Would you sacrifice your eldest son?
A hike down the Hinom Valley in Jerusalem
Ever wonder why a sane man like Abraham, our forefather, would be prepared to sacrifice his eldest son Isaac to God?
According to the Bible this rite (the Binding of Isaac) almost occurred on Mount Moriah– the Temple Mount a short distance north of the HinomValley– in Jerusalem.
Human sacrifice is not only a 5000 year old, Holy Land, rite. Even the Mayans and the Aztecs in far away countries and later times did this. The famous Sacred Cenote (a natural well) located at Chichen-Itza was found to contain numerous skeletons of men, women and children who were sacrificial victims.
Tradition has it that in ancient days, fathers would bring their eldest sons to the Hinom Valley and sacrifice them to the god called Molech (possibly also called Moloch, Milcom or Baal). So why shouldn’t Abraham?
Even the Hebrew name of the valley – Gei-Ben-Hinom tells it all.
- Gei = valley.
- Ben = son-of = little
- Geheinom (Hebrew) = Gehena = hell.
- So literally – “the little valley of hell”.
The New Testament adds something to this idea too. Potters Field, where they disposed of the traitor Judas Iscariot’s body, is also traditionally at the end of this valley. The Monastery of Haceldama means literally the monastery of the “blooded coins”.
Even whatever emptied out of the ancient Dung-Gate (southern gate of Jerusalem at it’s lowest point) runs down into this valley!!!!
The Hinom valley partially encircles the western and southern sides of the Old City of Jerusalem finally merging with the Kidron valley which is in the east. Both valleys (and ancient streams) are part of the natural defenses and water supply of Jerusalem.
I suggest starting the tour from the Mamilla pool near the Jaffa gate and walking all the way downhill until you reach the Siloam pools or Absalom’s tomb.
From there you can get a taxi or wearily walk up the hill towards the Dung gate.
Allow 2 hours for the hike and bring plenty of water.
So what is there to see there?
¨ The Mamilla pool (wooded area with grave-stones) – an ancient water reservoir for Jerusalem – Kings Period and Second Temple period.
¨ The Mamilla open Mall – just fun. Try to figure out why some of the buildings’ bricks are all numbered. Enjoy a good cup of coffee and get some water for the hike.
¨ Jaffa Gate – try to find out things about the Crusader and Mamluk architecture.
¨ The Arts and Crafts center – have your credit card ready. Only Israeli artists there. Nothing “made in Hong Kong”.
¨ From here you have 2 options – either walk down Hebron road looking across the valley at the Mishkenot Shaananim neighborhood (the first houses outside the Old City wall – late 19th century) and Montifiori’s windmill OR walk thru Mishekenot (west of the valley) looking across the valley at the Western wall of the Old City and Mt Zion. I would do both.
¨ The Sultans pool – an ancient water reservoir for Jerusalem – Second Temple period. Currently used for concerts, operas and Rock band show’s.
¨ The drinking fountain – a large arch on the north side of the Hebron road at the bottom of the Sultan’s pool. According to Ottoman law all cities had to supply free drinking water for all animals and beasts (that’s us).
¨ Mt Zion hotel (on top of the hill) – inIsrael’s War of Independence in 1948 a cable was strung between the hotel and Mount Zion. As Mount Zion was cut off from the rest of the city the cable was used to supply the Israeli soldiers on Mt Zion.
¨ The main part of the Hinom Valley – notice the “nothing” all along the valley. Other than caves (graves) and some olive trees it really looks like hell. Nobody dares live there even today.
¨ The Monastery of Haceldama commemorates Potters Field (where the body of Judas was disposed of). Walk up the hill and knock on the door. They welcome visitors and will most probably show you around. (Long pants/below knee dresses and a short sleeved shirt is the minimum). Be gracious and leave them something on the way out.
¨ The Church of St Peter in Galicantu – Look up to the north and see the church with the large black dome right above the valley. This is believed to be the house of Caiaphas – the High Priest at the time of the Crucifixion and the site of the ‘cock crowing three times”.
¨ This is the end of the valley. 200 yards further east you reach a crossroad. If you turn right you are entering theKidron Valleyand after a couple of days walk should find yourself on he shores of the Dead Sea. Just a joke -don’t do that – no passage. Turn left and after a short walk – on the second left – you will reach the Siloam Pool at the base of David’s city (visit). From there you can also proceed along the Kidron Valley towards the bottom of theMount of Olives cemetery and Absalom’s “tomb” (King Solomon’s son) – among other’s.