J is for Jerusalem

* I was sick this weekend and missed posting on time yesterday. Therefore, my Saturday, April 11th post is appearing this evening and I will be back on track in the morning with “K”.

bigstock-Ancient-Jerusalem--40647358Continuing with how I research and write my stories, it’s a challenge to picture what first-century Jerusalem looked like. The city we see today has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries. Archeological sites that peel away the layers of history are found in and around Jerusalem, and each site leaves clues to its time period.

Churches and memorials have been built over traditional religious sites not only for Jews but also for Christians and Muslims. One well-known place we have access to today is the Western Wall – the Wailing Wall – which is part of Herod’s Temple foundation. This is all that is left of the Temple that stood during Jesus’ time but which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.  The Temple Mount is still there and is now dominated by the Dome of the Rock.

The Old City is surrounded by the ancient city wall which has been demolished and rebuilt over the centuries and roughly encloses what was King Harod’s city. Tourists visit Jerusalem and its Holy places for the three major religions, but it is very different from the streets that first-century Judeans walked.

These differences create an extra challenge when writing about Jerusalem of the first century so I didn’t contaminate the past with the present.

The research I relied on most were maps and drawings of the city of Jerusalem and the surrounding area at the time period 5 B.C. to 35A.D. which I found in various books and online resources. I studied drawings of Herod’s Temple as well as maps of the city showing important buildings and gates. Once again, I looked at hundreds of photographs, drawings and paintings of the city, the Kidron valley and the Mount of Olives. One of the most helpful resources was a collection of pictures of a model built for tourists showing first-century Jerusalem. I studied these pictures for hours and then made basic sketches of my own as I laid out parts of the storylines to be sure that I had everything right, including the compass directions.

After that comes the hard part, because then I have to remember where everything is on the map in the city as I develop the story.

Call me obsessed, but I believe that when any of us writes historical fiction it needs to be as accurate with the geographic, historic and climatic parts of the story as if we’re writing nonfiction or it isn’t believable. The Mediterranean Sea has to remain to the West of Jerusalem and the sun has to come up in the east