Fragile / Not Fragile

Not a good coincidence.  Two days after I wrote about the history of Hill of Evil Counsel/Armon HaNatziv another awful event was added to the disasters on that hill and I’m writing about it on Friday the 13th (which actually has no meaning in Israel – you can take the girl out of the US, but you can’t take the US out of the girl).

On Sunday four soldiers, three girls and a boy, were killed by a terrorist using a truck as a weapon.

Groups of IDF soldiers come to Jerusalem on Sundays for cultural education days during their service.  You’ll see them at museums, visiting historical sites, and also at overlooks like this one.  In Israel, men and women between the ages of 18 to 22 serve in the military.  Men serve around 3 years and women serve nearly 2 years.  You can intellectually understand the numbers reflecting their ages, but you don’t realize how young they are until you see them.

My office job is at a museum and I took time to notice the soldiers who came in this week.  Their eyes are clear and innocent.  They haven’t seen serious difficulties yet.  They still have their whole futures ahead of them.  They are full of idealism and hope.  They are not yet cynical and jaded about life.

The American part of my brain still notices that every one of them carries a weapon slung across their shoulders and the Israeli part of my brain knows that this is perfectly safe. When they go into a tour of the museum they lay their weapons in a square built up like Lincoln Logs and leave one or two people to guard them.  It’s a weird feeling to pass a gun tower made up of 50 or so rifles guarded by another young person with a rifle at the ready.  This is not out of the ordinary.

Yet, these soldiers are still kids.  They are kids with targets on their backs.

In the days after the attack, I find my senses heightened.  I’m listening a lot harder. Is that a helicopter? How many ambulance sirens were there? Are those footsteps behind me?  And I’m tuned to my surroundings.  Is that a shadow? Have I seen that person before? What are they doing?

I went to the shuk the next day and ran my errands as usual, all the while keeping vigilant watch on everything around me.

The illusion of calm had been fragile.  Our will and courage to go on is not fragile.

A Hill in Jerusalem

With a hat tip to MR for telling me to write about this, I’m taking a page (well, a book really) from James Michener and will share the history of a particular hill in Jerusalem.  Today this beautiful overlook south of the Old City is called Armon HaNatziv.


Like Michener, let’s start at the beginning of recorded time.  One of the first things to happen on this hill was Abraham telling his servants to wait for him while he and his son Isaac went to Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22:5). I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what happened then.

David’s son Absalom started a conspiracy and went to war against David.  He apparently got some bad advice somewhere to the south of the City of David.  Absalom’s tomb is in the valley below the Temple Mount (II Samuel 15-18).  So while it’s not quite on Armon HaNatiziv, it’s pretty close.

There seems to be some thought that King Solomon let his foreign wives build a temple on this hill to foreign gods.  And this turned Solomon away from the Lord.  (See I Kings:11.)

King Herod decided that he needed to get water to Jerusalem. He managed to build a water system that brought water uphill to Jerusalem from Bethlehem.  Rather than go over this big hill to the south of the city, he dug through it.

Around the same time, Judas met with some Pharisees on a hill to the south of Jerusalem where they were plotting to get rid of Jesus.  With the 30 pieces of silver he got, he bought some property on the top of the hill where he “burst open” and died.  From that point on, the place of conspiracy was known as the Hill of Evil Counsel and the place where Judas burst was called the Field of Blood. (See John 11:47-53 and Acts 1:18-19.)

In 70 CE, Jerusalem fell and Jews were flung to the four corners of the earth.  I’m sure more things happened on the hill, but we’ll jump forward in time to the British Mandatory period.

View from Armon HaNatziv at night.

After World War I, the Ottoman lands were divided up and Britain came in to rule Palestine.  Their office was at first in Augusta Victoria, but there was this very nice place on a hill to the south of the city with an excellent view so they built their main offices there.

Yehuda Avner, z’’l, former ambassador and author of the book The Prime Ministers, wrote an article about David Ben-Gurion meeting with the British High Commissioner at their headquarters in 1937.  The British wanted Ben-Gurion to stop bringing in Jews, especially from Germany.  He felt there were plenty here already and would Ben-Gurion just halt the inflow temporarily?  Well, you can imagine how that conversation went.  And it gives you a brief insight into the fact that Jews in Europe were getting into a position of having nowhere to go.  (It’s an interesting article and worth a moment to read.)

When Jerusalem was Hebraizing names for neighborhoods they translated Government House into Hebrew and got Armon HaNatziv (the literal translation is Palace of the Governor).

In 1948, the UN was looking for an office and somehow decided to take over the British offices.  So today, the UN Observer Headquarters is on Armon HaNatziv, also known as the Hill of Evil Counsel. According to their website, though, the place is located on Jabel Mukaber – where a caliph shouted Allahu Akbar.

With the blatant bias of various UN and UN committee decisions recently (I’ve discussed the UNESCO decisions here and here), it seems like a pretty odd coincidence indeed that the UN headquarters in Jerusalem would be on a hill with so much difficult history.

(Christian sources come from here; various internet searches led me to other information; some information is just from my own knowledge; but any mistakes are my own.)