Southern steps in Jerusalem 311.
(photo credit: Wayne Stiles)
Wayne Stiles is an author who has never recovered from his travels in Israel—and loves to write about them from his desk in Texas.
I visit the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, I always walk to the
southwest corner of the Temple Mount. There, excavations have uncovered a
portion of the first-century street that stretched north along the
original Western Wall.
One hundred meters north of the corner,
the Kotel, offers a portion of the Western Wall for Jews and tourists to
pray. Beneath the ground of the Kotel, Jerusalem’s Central Valley has
been filled in with the rubble of the Second Temple’s destruction in
A.D. 70. As a result, the beautiful modern plaza stands about nine
meters above the first-century street uncovered at the southwestern
The excavations near the corner came about through the
generosity of a distinguished member of the Jewish Federation of
Metropolitan Detroit (who also owns the Detroit Pistons). The ten-meter
wide street was laid with stone slabs, some a foot thick. Standing on
the street today, it isn’t hard to imagine the Romans hurling the
massive temple stones from above, literally crushing and pressing the
pavement blocks into the ground. Archaeologists have removed most of the
rubble, but they left one pile of stones just as they found them—the
street still depressed from the force of the impact.
of the main reasons I continually return to this corner of the Temple
Mount is because of one particular stone that lies on the street far
below where it originally stood. Shaped as a corner, the stone bears the
Hebrew inscription: “To the place of trumpeting.”
represented the pinnacle of the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount,
the place where priests would stand and overlook Jerusalem as they blew
trumpets to announce the Sabbath and the start of festival days. The
Feast of Trumpets especially relates to this act: “Speak to the sons of
Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month on the first of the month you
shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy
convocation. You shall not do any laborious work, but you shall present
an offering by fire to the Lord’” (Leviticus 23:24–25; see also Numbers
The Feast of Trumpets prepares the way for the Jewish
New Year, Rosh Hashana. The trumpets originally were intended to call
God's people together in preparation for the fall festival of Yom
when I visited a Jerusalem shop, I saw a long, beautiful shofar—the
horn from a ram. The merchant pressed it to his lips and released a long
blast followed by a half-dozen short ones. Nothing sounds like the
shofar—especially when blown in Jerusalem. It sounded marvelous!
Alfred Edersheim offers some helpful background on the blowing of the shofar:
the shofar was probably a ram’s horn (Josephus, Ant. v. 5, 6.), but
afterward it was also made of metal. The Shofar was chiefly used for its
loud and far-sounding tones (Exodus 19:16, 19; 20:18; Isaiah 58:1). At
the Feast of the New Year, one priest with a shofar was placed between
those who blew the trumpets; while on fast-days a priest with a shofar
stood on each side of them—the tones of the shofar being prolonged
beyond those of the trumpets. In the synagogues out of Jerusalem the
shofar alone was blown at the New Year, and on fast-days only trumpets." (The Temple: Its Ministry and Services
Hearing the shofar echo
across Jerusalem takes my mind in several directions. I think of the
southwestern corner of the Temple Mount and the opening line from the
song, “Yerushalaim Shel Zahav
which says, “A shofar calls out on the Temple Mount in the Old City . .
.” I try to imagine the priests of old standing at the pinnacle of the
temple, calling God’s people to worship at the High Holidays. I also
think about the renewal and re-dedication that Rosh Hashana
necessitates. Moreover, I consider the grace that the shofar’s call
represents—urging worshippers to come before the Lord who forgives sins
on the basis of the sacrifice God required (Leviticus 16:30). How to Get There:
In Jerusalem, enter the Dung Gate and take an immediate left, following
the path around to the entrance to the Jerusalem Archaeological Park.
Follow the pathway until it turns left toward the southwestern corner of
the Temple Mount. The stone “to the place of trumpeting” lies at the
bottom of the wooden staircase.
What to Do There:
Walk along the first-century street, and observe the place where ancient
shops stood in the shadow of Robinson’s Arch. Have a shofar? Blow it at
the place where the inscription reads: “To the place of trumpeting.”
Read there Leviticus 23:24–25 and Numbers 29:1–6.Read Wayne’s blog and subscribe to his weekly Podcast at www.waynestiles.com.
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