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Jericho ( ); ) is a city located near the Jordan Rivermarker in the West Bankmarker of the Palestinian Territories. It is the capital of the Jericho Governoratemarker, and has a population of over 20,000 Palestinian. Situated well below sea level on an east-west route north of the Dead Seamarker, Jericho is the lowest permanently inhabited site on earth. It is also believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities of the world.

Described in the Hebrew Bible as the "City of Palm Trees", copious springs in and around Jericho have made it an attractive site for human habitation for thousands of years. It is known in Judeo-Christian tradition as the place of the Israelites' return from bondage in Egypt, led by Joshua, the successor to Moses. Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of over 20 successive settlements in Jericho, the first of which dates back to 11,000 years ago (9000 BCE).


Jericho's Arabic name, , means "fragrant" and derives from the Canaanite word Reah, of the same meaning. Jericho's name in Hebrew, , is also thought to derive from that root, though an alternate theory holds that it is it derived from the word meaning "moon" (Yareah) in Canaanite and Hebrew, as the city was an early center of worship for lunar deities.


Ancient times

Jericho is believed to be one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world, with evidence of settlement dating back to 9000 BCE, providing important information about early human habitation in the Near East. The first permanent settlement was built near the Ein as-Sultanmarker spring between 8000 and 7000 BCE by an unknown people, and consisted of a number of walls, a religious shrine, and a tower with an internal staircase. After a few centuries, it was abandoned for a second settlement, established in 6800 BCE, perhaps by an invading people who absorbed the original inhabitants into their dominant culture. Artifacts dating from this period include ten skulls, plastered and painted so as to reconstitute the individuals' features. These represent the first example of portraiture in art history, and it is thought that these were kept in people's homes while the bodies were buried. This was followed by a succession of settlements from 4500 BCE onward, the largest of these being constructed in 2600 BCE.

Archaeological evidence indicates that in the latter half of the Middle Bronze Age (circa 1700 BCE), the city enjoyed some prosperity, its walls having been strengthened and expanded. The Canaanite city (Jericho City IV) was destroyed c.1550 BCE, and the site remained uninhabited until the city was refounded in the 9th century BCE.

In the 8th century BCE, the Assyrians invaded from the north, followed by the Babylonians, and Jericho was depopulated between 586 and 538 BCE, the period of the Jewish exile to Babylon. Cyrus the Great, the Persian king, refounded the city one mile southeast of its historic site at the mound of Tell es-Sultan, and returned the Jewish exiles after conquering Babylonmarker in 539 BCE.

Classical antiquity

Remains from Herod's palace
Jericho went from being an administrative center under Persian rule, to serving as the private estate of Alexander the Great between 336 and 323 BCE after his conquest of the region. In the middle of the 2nd century BCE, Jericho was under Hellenistic rule, and the Syrianmarker General Bacchides built a number of forts to strengthen the defenses of the area around Jericho against invasion by the Macabees (1 Macc 9:50). One of these forts, built at the entrance to Wadi Qeltmarker, was later refortified by Herod the Great, who named it Kypros after his mother.

Herod originally leased Jericho from Cleopatra after Mark Antony gave it to her as a gift. After their joint suicide in 30 BCE, Octavian assumed control of the Roman empire and granted Herod free rein over Jericho. Herod’s rule oversaw the construction of a hippodrome-theater (Tel es-Samrat) to entertain his guests and new aqueducts to irrigate the area below the cliffs and reach his winter palace built at the site of Tulul al-Alaiq.

The dramatic murder of Aristobulus III in a swimming pool at Jericho, as told by the Roman Jewish historian Josephus, took place during a banquet organized by Herod's Hasmonean mother-in-law. The city, since the construction of its palaces, functioned not only as an agricultural center and as a crossroad, but as a winter resort for Jerusalemmarker's aristocracy.

Herod was succeeded by his son, Archelus, who built an adjacent village in his name, Archelais, to house workers for his date plantation (Khirbet al-Beiyudat). First century Jericho is described in Strabo's Geography as follows:
"Jericho is a plain surrounded by a kind of mountainous country, which in a way, slopes toward it like a theatre.
Here is the Phoenicon, which is mixed also with all kinds of cultivated and fruitful trees, though it consists mostly of palm trees.
It is 100 stadia in length and is everywhere watered with streams.
Here also are the Palace and the Balsam Park."
The rock cut tombs of a Herodian and Hasmonean era cemetery lie in the lowest part of the cliffs between Nuseib al-Aweishireh and Jebel Quruntul in Jericho and were used between 100 BCE and 68 CE.

