Jericho

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City Of Jericho

“Joshua fought the battle of Jericho” is a fact so well known that there are a number of songs that went to the top of the playlist of their day based on the story. But it is not the only thing that makes Jericho a “must see” when visiting the Holy Land. Near the Jordan River in what is now the Palestinian Territories, Jericho is mentioned in the Old Testament as a city of palm trees and springs. The city was made famous by Joshua, who took over from Moses to lead the Jews, then called “Israelites” out of exile and into their promised land, However, Jericho existed long before Joshua; twenty different layers of civilizations have been unearthed at Jericho, the oldest as early as 9,000 B.C.E.

One could write about Jericho century by century and it’s been done, but for the sake of hitting the highlights, a jump to the Hellenistic period sees Herod making arrangements to “rent” Jericho from Cleopatra and Mark Anthony who were holding the reigns in Egypt at the time. Vaulting a bit forward, to the Christian Gospels, it is said that Jesus healed blind beggars in Jericho as he was passing through and the Jericho-Jerusalem highway is understood to be the backdrop for the Good Samaritan parable. After Jerusalem fell to Vespasian in 70 C.E., Jericho declined and faded from mention other than being a base for the Roman army which squelched the Bar Kochba Revolt in 133 C.E. The town was under Christian influence throughout the Byzantine period, with a number of monasteries and churches built, though they were subsequently abandoned during the Persian invasion in 614. Remains of two synagogues from the 6th century make Jericho a mixed brew of cultures as the lawyers of civilizations continued accumulating.

The Arab caliphate period lasted for another five centuries and the city flourished until the invasion of the Seljuk Turks and the events of the Crusades turned things around again. The Crusaders rebuilt the Monastery of St. George of Koziba, built back in 340 C.E. and abandoned shortly afterwards, and another two churches that they dedicated to John the Baptist. Nevertheless, they were soon evicted again by Saladin after the Battle of Hattin victory

The modern Jericho, occupied in the 1967 Six Day War, was one of the land swaps for the sake of peace and came under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority in 1994. The Palestinians built a casino as a tourist attraction following the peace agreement and it was the only legal gambling house in the entire region; many Israelis visited and it made a huge profit for a while. But the beginning of the 2nd intifada in 2001 changed everything, as one would guess. The casino was closed down and Israelis were, and remain, prohibited from entering Jericho as well as all other areas under sole Palestinian jurisdiction. The Allenby Bridge is about 5 miles from Jericho, one of the two border crossing into Jordan, the other being the Eilat crossing to Aqaba.

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