To many Jericho may appear to be just another bustling Arab town. However, a few words into it’s history and one becomes aware of a rich gem. It is both the lowest town on earth, resting 900 feet below sea level and the oldest inhabited city, boasting 10,000 years in age. It is also the oasis of this desert region with numerous fresh water springs, which explains why it was additionally a crossroad for the trade routes.
Though a well-established city today, it was only about 50 acres during the time of the Old Testament leader, Joshua, when he and the Israelites came in and took the land from the Canaanites. What is also fascinating is that two walls were found here, each 64 ft thick and when they fell they crumbled outward, not inward, as one might imagine a siege would cause. It is proposed perhaps a supernatural power like an earthquake caused this event, as Biblical scriptures hint at. However, other scholars contest that the “…Walls came tumbling down!” as the spiritual, “Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho” proclaims. Instead, these scholars and archeologist suggest the walls fell 400-600 years before Joshua.
These details we may never know, but what we do know is numerous containers of grains were found which not only helps us identify the diet of the time, but supports the scriptures that God told the Israelites not to eat the food in the land. Therefore, somehow, it was left untouched. We also know this site bears the ruins of a watchtower. Thus we can say this was the first public building we have in the world. Incredible! It was the first building for the public and built by the public—and it’s still intact!
We have also learned Jericho was a wealthy city due to its abundance of balsam. Interestingly, this plant source, originally from Yemen and used primarily for perfume, was only grown in Jericho. Now, quite sadly, balsam is extinct.
Additionally, we know Jesus surely travelled through Jericho. He did not merely stop and take photos and write in his journal, but was out among the people, and took this path through the city en route to Jerusalem from Galilee as it was a six-day journey in total from Nazareth, but only about one day’s walk from Jericho to Jerusalem.
To bring it back to the present, while touring the ruins we suddenly noticed black smoke billowing from the roof-top of the restaurant across the street—the one we had just finished eating in! Of course, all our minds jumped to the worst. Andre, our guide, didn’t seem too concerned however. Nevertheless, we all stood frozen in our tracks. Soon from the smoke emerged a long, brilliant flame. Then, about 10 minutes later it was all gone—smoke, fire, everything. It appeared the fire began within a pipe scaling the side of the building. Perhaps a cigarette butt had caught some trash at the bottom on fire, we’ll never know. Surely damage was done, sadly, but it was certainly not as severe as what might have resulted if the fire had spread. Wow, some first few hours in Israel and Palestine.