‘Jericho’ is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world & is located 846 feet below sea level in an oasis in Jordan valley located in the West Bank region. ‘Jericho’ has been under the Israeli occupation since 1967, although its administrative control was handed over to the Palestinian Authority in 1994.
‘Jericho’, which means ‘Fragrant’ in Hebrew, has been the house for innumerable settlements; the first of which dates back to the 9000 BC. The ruins of more than 20 successive settlements which were excavated by Archaeologists depict the glorious past of this city which is almost 11000 years of age! The Hebrew ‘Bible’ has described Jericho as the ‘City of Palm Trees’.
The evidences have proved that the ‘Jericho’ has been inhabited since the beginning of the ‘Holocene epoch’ of the Earth’s history! The spring of ‘Ein Es-Sultan’ that spatters almost 1000 gallons of water per minute, opulent sunshine & rich soil are the reasons that have made ‘Jericho’ the hotspot for the human habitation since very long back.
HISTORY IN BRIEF:
The geographical location of the city played a major role in making ‘Jericho’ the owner’s pride but the outsider’s envy! Two mountains namely, Mt. Nebo in the east & the Central Mountains to the west, together with the Dead Sea to the south, have provided ‘Jericho’ natural protection from most of the invaders. The ‘Jordan River’ flowing nearby & also the Spring-‘Ein Es-Sultan’ played a vital role in transforming ‘Jericho’ into a prosperous land, even it was surrounded from all the sides by the harsh barren deserts. Its location in the heart of Palestine also made it hugely popular trading hotspot as most of the trading routes were going through the city.
The recorded first settlement took place some 10,000 BC during the ‘Younger Dryas’ period. Although it was not a permanent habitation, the ‘Spring of Jericho’ was the most favored camping spot for ‘Natufian’ hunter groups. After 9600 BC, the regular droughts & cold in this area were gradually reduced & soon the place was transformed into a permanent settlement! The city gradually started swelling & by 9400 BC, it became the house of nearly 2000-3000 residents. A strong stone wall & a 12 foot high tower were erected to convert it into a stronghold.
As per the archaeological evidences, in the 2nd half of the Middle Bronze Age, the city grew in terms of the fortifications as well as wealth. This era saw one of the most famous Biblical legends, referring the conquest of the ‘Promised Land’ by the Israelites, lead by Joshua, coming into reality. The city was conquered by the legions of Israelites in the famous Biblical ‘Battle of Jericho’. However, lots of doubts were raised over the authenticity of the Biblical legends following the excavation of the collapsed wall, which as per the radiocarbon dating process carried out in 1995, was destructed between 1617 & 1530 BC; much earlier than the period mentioned in the Bible story!
The classical city then became the baton in the hands of several empires which kept on passing it to the next empires. Assyrians started the race in the 8th century BC & were followed by the Babylonians who in turn were defeated by the Persian emperors. The story continued & ‘Jericho’ became the part of the empire of Alexander the Great. Several other rulers did manage to grip the city, but none of them managed to tighten the grip till the arrival of the Romans. ‘Jericho’, however, started declining rapidly, & by 100 AD, it remained a small Roman stronghold!
‘Jericho’ did bounce back a little bit in the era of Byzantine & later on, in the reign of the Arab Caliphate, ‘Jericho’ managed to restore its old reputation as the ‘City of the Palms’. However, the growth of the city was severely hampered after 1071 AD with the invasion of the Seljuk Turks, followed by the raids of the Crusaders!
The excavated sites in ‘Jericho’ are the most loved tourist attractions in the city. The first excavation was carried out by ‘Charles Warren’ in 1868, followed by many archaeologists who have unearthed the myriad ruins that proudly demonstrate the rich historical background of this ancient city.
- Tell Es-Sultan: The most primitive habitation took place at the ‘Tell se-Sultan’, which resided a few kilometers away from the current city. It holds the heaps of successive layers of the constructions which were built up over time. This place features the oldest stairs & walls in the world which are speculated to be as old as 9000 years!
- Shalom Al Yisrael Synagogue:- The late 6th or the early 7th century built synagogue was discovered in 1936 & was named as ‘Shalom Al Yisrael Synagogue’ after the Hebrew motto inscribed in its mosaic floor.
- Na’aran Synagogue:- Another synagogue, similar to the ‘Shalom al’ was discovered along the northern boundaries of ‘Jericho’.
- Cable Car to the Mt. Temptation:- A modern day cable car which is installed to take the visitors atop the famous Mt. Temptation is one of the prime attractions of the city.
- Palace of Caliph Hisham:- The 7th century built palace of the Muslim Emperor ‘Caliph Hisham’ is located two miles away from the old town of Jericho.
Today, this oldest city in the world is not as prosperous as it was once upon a time in its long past & the most of its glory is now confined in the excavated ruins, this veteran city still holds the place of honor in the history of mankind. This old city is definitely worthy of visiting at least once as it is the ‘Mother of all the human habitations’!