JERUSALEM is the capital of the modern nation of Israel and a major holy city for the three Western traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It sits on spurs of bedrock between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea area. To the north and west, it tapers off to the Jezreel Valley and the hills of the Galilee, while to the south lies the Judean desert. The city is surrounded by three steep ravines (to the east, south, and west). On the other side of the eastern ravine, across the Kidron valley, is the Mount of Olives.
Historically, Jerusalem was an urban center for approximately 5,000 years. Scholars debate the original meaning of the name (Sumerian “foundation” or Semitic “to found” or to “lay a cornerstone”). It could also derive from the name of the Canaanite god of dusk, Shalem, where the main consonants of s-l-m also denote the Hebrew (salam or shalom), which means “peace.” Ironically, the city has known very little peace over the centuries.
Two incomplete craniums, found in Greece’s Apidima Cave in the 1970s, has long been a bit mysterious. Dating them was difficult because first, they are incomplete, and to make matters more difficult, they were distorted by the process of fossilization, and found without any additional paleontological or archaeological evidence. One has now been identified as the oldest Homo Sapiens in Eurasia.
Recent analyses on the skull date it to at least 210,000 years ago. The oldest modern humans in Eurasia were previously in Israel, between 130,000 and 100,00 years ago, although recent evidence from Mlsliya, Israel, was dated to the even older 180,000 years ago. But if the new analysis holds up, Apidima’s human is even older.
Israeli cave finds challenge our theories about evolution’s winners and losers. Because the archaeological evidence shows that homo sapiens lived in the area between 115,000 and 75,000 years ago. Neanderthals lived in the area around the same time, successfully maintaining a population without interbreeding with the neighboring homo sapiens.
Homo sapiens are thinner, adapted for warmer and wetter climates. Neanderthals are stockier and carry more heat, adapted for cooler and drier climates.
So when the climate of the area changed, steppe-glaciers advancing and forests disappearing, homo sapiens retreated while Neanderthals stayed. It’s unclear if the homo sapiens living in the area died out, or moved south to more favorable climes. The archaeological record does not say.
But we do know that it about 5,000 years later, around 60,000 years ago, homo sapiens sent a second successful wave of settlers into the area. And of course, in the long run, the Neanderthals were the ones who died out. But the
evidence from Israel’s caves show that outcome was not always inevitable.
This poor girl from a Yemenite neighborhood became famous in town. She began acting and modelling. Every journalist wanted to write her story and take her picture. Her story was being told in every paper:
Tzipora, the first Yemenite Queen Esther leaves for Europe in search of fame. She lived in Berlin before WW2 and found herself in the same social circle with stars like Marlene Dietrich. After jumping through numerous hoops (acting jobs in Germany were in short supply for an actress with such dark skin), she left that world to join the circus. In the 70’s, she moved back to Israel, living anonymously in the Yemenite quarter of Tel Aviv.
She passed away in 1994. On her tombstone it’s written: ‘Tzipora Tzabari – The lady that Mayor Dizengoff called Queen Esther’.