Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Susiyah 3: Building a Village

Like most of the villages in ancient times, Susiyah survived on the usual staples of the region; wine, olives, and goat products.

Our guide, standing in one of the many wine presses discovered around the city, outside the city walls, describes the winemaking process.

IN the distance, one of the Arab settlements that dot the region. This is one of the outskirts of "Bani Naim," which translates to "Children of Pleasantness," a bit ironic given their hostile relationship with the Jews of Judea.

In this area, the southern Judean desert, south of Jerusalem and further east of the continental divide, the climate is already far dryer. With no local river to feed the town, water was supplied mostly through freshwater cisterns which collected the rain. The streets are lined with gutters and water collection systems.

These water collection systems feed into cisterns carved from the rock. Many of the cisterns hold water even to this day. The cisterns provided and additional source of revenue for the townspeople, who could sell some of their water to passing travelers.

Yours truly on the city walls.

I'm a little too terrified of falling to smile here.
Lars leans on the city walls.

The geology of the Judean hills lends itself to two levels of construction; above-ground brick houses and buildings are made from brick hewn from the local stone. But the hard stone is only a few feet deep. Beneath is much softer limestone, which can be easily dug out. So the town was also built half underground, with the hard rock surface supporting the passing people and wagons above.

A stairway down to a sort of wine cellar.

Brick buildings.

The site still echoes with its Jewish past. Doorways show carved hollows where mezzuzot, the parchment placed on the doorposts of every Jewish home, used to fit.

Homes were also decorated with menorahs, in memory of the temple which had been destroyed a few centuries earlier.

Some of the guys tracing out the menorah inscribed into this stone, once a part of someone's home. I tried to get a shot of the inscription but it didn't come out clearly enough in the harsh light.

And next, into one of those underground rooms.

Stay tuned....

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