The burial caves were cut into the rock in the 1st C AD. They were later expanded into a cross-shaped church with the tomb in its center. In the 6th C Ad an octagon shaped church was built on the upper level, covering the tomb. It was destroyed in the Persian invasion (614). During the Crusaders period a large church was built on the upper level, and a monastery was also added - the Abbey of St. Mary of the Valley of Jehoshaphat, which was protected by a wall. The staircase and entrance were also part of the Crusaders church. It was destroyed by Saladin (1187) and all what was left was the south entrance and staircase. The lower church was subjected to flooding, since it is adjacent to the Kidron brook. After the floods of 1972 the area was cleaned, and at that time there were archaeological excavations conducted here to determine the age of the complex. Today there are frequent visits by Christian pilgrims and other tourists. The highlight of the religious events is August 15, the feast of Assumption.
Modern civilization began right here in the Tigris-Euphrates river valley. Also known as the Fertile Crescent or Mesopotamia, this is the place where, six thousand years ago, agriculture, writing and mathematics were brought into widespread use.The term "Middle East" comes from the British navy, which used it to describe the countries on the trade route from Europe to India and China. Everything from Afghanistan to Morocco may possibly be classified as "middle eastern", depending on whom you ask -- and when.Only a partial list of past Empires in the middle eastern territory includes Sumeria, Babylonia, Persia, the Ottoman Empire and the Roman Empire!When northern Europe was still lurking about in slimy cold stone castles playing chess, the Middle East was enjoying the flowers of poetry, luxurious craftsmanship, music and literature. In fact, the Renaissance in Europe was partly inspired by stories brought back from the middle east by travelers along the trade route.Strategic location, religious history and the world's largest supply of crude oil have kept the Middle East at the center of world activity for centuries. The saga continues.Text by Steve Smith.