The Christian Gospels state that Jesus passed through Jericho where he healed one or two blind beggars and inspired a local chief tax collector named Zacchaeus to repent of his dishonest practices. The road between Jerusalem and Jericho is the setting for the Parable of the Good Samaritan

After the fall of Jerusalem to Vespasian armies in 70 CE, Jericho declined rapidly, and by 100 CE it was but a small Roman garrison town. A fort was built there in 130 that played a role in putting down the Bar Kochba revolt in 133. Accounts of Jericho by a Christian pilgrim are given in 333. Shortly thereafter, the built-up area of the town was abandoned, and a Byzantine Jericho, Ericha was built a mile (  km) to the east, around which the modern town is centered. Christianity took hold in the city during the Byzantine era and the area was heavily populated. A number of monasteries and churches were built, including St. George of Koziba in 340 CE and a domed church dedicated to Saint Eliseus. At least two synagogues were also built in the 6th century CE. The monasteries were abandoned after the Persian invasion of 614.

Arab caliphate period

By 661, Jericho was under the rule of the Umayyad dynasty. The tenth caliph of that dynasty, Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik, built a palatial complex known as Khirbet al-Mafjar about one mile north of Tell as-Sultan in 743, and two mosques, a courtyard, mosaics, and other items from it can still be seen in situ today, despite its having been partially destroyed in an earthquake in 747.

Umayyad rule ended in 750 and was followed by the Arab caliphates of the Abbasid and Fatimid dynasties. Irrigated agriculture was developed under Islamic rule, reaffirming Jericho's reputation as a fertile "City of the Palms". Al-Maqdisi, the Arab geographer, wrote in 985 that, "the water of Jericho is held to be the highest and best in all Islam. Bananas are plentiful, also dates and flowers of fragrant odor." Jericho is also referred to by him as one of the principal cities of Jund Filastin.

The city flourished until 1071 and the invasion of the Seljuk Turks, followed by the upheavals of the Crusades. In 1179, the Crusaders rebuilt the Monastery of St. George of Koziba, at its original site six miles from the center of town. They also built another two churches and a monastery dedicated to John the Baptist, and are credited with introducing sugarcane production to the city. In 1187, the Crusaders were evicted by the Ayyubid forces of Saladin after their victory in the Battle of Hattinmarker, and the town slowly went into decline.

In 1226, Arab geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi said of Jericho, "it has many palm trees, also sugarcane in quantities, and bananas. The best of all the sugar in the Ghaur land is made here." In the 14th century, Abu al-Fida writes there are sulfur mines in Jericho, "the only ones in Palestine."

Ottoman period (1517–1918)

Postcard image depicting Jericho in the late 19th or early 20th century

In the early years of Ottoman rule, Jericho formed part of the waqf and imerat of Jerusalem. The villagers processed indigo as one source of revenue, using a cauldron specifically for this purpose that was loaned to them by the Ottoman authorities in Jerusalem. For most of the Ottoman period, Jericho was a small village of farmers susceptible to attacks by Bedouins. In the 19th century, European scholars, archaeologists and missionaries visited often. The first excavation at Tell as-Sultan was carried out in 1867, and the monasteries of St. George of Koziba and John the Baptist were refounded and completed in 1901 and 1904, respectively.

20th century

The municipal headquarters of Jericho, 1967

After the collapse of the Ottoman empire at the end of World War I, Jericho, like other places in Ottoman Palestine, fell under the rule of the British Mandate. The British built fortresses in Jericho during World War II with the help of the Jewish company Solel Boneh, and bridges were rigged with explosives in preparation for a possible invasion by German allied forces.

Jericho was captured by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordanmarker during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The Jericho Conference, organized by King Abdullah and attended by over 2,000 Palestinian delegates in 1948 proclaimed "His Majesty Abdullah as King of all Palestine" and called for "the unification of Palestine and Transjordanmarker as a step toward full Arab unity." In mid-1950, Jordan formally annexed the West Bank and Jericho residents, like other residents of West Bank localities became Jordanian citizens.

