitveh.
    The word mitveh (also, mikvah, mikva, miqve) means “collection” and refers to a collection of water that was used by the Jews for ceremonial washing. They are ritual baths in which the Jews would purify themselves before several activities or after certain events that made them unclean. Conversion to Judaism requires submersion into a mitveh.
A metveh beneath the city accessable by tunnel for Pilgrims to purify themselves as they ascended to the Temple Mount

    The area around the Temple Mount, especially to the south, were filled with mitveh. Many of them were most likely used on the Day of Pentecost to baptize the converted Jews in Jesus’ name. It signified a major change in their understanding of who Jesus was and was a sign of their new faith and allegiance. A mitveh had to have a source of running water, such as a spring, or fresh water, such as rain, and large enough to allow an average sized person to immerse his whole body. Stairs would be used to descend into and ascend out of the mitveh. Often there was a wall separating the clean side from the unclean side.
    In fact, tens of thousands of pilgrims came to the city and were lodged in houses during the three pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Succot—but for hundreds of years after the destruction of the Second Temple, Jews were forbidden from residing in Jerusalem, and the city’s non-Jewish inhabitants utilized the abandoned baths for their own purposes as water cisterns, storage spaces and quarries.
    Beneath the Western Wall and beneath the city of Jerusalem is a series of tunnels that run along the actual mountain bedrock, which was chiseled to look like the Western Wall in order to create an optical illusion of continuity
Tunnels beneath the city of Jerusalem leading to ritual bath mitvehs entered by pilgrims wanting to ascend to the Temple Mount 

    Along the Western Wall that is now reachable only via one of the underground tunnels, and seen only on specially designed tours of the site, is the base of the Western Wall. This interesting tour is one of the most popular tourist sites in Jerusalem and follows the underground tunnels  that connect the western wall prayer area to the north-west side of the temple mount, passing along the side of the temple mount and under the present day houses in the Old City. Along its path are remains from the second temple period, as well as structures from later periods. Here, a large stone was placed during construction of the wall, that is 40 feet long, 12 feet high, and 14 feet deep. It weighs almost 600 tons, and was carved at a quarry in the northern parts of the temple mount and then brought to the wall, lifted up three stories high and placed symmetrically along the wall. How was it done? No one knows.
Large stone wall forty feet long placed along the base of the Western Wall. Note that there is no cement holding the stones together; only their weight and the perfectly cut match between the stones made them hold firmly together, and withstand the enormous pressure of the temple mount over two millenniums

    Along this wall, which rests on bedrock, the ancients cut down to the mountain rock base and built vent chambers, then chiseled the mountain rock beneath the wall base so it looked like the actual wall, and to visitors today it is indistinguishable and now looks exactly like part of the wall.
    This area was covered with accumulated debris following the Roman destruction and after two millenniums, new buildings were built on top of these old layers. However, under these structures, some cavities remained buried deep underground. Since the 19th century, explorers examined these cavities and tunnels in the search for the second temple remains. Explorers, such as Warren and Wilson, did manage to unearth sections of the tunnels, but they were limited in their research by the Ottoman rulers. Only after the six-day-war (1967), when the area returned to Israeli control, was the underground area thoroughly researched and reconstructed, with some sections still in the process of archaeological excavations today. However, the tourist site was fully opened in 1996, with 1640-feet long tunnel that had been buried along the north-western wall.
Beneath the Western Wall, the tunnels run along the actual rock of the mountain; Top: this vent runs down to the bedrock below; Bottom: the rock mountain was chiseled to look like part of the wall 

    The opening of this northern exit sparked deadly Arab riots in the old city for several days, but today it is a popular tourit attraction and tends to cause one to move through the tunnel quickly back into the ancient past when Christ walked the city. Today, the route of the tunnel tour starts from the entrance on the north side of the Western Wall   prayer area, and ends in Via Dolorosa.
One of the long tunnels cut in the rock that has been modernized with framework for the safety of tourism. This old tunnel was one of many that led beneath the city and to special mitvehs for cleansing and purifying of pilgrims visiting the city

1 comment:

  1. I was unaware of the quality of stonework of ancient Israel. Very interesting!