Monday, October 14, 2013

Yericho II©


On the day the wall of Yericho fell, Yehoshua composed the first paragraph of Aleinu. The Anshei Knesses Hagedolah later included it in the Rosh Hashanah Shemoneh Esrei. Later, Rabi Nechunia ben Hakanah (some say Rabi Yochanan ben Zakai) instituted that it should be said at the end of each davening.

After it was destroyed by Joshua, Tevuot HaAretz (by Rav Yoseph Schwarz) tells us Yericho is the city of Date Palms (Shoftim 3:13) that was the seat of the Moabite King Eglon, who had taken possession of it. Here he was slain by Ehud.  

Yehoshua cursed Yericho after they completed destroying it, declaring that anyone who would rebuild Yericho would bury his oldest son when he started to dig the foundations and that his last son would die as he set up the gates. It is astonishing, but we are told in Melachim I how at the time of the wicked King Achav and his wicked wife Izevel, a rich and powerful man named Chiel the Beth-Elite arose and rebuilt Yericho. (Some say the name Beth-Elite means he came from the city of Beit-El; others relate the word to elah meaning curse, as he defied the curse of Yehoshua.)

The fact that his firstborn died as he laid the foundations — and one by one, his 10 sons died progressively — did not stop him. At the completion of the gate, his youngest son died. The Malbim says he was trying to prove that there is no hashgacha pratis, chas v’ shalom, and everything is mikreh (by accident). But Joshua’s curse, that one who rebuilds Yericho would lose all his sons, was fulfilled exactly in him.

Chazal tell us Hashem commanded the reluctant Eliyahu to pay Chiel a shivah call. As Eliyahu
had feared, he met up with Achav, who mocked the mesorah by saying Yehoshua was a greater prophet than Moshe, for Yehoshua’s word had come true whereas Moshe’s word — that there would be a  drought if there was idol worship — had not been fulfilled.

“I, for instance, worship other gods and made this a law in the Land.” declared Achav. Eliyahu then and there decreed that there should be no rain. This was the beginning of the great drought described in Melachaim I:17.


As the first portion of the Land to be defeated, Yericho had in common with Yerushalayim a level of holiness. Miraculous phenomena occurred in Yericho, which was located some 23 miles from
Yerushalayim.

Eight different sounds (some say nine) connected to the Beis Hamikdash were heard here.
Quoting his rebbi, the Raavad stresses that this incredible occurrence was unique only to Yericho. Some say the sounds travelled through an escape tunnel that King Chizkiyahu had dug from Yerushalayim to Yericho, and others maintain that there are no mountains to obstruct the sound on the way from Yerushalayim to Yericho.

The fragrant smell from the ketores also reached Yericho, hence the name Yericho, from lerei’ach — to smell. Even Yericho’s Arabic name means “fragrant.”

Each of the twenty-four mishmaros of kohanim that served on a yearly rotation basis in the Beis
Hamikdash were divided into two: half the mishmeres went to do the avodah in the Beis
Hamikdash itself, while the other half travelled to Yericho to secure food for the first group.

It is known that that in ancient times any king who did not control part of Eretz Yisrael was unworthy of royalty. The king of Bavel chose Yericho as his portion. His governor who lived there sent dates from the “city of palm trees” home. In return, he received Babylonian products. Thus, Achan was able to take a Babylonian cloak from the spoils of Yericho.

After the Churban, when Am Yisrael was exiled to Bavel, they ate the dates from trees grown in that land from the seeds of the dates sent by the governor of Yericho so many years before.

At the end of the First Beis Hamikdash period, the Babylonians occupied Yericho. It became
Alexander the Great’s private estate after his conquest of the region. After the Maccabean revolt, the city was ruled by the Chashmona’im. Later, the Romans took over the area. When Herod became king of Judea, he originally leased Yericho from Cleopatra, after Marc Antony gave it to her as a gift.
When Octavian assumed control of the Roman Empire, he granted Herod free rein over Yericho.
Herod built a hippodrome-theatre there to entertainhis guests. He also constructed new aqueducts to irrigate the region below the cliffs and to reach his winter palace. Herod also re-strengthened a fort built at the entrance to Wadi Qelt, and named it Kypros after his mother.

After the construction of its palaces, the city functioned not only as an agricultural centre and a crossroads, but as a winter resort for Jerusalem’s aristocracy. After the Churban in 70 C.E., Yericho declined rapidly, and by 100 C.E. it was but a small Roman garrison town. A fort was built there and played a role in putting down the Bar Kochba revolt.

The Romans then destroyed the city, but it was rebuilt at its present location by the Byzantines. When Caliph Hisham ibn Abd el-Malik built his winter palace in Yericho in 743, the city briefly returned to glory. However, an earthquake destroyed virtually the entire city just four years later.

Umayyad rule ended in 750 and was followed by the Arab caliphates of the Abbasid and Fatimid dynasties. Irrigated agriculture was developed, reaffirming Yericho’s reputation as a fertile “city of the palms.” Al-Maqdisi, the Arab geographer, wrote in 985 that “the water of Yericho is held to be the highest and best in all Islam. Bananas are plentiful, also dates and flowers of fragrant odor.” The Crusaders later took over the city. It was then recaptured by Saladin. For centuries afterward,Yericho was largely ignored and deserted.

At the end of World War I, Yericho came under British Mandate rule. During World War II, the British built fortresses in Yericho with the help of the Jewish Solel Boneh company. In preparation for a possible invasion by German forces, the bridges were rigged with explosives.

During the 1948 war, Yericho was captured by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Many Arabs who left other parts of Palestine moved to the area, and a number of U.N. refugee camps were set up.

On Dec. 1, 1948, King Abdullah organized the Jericho Conference in Yericho, which was attended by an estimated several thousand Palestinian delegates. The conference called for the annexation of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem to Jordan. The unification was later known as the Unification of the Two Banks (the eastern and western banks of the Jordan River). In mid-1950, the West Bank and
Yericho were formally annexed to Jordan andtheir residents became Jordanian citizens. Jordan’s annexation was regarded as illegal and void by the Arab League and other Arab groups.

Yericho was reunited with Israel during the Six Day War, along with the rest of the West Bank. Ironically, Yericho (together with the Gaza Strip) was the first territory given over to Palestinian Authority control by Israel as part of the Oslo accords peace agreement in 1994.

During the Second Intifada in 2001, Yericho was retaken by Israel. When MK Rechavam Ze’evi was murdered, “Operation Bringing Home the Goods” was launched. It took captive six inmates from a
Yericho prison who had been involved in the assassination. As a result, Palestinian militants raided and kidnapped British and European citizens in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.


In the 2007 census by the PCBS, Jericho had a population of 18,346.

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