A Jerusalem Memory

An experience in Israel I had long forgotten recently resurfaced as I was contemplating the Second Sorrowful Mystery, the flagellation of Christ.

Kishle Station

In 1982 I was in Jerusalem for the first time and while walking through the Jaffa Gate entrance into the Old City and I heard a loud scream coming from the building on the right, the Kishle police station. A man was screaming at the top of his lungs as though he was being beaten, uttering words in Arabic that sounded like pleas. While it was probably the case that he was being forcibly restrained, it sounded more like a beating.

Israel was very tense (and dangerous) in those days; I was there a year learning Hebrew and experienced either a shelter in place, bomb threat, or evacuation at least a dozen times. Any guided tours I participated in included the mandatory guard carrying a loaded M-16 or Uzi.

Online I learned something very interesting about the Kishle Station, built in 1831 and used as a prison by the Ottoman Turks. The many prisoner cells were located behind the structure and were not in use at the time I was there. In the 1990s the adjacent Tower of David Museum took this part of the building over with the intention of expanding into it. During construction, beneath the floor they discovered the remains of foundation walls, and a full excavation of the site followed.

Most archaeologists now accept that it is the location of the palace built by Herod the Great (37 BC-4 BC), and later the site of Jesus’ trial (and scourging). We don’t know exactly how Jesus reacted verbally to such torture, but a Roman whipping was merciless; a handle was connected to three strips of leather at the end of which pieces of sharp metal or bone were attached. For the Imperial Roman Army, flagellation was also a method of execution; if a cohort lost a battle or otherwise disgraced themselves, one out of ten of them would be flogged to death.

Israeli archaeologist Re’em Amit was in charge of the excavations:

Pontius Pilate did not live in Jerusalem but in Caesarea Maritima, and like all the governors of the imperial era, would have resided in a wing of Herod’s Palace during his stays in Jerusalem.

I don’t know if the sadistic Roman soldiers caused Our Lord to scream as His flesh was systematically torn away; if He did His mother would sadly have had to listen to it. The wailing that I heard coming from that building thirty-six years ago now haunts me.

…rjt

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