Our tour of Jerusalem continues with a very different view today, taken from the top of the Roman stadium (used for chariot races etc) and looking over the ‘Upper City’ as it is built on the rest of Mount Zion. It’s not obvious from the picture, but the hill climbs away steeply in places, so that the top is higher than the temple mount, which is just behind us.
The housing in this area is for the rich, and built in the Roman style around a central courtyard, or atrium. Once again, it was planned and built by Herod the Great, perhaps to demonstrate to his Roman overlords that, although he wasn’t Roman himself, their interests were safe in his hands. Aristocratic and priestly families live here in luxury, amidst mosaic floors (patterned only – the law of Moses prohibits the representation of humans or animals) and private bath complexes. Many of these houses have cisterns underneath; large pits hewn into the rock and plastered to hold water which is collected from the roofs, providing the family with a constant source of water even during the dry months – the ultimate domestic appliance.
Also built here are forums (public squares), shops and basilicas (public buildings for business and legal proceedings), markets, public bath houses and even a small amphitheatre.
As far as we know, Rabbi Jesus has never been to this part of the city. He always says that He has come to call ‘sinners’ to repentance, and seems to spend most of His time with the outcasts of society. He even said that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Not very popular around here! There’s a rumour that some have managed it though; including Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the ruling council.