Wishing all a Meaningful Shavuot 2015/5775

Chag Sameach Shavuot–Happy Festival of Weeks!

This year it just happens that the traditional Jewish day of the “Festival of Weeks,” known otherwise as Pentecost (from the Greek word πεντηκοστή meaning “50th”), corresponds with the more literal “count” of 50 days beginning the “day after the Sabbath” of Passover week–counting 50 days–until the day after the seventh Sabbath or Sunday (Leviticus 23:15-16; Deuteronomy 16:10). For Jews Shavuot marks the giving of the Torah at Mt Sinai or Horeb (Exodus 19:1ff) and for Christians, Pentecost (known by its Greek name) marks the beginning of what was later understood as the inauguration of a “New Covenant” (Acts 2:1-4). Even the Dead Sea Scrolls community had a ceremony for the “renewal of the Covenant” on this day in ancient times (Community Rule).

shavuotWhatever its meaning it always seems to have to do with “new beginnings” and inauguration. So wishing all new beginnings and abundance of “harvest.”


Jerusalem and the Holy Land in 19th Century Photos and Engravings

I am absolutely fascinated with old photos, engravings, and maps of Jerusalem and the Holy Land–especially from the 19th century. I have written previously of the massive 13 x 17 foot Stephan Illes model of Jerusalem from 1873 here. When you visit Jerusalem you don’t want to miss this, it is part of the Tower of David museum–but now in the basement and overlooked by most tourists. There is a growing archive of photos, maps, and engravings, now being posted online from the Ottoman Imperial Library, linked here. I just downloaded a few dozen of Jerusalem. You will need to scroll down to find the relevant albums and you can download in various resolutions. Here are a few of my favorites so far.

Panorama from the EastJerusalem from the SouthTomb of David Mt ZionEastern Gate and Muslim GravesPanorama from EastWestern Prayer Wall

Jerusalem Day–48 Years Ago Today–Are You Old Enough To Remember?

June 7, 1967. Are you old enough to remember?  Those of us who are will never forget how the entire world was riveted to their televisions during the “Six Day War.” Today is Yom Yerushalayim or “Jerusalem Day” on the Hebrew calendar (Iyyar 28), commemorating the Israeli return to the Old City of Jerusalem in the Six Day War. You can read the account by Michael Oren here, taken from his book, Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. This Youtube video captures the moment with live radio transmissions and footage as Israeli soldiers arrived at the Western Wall.

For me it was one of the defining events of my life and my generation.  I was 21 years old, living in Texas, and like so many others was glued to the television 24/7 as the fate of Israel hung in the balance. None doubted that the shrill words over Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian radio about finishing the job that Hitler began would be carried out in full should it be militarily possible.  The ancient words of Psalm 83 and Psalm 124 seemed uncannily relevant, as if history does indeed repeat itself in some strange cycle of protagonists.

Today on the Hebrew calendar is called Yom Yerushalayim, Iyyar 28th, which commemorates the liberation of the city of Jerusalem, putting it back in Jewish hands after 2300 years of what the prophet Daniel calls the “trampling of the nations” (Daniel 8:13-14). Despite all the directions things have gone since that fateful day in terms of Israeli and Arab conflicts over the city of Jerusalem and its holy places I am convinced that we will look back someday on this date in history and know it is one of the most important and significant in world history.

What few realize today with all the rhetoric about “occupied Arab East Jerusalem” is that the Old City had a majority Jewish population under Turkish rule until the early 20th century, even though Jewish life was severely restricted, see my blog post on this here. Under Jordanian rule, from 1948 until 1967, Jews had been driven from the Old City and many historic markers of Jewish life and culture were systematically destroyed by the Arab Legion from Mt Zion to the Mount of Olives. I first visited Jerusalem in July, 1962, under Jordanian occupation, and even visited the Western Wall and the “Jewish Quarter,” but the Old City was filled with Christian tourists and Arabs, both Christian and Muslim–but strangely, no Jews. You can read my personal account here.

