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I think it was 'Blessed are the cheesemakers.'

Monty Python's Life of Brian, Scene 2

In ancient Jerusalem, there was a valley, separating the twin summits of Mount Zion and Mount Moriah. This valley has since largely filled up with debris, although if you stand at the foot of the Western Wall, sometimes called the Wailing Wall, you are standing in the valley. The defences of the Temple Mount, dating from the reigns of David and Solomon, took the valley as their outer limit, and for this reason it was called the Outer Valley - in Hebrew gê ḥîṣônā1. (The element of this name is the same as in Gehenna/Gehennom - 'valley of Hinnom'.) A great bridge, called the Temple Bridge spanned this valley at about the time of Jesus, of which only a fragment, known as Robinson's Arch, remains.

So what's this got to do with cheesemakers? Flavius Josephus refers to this valley by the name Tyropoeon (Τυρωπωιον), which means 'cheesemakers'. There are two theories as to why this should be. According to one version, it has to do with Josephus' own understanding of Aramaic and Hebrew. In Aramaic, there's a root ḥwṣ2, meaning to curdle. Josephus is therefore supposed to have inferred from this that ḥîṣônā3 meant 'cheesemakers' or 'cheesemaking'. An alternative claim is that it derives from confusion as to the name of a gate at one end of the valley, usually called the Dung Gate - in Hebrew, Ashpoth. In Nehemiah 3:13, this appears as Shephoth, which elsewhere - 2 Samuel 17:29 - means 'cheese'. This appears to suggest that the gate was also called the Cheese Gate. My personal preference is for the former version, as I'm not at all certain how closely the Dung Gate was associated with the Outer Valley, given that connotations of waste and refuse usually have to do with Gehennom instead.


  1. ge hisona
  2. hws
  3. hisona


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