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March 16: Jericho

Lawrence Bush
March 15, 2017
Israel ceded administrative control of the city of Jericho to the Palestinian Authority on this date in 1994. The city had been occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967, then by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War. Jericho is the city with the oldest known protective wall in the world and among the oldest stone towers; archaeologists have unearthed traces of permanent settlement there dating to 9000 BCE. At 230 metres below sea level, Jericho is also the lowest city on Earth. Known as the “City of the Palms” in the Bible (the area is renowned for its freshwater springs), Jericho is described there as the first city captured by the Israelites upon entering the land of Canaan after their forty years in the wilderness after leaving Egypt. “Jericho later fell to the Babylonians,” notes the Jewish Virtual Library, “but was rebuilt when the Jews were allowed to return from their exile. . . . For Christians, Jericho took on importance because of its association with John the Baptist, who was said to have been baptized by the banks of the Jordan on the eastern boundary of the city . . . and the story of the temptation of Christ.” The city came under Muslim control in the 7th century and became known as the “City of the Moon,” because its Arabic name, Ariha, is derived from Yarikh, the name of the Canaanite god of the moon. “Jericho’s biggest tourist attraction at one point was Oasis casino -- built in 1995 following the peace agreement signed between the Palestinians and Israelis -- which was the only legal gambling establishment in the region, and a magnet for Israelis. In 1999, it made a profit of $54 million from the close to 2,900 people who visited the casino daily -- 99 percent of them Israelis. In 2000, though, after the outbreak of violence during the Palestinian War, the casino was shut down. The juxtaposition of the casino, located directly across the street from a Palestinian refugee camp, was not lost on Palestinian terrorists who began using its high roof to shoot at nearby Israeli targets.” --Jewish Virtual Library

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.