09 March 2012

Biblical Zoar

Biblical Zoar
No country in the Middle East, except Palestine/Israel has nearly as many Biblical associations as Jordan. Prophet Lot and his daughters escaped Sodom and Gomorrah and lived in a cave near Dead Sea, Prophet Moses looked across the Jordan Valley from Mount Nebo at the ‘Promised Land’ he would never see. Prophet Jesus was baptized in River Jordan at Bethany and not far from there Prophet Elijah ascended in a fiery chariot. I always tell visitors that in any place you put your foot in this country, the chances are very good that one of the holy men and women of the Bible and Qur’an walked in that very same spot.

South of Amman, all the way down at the southeastern tip of the Dead Sea lies Biblical Zoar. It was here that Prophet Lot and his daughters lived after the Destruction. For the past thirty years archaeologists have been digging in that area and have discovered an astonishing array of religions and cultures, some dating back as far as the Early Bronze Age. Nabataeans, Jews, Christians are all represented there.

Author Konstantinos Politis has published Death at the Dead Sea that what is quite possibly the largest graveyard in the ancient world is here at Zoar. So far, he has discovered that burials in Zoar go back as far as Early Bronze Age I-II (3100-2600 BCE).  The Nabaetaeans came to the area around 2500 years later, burying their dead at Khirbet Qazone, about 25 km north of Zoar. Ancient burials, more than 5000 in all, have been found dating between 1st century BCE and 4th century CE. Jewish families began to inhabit the area then and set about farming and raising dates. A great many Jewish tombstones demonstrate their presence there.

Jewish Tombstone

The Byzantine era (4th – 6th centuries CE) saw the rise of Christianity in the region of Zoar. They built a monastery near Lot’s cave and eventually the town became a major Bishopric. Literally hundreds of Greek-inscribed tombstones from the Byzantine era have been discovered. Sadly, a great many of the graves have been robbed and destroyed, but quite a large number have been found intact. More than 400 Greek and Aramaic that had been looted have been recovered by Politis and his team.

Christian Tombstone

You can learn a great deal more about the ancient tombstones from Zoar at Biblical Archaeology Review's articles written by Steven Fine and Kalliope I Kritikakou-Nikolaropoulou's Tales From Tombstones in the March/April 2012 issue.

*All photographs in this blogpost are from Biblical Archaeology Review

19 January 2012

New Yesterdays, Changed Tomorrows

This post is not about travel in the traditional sense. Our boy does travel, yes; but where he goes is completely different. Check out my newest book, New Yesterdays, Changed Tomorrows and see what young Jim is getting up to now.

Once upon a time there were three brothers growing up in the countryside just outside Piedmont, in northeast Alabama. One of these boys embarked on an adventure that might change not only his life and the lives of his family, but in the life of the United States of America.

One word from him can divide the nation, prevent many thousands of deaths and put the country on a completely new track. Will he resist the temptation or give in to the whisperings of his heart?

New Yesterdays, Changed Tomorrows is a new book from your blogger, Jim Wright. You can learn how young Jim faces his challenge by going to http://www.amazon.com/New-Yesterdays-Changed-Tomorrows-ebook/dp/B006Z8B38Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326952438&sr=8-1 and purchasing the book for a mere $2.99, £1.95, €2.60! For less than a cuppa at Starbucks you can go look over his shoulder as he plunges into a life changing experience!

The book is on sale for Kindle. If you do not have a Kindle, free software is available at the Amazon.com website that will allow you to read it on your PC or laptop.

I hope you’ll get the book and enjoy it as much as I enjoyed telling the story for you!

16 January 2012

Martyr Memorial in Amman

The Martyr Memorial in Amman, Jordan

In 1977 His Majesty, the late King Hussein ordered the establishment of a national memorial to soldiers who fell in the line of duty since the Great Arab Revolt of 1916-1919. The result was the Martyrs' Memorial, designed by Victor Adel Bisharat (1920-1996), enshrining the memory of those who gave their lives for their country. The structure was located at the summit of a pine-forested hill and is approached by a steep incline. Verses from the Holy Qur’an are inscribed on the walls of the shortened pyramid structure of white stone.

The memorial begins with the Great Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire. The revolt, which included 100,000 Arabs united under the leadership of Sharif Hussein bin Ali, began on 10 June 1916. It was not a strictly Jordanian war. It was an Arab revolt against non-Arab occupation. One year later Aqaba was wrestled from Ottoman control, and on 25 January 1918 the Ottoman Empire was totally routed.
A key target of the revolt was the relatively new Hejaz Railroad, which was the backbone of Ottoman communication. Interestingly, the exploits of “Lawrence of Arabia” (TE Lawrence, 1888-1935) and his attack on the railroad, as well as his famous role in fighting the Ottomans, is missing.

Astonishingly enough, the Amman-Damascus segment of the Hejaz Railroad still carried passengers until very recently. Dingy, authentic trains departed Amman on Monday and Thursday at 0800 and returned later the same day. A trip to Mafraq on the Jordanian side of the border, without entry into Syria, can be a delightfully unique experience.
Abdullah bin Hussein next lead the Trans-Jordan, first as leader of the Emirate created in 1923, and later as King. In 1930 he appointed John Bagot Glubb (1897-1986) to establish the Desert Patrol. From 1939 until 1956 Glubb served as commander of the Arab Legion, the name given to the Jordanian army at the time. It was under his able leadership that the Legion fought against Israeli forces during their “War of Independence”.

The museum houses models recreating 1948 battles in Bab El-Wad/Latrun. The Arab goal was to cut the communication and supply lines between besieged Jerusalem and Zionist forces in the Tel Aviv and Shefela areas. Another of the items in the memorial is a large painting (to the left of the entrance) depicting a fierce battle at Herod's Gate in 1948.

The years that followed saw repeated conflict with Israel. There were Jordanian successes as well as Israeli successes. Amongst the items on display in the museum are captured Israeli military rations and an IDF (Israeli Defense Force) rifle.

The Six Day War receives little treatment in the museum, but the 1968 Battle of Karameh is highlighted. The museum does not purport to be an academic chronology of military events. It is a memorial to the fallen, but in a wider sense it is an effort to remember the contribution of the fallen to the success of shaping the modern Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The Six Day War was a Jordanian military defeat. Karameh, a year later though, was the regaining of Jordanian pride.

In the exhibition mention is also made of Jordanian troops dispatched to the Golan in 1973 and a 1975 border confrontation.

A visit to the Martyrs' Memorial is definitely recommended. It gives better understanding to the history of a country that has shown how differences can be resolved through negotiation.

The museum is located in the Sport City Complex in Amman and can be easily reached by taxi or bus. The opening hours are 9 am to 4 pm Saturday through Thursday and the admission is free. The telephone number for the museum is +96265664240 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            +96265664240      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.