UPDATES 8 pm Israel time, Tuesday, May 13 2014:
Former PM Ehud Olmert has been sentenced to 6 years in prison and ordered to pay a one million shekel fine for receiving bribes during the construction of the Holyland Project in Jerusalem while he was the mayor. Six other people involved in the scandal also received prison terms ranging from 3 to 7 years.
In his speech during sentencing, Judge David Rosen did not mince words in harshly castigating Olmert: “Those who give bribes are corrupt, but those who receive them inspire disgrace and cause the public to lose faith in the State. A public servant who accepts bribes is equivalent to a traitor.”
This was simply a case of a man’s character finally catching up with him. Previously escaping punishment for other crimes because he was considered a “special” person, Olmert ran up against a brick wall in Judge Rosen who didn’t believe a word that Olmert said–and most certainly didn’t believe that Olmert was special.
On a personal level, your humble servant would like to add that Olmert’s globetrotting trips to Europe and the United States during which he endlessly and tactlessly demeaned the current Israeli government were not sources of endearment. Olmert got what he deserved, but watch in the coming weeks as a chorus of leftists come out to decry the harshness of Olmert’s sentence.
**In an ominous development reflecting shifting realities in the region following the disengagement of the United States, the Saudi Arabian foreign minister invited his Iranian counterpart to Riyadh today for reconciliation discussions. This comes less than a month after the sacking of pro-U.S. and hardline Prince Bandar bin Sultan’s dismissal as Saudi Head of Intelligence last month.
It is simply amazing how Barack Obama’s lack of foreign policy is swifly driving countries to Moscow and Tehran.
As we continue on our way toward understanding why we should not see what we “see” when we see the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, we pick up where we left off yesterday.
The First Jewish Temple had been built by Solomon around 950 BCE and the Ark of the Covenant had been placed on the Foundation Stone–in a place which can still be seen by looking at the Stone today if you happen to be a Muslim (since non-Muslims are no longer allowed inside the Dome of the Rock).
The next two centuries saw repeated assaults on Jerusalem, most notably by Egyptian Shoshenck I (who sacked the city) and by Sargon and his son Sennacharib of Assyria. Nevertheless, the First Temple was always fiercely defended by the Jewish population and survived.
As may or may not be known by you, dear reader, there are numerous archaeological finds from this period–not the least of which is a wooden beam of Lebanese cedar found on the Temple Mount that remarkably has been dated to the time of the First Temple. Just this past Fall, your humble servant participated in the Temple Mount Sifting Project which inspects artifacts illegally dug up by the Islamic Wakf on the Mount and discarded as trash. A number of “finds” from the First Jewish Temple were found.
But back to history.
The Temple still dominated the Jerusalem skyline when the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar rolled into town with his army in 586 BCE and completely destroyed the structure. What happened to the Ark of the Covenant is unknown: was it taken to Babylonia (if so, there is no record of it), or was it hidden somewhere on the Temple Mount (1700 years later the Crusaders thought so), or . . .?
Most of the Jews of the land of Israel were taken in captivity to Babylon. Of the few Jews who escaped and remained, it is recorded that some sat in sackcloth at the site of the destroyed Temple and marked their foreheads with ashes from the Temple.
Jeremiah is perhaps best known of this remnant.
In his Lamentations, he writes:
“How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations! She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave. Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are upon her cheeks. Among all her lovers there is none to comfort her. All her friends have betrayed her; they have become her enemies. After affliction and harsh labor, Judah has gone into exile. She dwells among the nations; she finds no resting place. All who pursue her have overtaken her in the midst of her distress. The roads to Zion mourn, for no-one comes to her appointed feasts. All her gateways are desolate, her priests groan, her maidens grieve, and she is in bitter anguish. Her foes have become her masters; her enemies are at ease. The Lord has brought her grief because of her many sins. Her children have gone into exile, captive before the foe. All the splendor has departed from the Daughter of Zion. Her princes are like deer that find no pasture; in weakness they have fled before the pursuer. In the days of her affliction and wandering Jerusalem remembers all the treasures that were hers in days of old. When her people fell into enemy hands, there was no-one to help her. Her enemies looked at her and laughed at her destruction.” (Lamentations 1:1-7)
But in 538 BCE, Cyrus the Great of Persia defeated the Babylonians and authorized the return of Jews to Jerusalem. According to Persian records, 42,360 Jews left the banks of the Euphrates River and made their arduous way back.
The Tanakh records that the first acts they performed upon returning were to erect the altar of God on the exact spot where it had formerly stood and to clear away the charred heaps of debris which were on the site.
23 years later, on the 3rd day of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the Great (515 BCE), the Second Temple on the Temple Mount was dedicated–rebuilt with many of the stones of the First Temple. It once again became the center of Jewish worship.
It was nearly destroyed during Alexander’s Greek invasion in 332 CE when the Jews refused to deify Alexander; however by 150 years later, many Jews had embraced Greek ideas and the Temple had become contaminated with statues of Zeus, and Greek sacrifices of pigs in the Holy of Holies.
It was at this point in 167 BCE that the Jewish priest of the Temple, Mattahias, infuriated by its defilement by the Greeks, led his 5 sons in the Maccabean Revolt. Having defeated the Greeks, Judas Maccabeus rededicated the Temple in 164 BCE giving birth to the holiday of Chanukah still celebrated today.
And this is where we will stop for this blog.
Note that we are 786 years from when the First Temple was built and still some 854 years away from the building of the Dome of the Rock. The year may be 164 BCE, but Foundation Stone stands as a permanent reminder of the Jewish Holy of Holies.