Jericho was captured from Jordanmarker by Israelmarker during the Six-Day War of 1967 along with the rest of the West Bank. It was one of the first cities handed over to Palestinian Authority control in 1994, in accordance with the Oslo accords, which saw construction of the Oasis casino. The other city handed over to the Palestinians was Gazamarker.

21st century

Jericho was retaken by Israel during the Al-Aqsa Intifada of 2001.

On 14 March 2006 the Israel Defense Forces launched Operation Bringing Home the Goods, in which it took captive six inmates from a Jericho prison following a 10-hour siege. Israel's reason for the siege was to capture PFLP general secretary, Ahmad Sa'adat and five other inmates for the alleged assassination of Israeli tourist minister Rehavam Zeevi because of announcements of their upcoming release. Both sides of the siege were armed and at least two people were killed and 35 wounded in the incident. Before the siege British and American monitors were guarding the prison but withdrew, citing lax security arrangements. The siege caused an uproar amongst the PFLP members and supporters as well as other PLO factions, and as a result Palestinian militants raided and kidnapped British and European citizens in the West Bankmarker and Gaza Stripmarker. The event is considered controversial and somewhat hampered Palestinian relations with the UK and US.

After Hamas assaulted a neighborhood in Gaza mostly populated by the Fatah-aligned Hilles clan in response to their attack on Hamas which killed six of its members, the Hilles clan was relocated to Jericho on 4 August 2008.

Biblical references

Jericho is mentioned over 70 times in the Hebrew Bible. Prior to Moses' death, God is described as showing him the Promised Land in the Torah's fifth book, Deuteronomy with Jericho as a point of reference: "And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land, even Gilead as far as Dan".( Deuteronomy 34:1).

The Book of Joshua describes the famous battle of Jericho, stating that it was circled seven times by the ancient Children of Israel until its walls came tumbling down, after which Joshua cursed the city: "And Joshua charged the people with an oath at that time, saying: 'Cursed be the man before the Lord that riseth up and buildeth this city, even Jericho; with the loss of his first-born shall he lay the foundation thereof, and with the loss of his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it'". (Joshua 6:26). "The people raised the war cry, the trumpets sounded. When the people heard the sound of the trumpet, they raised a mighty war cry and the wall collapsed then and there. At once the people stormed the city, each man going straight forward; and they captured the city. They enforced the curse of destruction on everyone in the city; men and women, young and old, including the oxen, the sheep, and the donkeys, slaughtering them all. -- Joshua 6:20-21"According to the First Book of Kings, centuries later, a man named Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho- and just as Joshua had foretold, he lost his eldest and youngest sons as a result. (1 Kings 16:34)

The Book of Jeremiah describes the end of the Judean king Zedekiah when he is captured in the area of Jericho: "But the army of the Chaldeans pursued after them, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho; and when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath, and he gave judgment upon him." ( Jeremiah 39:5).

Jericho is also mentioned several times in the Christian Bible's books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Hebrews. According to Matthew 20:29-30, Jesus healed two blind men as he and his disciples were leaving Jericho. In Mark 10:46-52, Mark tells the same story, except he only mentions one man, Bartimaeus. Like Mark, Luke only mentions one man, but he differs in his account by saying that Jesus and his apostles were approaching Jericho. Some versions reconcile this by translating it as "near". In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author mentions the Old Testament story of the destruction of Jericho as an outward display of faith. ( Hebrews 11:30) In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus mentions that a certain man was on his way to Jericho.


An aerial view of Jericho showing the ruins of Tell es-Sultan

Jericho is located below sea level in an oasis in Wadi Qeltmarker in the Jordan Valley. The nearby spring of Ein es-Sultan produces 1,000 gallons of water per minute (3.8 m3/min), irrigating some through multiple channels and feeding into the Jordan Rivermarker, away. Annual rainfall is , mostly concentrated between November and February. The average temperature is in January and in August. The constant sunshine, rich alluvial soil, and abundant water from the spring have always made Jericho an attractive place for settlement.


The first excavations of the site were made by Charles Warren in 1868. Ernst Sellin and Carl Watzinger excavated Tell es-Sultan and Tulul Abu el-'Alayiq between 1907–1909 and in 1911, and John Garstang excavated between 1930 and 1936. Extensive investigations using more modern techniques were made by Kathleen Kenyon between 1952 and 1958. Lorenzo Nigro and Nicolo Marchetti conducted a limited excavation in 1997.

