Springs run dry in the Judean Hills

Like Australia, Israel has experienced periods of  low-rainfall in recent years. In Israel, successive  drought years are having a direct effect on the  springs in the Judean Hills. A recent study by  the Israel Nature and Parks Authority found that  one third of the springs surveyed were dry (Zafrir  Rinat, ‘Modern ills threaten ancient Judean Hill’s  springs’, Haaretz.com, 27 October 2011). The study  also identified a decline in water quality in many  of the springs because of pollution by sewage and  fertilizer runoff.

Springs in Israel have supported agriculture from earliest times. Deuteronomy describes the land of  Israel as “a land of brooks of water, of fountains and  depths that spring out of valleys and hills” (8:7), but  low-rainfall and urban development is threatening  these precious water sources. The increase in paved  surfaces such as roads has limited the amount of  rainwater feeding underground catchments that  supply the springs. If these trends continue, Israel’s  ancient springs face a very uncertain future.

Only Christ’s presence will bring the needed  blessings to Israel. In that day “in the wilderness  shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.  And the parched ground shall become a pool, and  the thirsty land springs of water” (Isa 35:6–7).

Mapping the Mount of Olives cemetery

A project is underway to map every tombstone in  the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, said  to be one of the oldest cemeteries in continuous use  in the world (Matti Friedman, ‘Israelis mapping  Mount of Olives necropolis’, Associated Press, 17  November 2011). The plan is to record information  about each grave and make it available online to  assist intending visitors. The cemetery has been  long neglected and finding your way through the  confusion can be difficult.

Using aerial photographs and handwritten  burial records dating back to the nineteenth century,  members of the mapping team are endeavouring to  identify graves in the Jewish cemetery. It is believed  that the Jews began burying their dead here at least  three thousand years ago.

Among the significant graves in the cemetery are those of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, who was largely  responsible for reviving Hebrew as a spoken  language, and also Menahem Begin. Begin is buried  in a modest grave that makes no mention that he was once a prime minister of Israel. He was buried  here at his request instead of in Israel’s national cemetery with other Israeli leaders, so that he could  be with two of his Irgun comrades. Sentenced to be hanged by the British in 1947, the two killed  themselves with grenades moments before they were to be executed.

The mapping is, of course, politically sensitive. Elad, the Jewish group carrying out the project,  is affiliated with the settlement movement and  attempts to establish Jewish links with east  Jerusalem to balance Palestinian claims to the city.  By mapping the Jewish cemetery on the Mount  of Olives Elad hopes to draw attention to Israel’s  historical connection with Jerusalem.

Many are buried on the Mount of Olives  because they believe that when Messiah returns  to Jerusalem he will split the mount as Zechariah  prophesies (14:4) and the dead there will be the  first to be resurrected. Christ will certainly come  from the east, but when he approaches Jerusalem  the responsible dead will have already been raised.  And Christ will not be alone, for he comes with  ‘ten thousands of his saints’ (Deut 33:2; Zech 14:5)  who have been resurrected, judged and changed to  immortality. It will be a great blessing to be among  Christ’s companions in that day.