Location: Map


Description of Jericho

Jericho is one of the oldest human settlements in the World. It sits on top of a natural plateau in a small oasis surrounded by deserts all around. The city Jericho is located in West Bank within Jericho Governorate, not far from the Jordan river. Jericho in Hebrew or Erich in Arabic stands at the foot of the Judean Mountains at the confluence of the Jordan river into the Dead Sea in the Jericho oasis. First settlement on this site was founded around 9000 BC and with its 11,000 year old history this is probably the oldest site that was continually inhabitant by humans. Around 8,000 BC Jericho becames a major tower with military fortification that include protective walls and towers. In fact the oldest archaeological evidence of military fortifications in Jericho date back to the period represented by a tower from the Neolithic period. Additionally at an elevation of 350 meters below sea level it is also the lowest city in the World.


Etiology of Jericho

The etiology of the name is a controversial one. Some claim that Jericho gets its name from a word "moon" or "yareah" in Hebrew. Other version states that it comes from the word "odor" or "fragrance" that sounds as "reahim". The second theory is derived from a fact that oasis of Jericho was famous for plantation of spices and incense. It is the only place in Israel where unique climate and plentiful water source that permits such cultures to thrive in the region.


History of Jericho

Strategic location of Jericho has always had an extraordinary strategic importance for several reasons. It stands at the crossroads of the major roads and caravan routes of the Middle East. Secondly it enjoys natural springs of one of the largest oasis in the region. Waters flow here from the gorge Wadi Kelt thus providing an important source for life. Unique microclimate allows an unique opportunity to grow various species of plants. Jericho is considered to be the first place where plantation of persimmon first appeared.


Reference in the Old Testament (Book of Joshua)

The most famous reference about Jericho is that found in the Old Testament of the Bible. It states that after forty years of wandering in the desert Jews crossed Jordan river in the area around modern day Allenby Bridge. They opened a camp at Gilgal and prepared to attack the first city in the Holy Land.


The Old Testament (Book of Joshua) states that Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan and laid siege to Jericho. Joshua was told by Lord to march around the city seven times with the Ark and blow all horns. Israelites did so and walls of the city collapsed. "And the walls of the city fell" (Joshua 6). Hence it gave us a famous saying about the "tubes of Jericho". Subsequently the city was taken and its citizens slaughtered except for harlot Rahab and her family for hiding Israelite scouts on their spying mission.


It should be noted that archaeologists have found no evidence of that era, because the layer, which should correspond to the time the Jews captured the Promised Land. It has a simple explanation. These archaeological layers of Jericho were washed away in winter floods that flood the oasis from the gorge of Wadi Kelt. Of course this is not proof that the events described in The Book of Joshua did not occur in reality. After the lands was divided among families, oasis of Jericho and surrounding lands was given to the tribe of Benjamin. Later the city served as regional and agricultural center in the region.


During the Hasmonean period a complex of royal summer palace was constructed and later rebuilt by Herod the Great. Following Hellenistic and Roman tradition Herod also added a theater and hippodrome as a single building which is quite unusual.


Jericho was donated as a precious gift by Mark Anthony to his lover Cleopatra of Egypt. Like many other cities in the region Jericho was destroyed during the Jewish War and later rebuilt by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the first half of the second century. After the destruction of the city and until at least 8th century a Jewish community existed and flourished here. Archeologists discovered a Jewish synagogue from the time period of the late Talmudic period. Its floors were covered by exquisite mosaic.


During the Crusaders, Jericho was again completely destroyed by European armies. It was later recaptured by the Muslim armies. It became one of the most important Arab centers in the region.


After Jerusalem it is second most excavated site in the Holy Land. First excavation started in 1868 and since then 20 settlements were found. Many famous archeologists worked here including Kathleen Kenyon and Israeli archeologist Ehud Netzer. Each destruction of Jericho was followed by quick resettlement. Thus the hill presents itself as a cake with various layoers stacked on top of the other.