Forty-eight years later the differences are hard to fathom with religious rights and access guaranteed by the Israeli government to all faiths and holy sites and much of the Jewish Quarter restored–including most recently the magnificent Huvra Synagogue. Next month when we begin our excavation at our site just outside Zion Gate our students and participants will be able to experience fully the vibrantly diverse culture of the Old City with freedom to explore all areas of its historic past. It is still not too late to join us–we have over 60 people signed up we we can take up to 80, so we are accepting late registrations, see digmountzion.uncc.edu on details. I plan to be there the entire four weeks. Also, if you can’t join us we invite you to contribute to funding–all our operational costs are paid from funds we raise from our loyal supporters. See here regarding How You Can Participate.

Dig Mount Zion: How You Can Participate!

Mt Zion Logo

Sunrise MtZion RD

We are officially kicking off a “crowd-funding” campaign to raise money for our Mt Zion excavation in Jerusalem, which begins a month from today. The magazine Popular Archaeology recently headlined our dig with the following update and you can read their full coverage here:

A team of archaeologists and students will be returning in 2015 to excavate at a site just below the ancient walls of Jerusalem not far from the Temple Mount, an area that has recently been yielding structures and artifacts that are beginning to show a slice of times both turbulent and peaceful in a city sacred to three great religions. Among the most recent finds are an Iron Age II (8th – 6th centuries CE) stamped pottery handle depicting a double-winged scarab with the Hebrew inscription, “le-Melek…” (of or belonging to the King) representing royal or state property; walls and structures from the late 1st century BCE to 70 CE, including a Jewish ritual bath and numerous coins; and more structures, features and artifacts from the Byzantine, Islamic, Crusader, and Ottoman periods.

We are very excited about our 2015 seasons and have over 60 participants from around the world joining us. It is not too late if any of you want to still join us–see digmountzion.uncc.edu for details and contact information.

Annual operational costs of our excavation run about $76,000 a year. We have already raised $36,000 from individual donors that we have approached directly but now want to open things up so a much wider funding base through social media. These funds are used directly for excavation costs, conservation, curating of finds, and post-excavation analysis–not personal salaries. The dig is under the academic oversight of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and is fully licensed by the Israel Antiquities Authority and the National Parks, who administer the land.

We are not using any of the popular programs such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe since they extract fees for their services. We want 100% of what our supporters give to go directly to our excavation. Our vender for the past decade, The Foundation of Biblical Archaeology (TFBA) is administering this special campaign and they do not extract fees for such services–simply because they are dedicated to advancing the projects they represent in the most economical way possible. TFBA is a IRS-Approved 501 (C) (3) non-profit and contributions are tax-deductible. All donations are promptly acknowledged and annual statements are provided to donors.

To participate you can go to the link here and give via Paypal or with a Credit/Debit card (add a note that your contribution is for Mt Zion), or you can send a check made out to TFBA/Mt Zion to:

The Foundation for Biblical Archaeology
2175 Dahlonega Highway
Cumming, GA 30040

There can be great strength in numbers and we hope that hundreds of our friends who have dug with us in the past or followed our progress along the way will pitch in and help with whatever amount they decide to give. Please contact me via e-mail with any questions: jdtabor@uncc.edu.


April “Pageviews” on TaborBlog Reach All-time High

The numbers are in. April, 2015 had the highest volume of traffic for a month in the history of this blog–whether measured by “page views” or number of unique visitors. This goes back nearly 10 years to 2006 when it was initially called “The Jesus Dynasty” blog, see here.

April page-views came in at 67,491 whereas my previous “high” last year for a month was 60,231. For some blogs these numbers would be inconsequential but for me they represent some amazing and steady growth, much of which has come from my devoted and engaged band of Facebook friends. I want to thank all my readers for your interest.

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You can see here the breakdown by Country (those with 100 page views or more in April listed), and a graph showing the growth in blog traffic over the past few years. I find the country breakdown and map particularly fascinating. It is so amazing what our Internet world now represents in terms of this internationalization.

Here is a tally of the top 25 posts showing which subject drew the most interest throughout the month:

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