Tell es-Sultan

Dwelling foundations unearthed at Tell es-Sultan in Jericho

The earliest settlement was located at the present-day Tell es-Sultan (or Sultan's Hill), a couple of kilometers from the current city. In Arabic and in Hebrew, tell means "mound" -- consecutive layers of habitation built up a mound over time, as is common for ancient settlements in the Middle East and Anatoliamarker. Jericho is the type site for the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPN A) and B periods.

Stone Age

Epipaleolithic—construction at the site appears to predate the invention of agriculture, with the construction of Natufian culture structures beginning earlier than 9000 BCE, the very beginning of the Holocene epoch in geologic history.

Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (8350–7370 BCE); Sometimes it is called Sultanian. The site is a 40,000 square metre settlement surrounded by a stone wall, with a stone tower in the centre of one wall. This is so far the oldest wall ever to be discovered, thus suggesting some kind of social organization. The town contained round mud-brick houses, yet no street planning. The 2000–3000 dwellers The identity and number of the inhabitants of Jericho during the PPN A period is still under debate, though it is known that had domesticated emmer wheat, barley and pulses and hunted wild animals.

Pre-Pottery Neolithic B, 7220 BCE to 5850 BCE (but carbon-14-dates are few and early). Expanded range of domesticated plants. Possible domestication of sheep. Apparent cult involving the preservation of human skulls, with facial features reconstructed from plaster and eyes set with shells in some cases.

After the PPN A settlement-phase there was a settlement hiatus of several centuries, then the PPN B settlement was founded on the eroded surface of the tell. The architecture consisted of rectilinear buildings made of mudbricks on stone foundations. The mudbricks were loaf-shaped with deep thumb prints to facilitate bounding. No building has been excavated in its entirety. Normally, several rooms cluster around a central courtyard. There is one big room (6.5 × 4 m and 7 × 3 m) with internal divisions, the rest are small, presumably used for storage. The rooms have red or pinkish terrazzo-floors made of lime. Some impressions of mats made of reeds or rushes have been preserved. The courtyards have clay floors.

Kathleen Kenyon interpreted one building as a shrine. It contained a niche in the wall. A chipped pillar of volcanic stone that was found nearby might have fit into this niche.

The dead were buried under the floors or in the rubble fill of abandoned buildings. There are several collective burials. Not all the skeletons are completely articulated, which may point to a time of exposure before burial. A skull cache contained seven skulls. The jaws were removed and the faces covered with plaster; cowries were used as eyes. A total of ten skulls were found. Modelled skulls were found in Tell Ramad and Beisamoun as well.

Other finds included flints, such as arrowheads (tanged or side-notched), finely denticulated sickle-blades, burins, scrapers, a few tranchet axes, obsidian, and green obsidian from an unknown source. There were also querns, hammerstones, and a few ground-stone axes made of greenstone. Other items discovered included dishes and bowls carved from soft limestone, spindle whorls made of stone and possible loom weights, spatulae and drills, stylised anthropomorphic plaster figures, almost life-size, anthropomorphic and theriomorphic clay figurines, as well as shell and malachite beads.

In the late 4th millennium BCE, Jericho was occupied during Neolithic 2 and the general character of the remains on the site link it culturally with Neolithic 2 sites in the West Syrian and Middle Euphrates groups. This link is established by the presence of rectilinear mud-brick buildings and plaster floors that are characteristic of the age.

Bronze Age

During the Middle Bronze Age Jericho was a small prominent city of the Canaan region, reaching its greatest Bronze Age extent in the period from 1700 to 1550 BCE. It seems to have reflected the greater urbanization in the area at that time, and has been linked to the rise of the Maryannu, a class of chariot-using aristocrats linked to the rise of the Mitannite state to the north. Kathleen Kenyon reported “...the Middle Bronze Age is perhaps the most prosperous in the whole history of Kna'an. ... The defenses ... belong to a fairly advanced date in that period” and there was “a massive stone revetment... part of a complex system” of defenses (pp. 213–218). Bronze-age Jericho fell in the 16th century at the end of the Middle Bronze Age, the calibrated carbon remains from its City-IV destruction layer dating to at least 100 BCE.


The Jericho Synagogue in the Royal Maccabean winter palace at Jericho dates from 70-50 BCE.

