JERUSALEM-the 50 sites you may overlook

In a historic and religious city like Jerusalem there is so much to see no matter how much you tour. When time is a limiting factor, even the most efficient tour guides have to compromise while deciding what to incorporate in the itinerary. Although it depends on the interest of the individual visitor as well, there is still a huge must-see-list in Jerusalem that cannot be avoided. At every stop so much information is thrown on a visitor that sometimes s/he tends to forget the details after leaving the place.

I remember when I first visited the Church of Holy Sepulcher, it appeared to me more like a small museum than a church. I was virtually clueless inside a dark and dull overcrowded massive complex of more than 25 chapels with several curious artifacts and antiques scattered under some dusky arches and dingy columns. It took me at least three visits with a proper map in hand to understand the Church complex. A normal visitor for instance would be satisfied with Golgotha, the ‘Stone of Unction’ and the ‘Holy Sepulcher’, but the oldest part of the complex, viz. the first century tombs inside the Syrian Orthodox Chapel could be easily missed.

In the upcoming posts I plan to upload 50 such sites from Jerusalem that I believe can be easily overlooked or go unnoticed by an average visitor. I am incorporating the following sites from my previous visits, again with no specific order of importance. I am sure that a serious traveler who loves history, traditions and the Bible has noticed or been to most of them.

Friday, April 5, 2013

7. The 'Finger of Og' or the 'Herod's Pillar' (1st century BC?)

In the heart of downtown Jerusalem near the Russian compound, but not far from the Jaffa Gate of Old City there is an impressive artifact. A colossal 12 m (40 ft) long monolithic column made of Jerusalem Stone dating from the Second Temple Period lies there in a fenced trench. This cracked column was discovered in 1871. Archaeologists believe that the site used to be a quarry in ancient times and the column was abandoned since it was cracked during quarrying.

It is widely presumed that the column was meant for one of King Herod’s (1st century BC) colossal building projects in Jerusalem, probably for the colonnades of Jerusalem Temple itself. Alternate views suggest the column was meant for a building in the time of Theodosius I (4th century AD) or to support the roof of the magnificent 6th century ‘Nea Church’ of Jerusalem built by Justinian I.

An interesting legend associated with the pillar is that it represents the ‘finger bone of Og', King of Bashan. In Bible, Og was an Amorite giant-king of Bashan killed by Joshua (9:10). “King Og of Bashan was the last survivor of the giant Rephaites. His bed was made of iron and was more than thirteen feet long and six feet wide. It can still be seen in the Ammonite city of Rabbah” (Dueteronomy 3:11, NLT). Some assume that "the Amorite" mentioned in the Book of Amos refer to Og, “whose height was like the height of the cedars and whose strength was like the oaks” (Amos 2:9).

Location: At Shne’ur Kheshin Street, between the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral and the Regional Police Headquarters of Jerusalem. The pillar is inside a trench just in front of the Police Headquarters. It takes only 10 minutes to walk from Jaffa Gate to the Russian Compound which lies approximately 1 km North West.

Date: December 17, 2009

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