A synagogue dating to the late 6th or early 7th century CE was discovered in Jericho in 1936, and was named Shalom Al Israel, or "peace unto Israel", after the central Hebrew motto in its mosaic floor. It was controlled by Israel after the 1967 Six Day War, but after the handover to Palestinian Authority control per the Oslo Accords, especially during the Al-Aqsa Intifada it has been a source of conflict.

The Na'aranmarker synagogue, another Byzantine era construction, was discovered on the northern outskirts of Jericho in 1918. While less is known of it than Shalom Al Israel, it has a larger mosaic and is in similar condition.


Demographics have varied widely depending on the dominant ethnic group and rule in the region over the past three thousand years. In a 1945 land and population survey by Sami Hadawi, 3,010 inhabitants is the figure given for Jericho, of which 94% were Arab and 170 were Jews.

In the first census carried out by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), in 1997, Jericho's population was 14,674. Palestinian refugees constituted a significant 43.6% of the residents or 6,393 people. The gender make-up of the city was 51% male and 49% female. Jericho has a young population, with nearly half (49.2%) of the inhabitants being under the age of 20. People between the ages of 20 and 44 made up 36.2% of the population, 10.7% between the ages of 45 and 64, and 3.6% were over the age of 64.

Based on PCBS projections, Jericho presently has an Arab Palestinian population of over 20,000. The current mayor is Hassan Saleh, a former lawyer.

International relations

Twin towns - Sister cities

Jericho is twinned with:

See also


  1. Projected Mid -Year Population for Jericho Governorate by Locality 2004–2006 Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).
  2. Murphy-O'Connor, 1998, p. 288.
  3. Freedman et al., 2000, p. 689–671.
  4. Bromiley, 1995, p. 715.
  5. "Jericho", Encyclopedia Britannica
  6. Schreiber, 2003, p. 141.
  7. Bromiley, 1995, p. 1136.
  8. Strong's Bible Dictionary
  9. Gates, 2003, p. 18.
  10. Janson and Janson, 2003.
  11. Scneller, 1994, p. 138.
  12. Is Bryant Wood's chronology of Jericho valid? The Biblical Chronologist Volume 2, Number 3.
  13. Bruins, HJ and van der Plicht, J (1995). Tell es-Sultan (Jericho): Radiocarbon results of short-lived cereal and multiyear charcoal samples from the end of the Middle Bronze Age, Radiocarbon Vol. 37, pp. 213–220. A radiocarbon date of 3306±7 BP was obtained for grains probably remaining from the final few years. This corresponds to a date range (2 sigma) of 1617–1530 BCE by the 2004 calibration scale.[1]
  14. Murphy-O'Connor, 1998, pp. 289–291.
  15. Jericho - (Ariha) Studium Biblicum Franciscum - Jerusalem.
  16. Blind Bartimaeus Recieves his Sight, Mark 10:46
  17. A Blind Beggar Receives His Sight Luke 18:35
  18. Jesus Heals Two Blind Beggars, Matthew 20:29
  19. The Parable of the Good Samaritan Luke 10:25
  20. Losch, 2005, p. 117–118.
  21. Shahin, 2005, p. 285.
  22. Shahin, 2005, p. 283.
  23. al-Muqaddasi quoted in le Strange, 1890, p.39.
  24. Hull, 1855.
  25. al-Hamawi and Abu-l Fida quoted in le Strange, 1890, p.397.
  26. Singer, 2002, p. 120.
  27. Friling and Cummings, 2005, p. 65.
  28. Benvenisti, 1998, pp. 27-28.
  29. Israel holds militant after siege 14 March 2006 BBC News
  30. Jerusalem Post 4 August 2008 IDF: Hilles clan won't boost terrorism by Yaacov Katz And Khaled Abu Toameh
  31. Holman, 2006, p. 1391.
  32. Ring et al., 1994, p. 367–370.
  33. Old Testament Jericho
  34. Kenyon, Kathleen "Digging up Jericho"(London, 1957)
  35. Hadawi, 1970, p.57
  36. Palestinian Population by Locality and Refugee Status Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).
  37. Palestinian Population by Locality, Sex and Age Groups in Years Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).
  38. Projected Mid -Year Population for Jericho Governorate by Locality 2004–2006 Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics(PCBS).


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