A few minutes from the Jaffa Gate is the deep Hinnom Valley, which offers some fine views of Mount Zion and the Old City walls. The area achieved notoriety in the 7th century BC during the long reign of the Israelite king Menasseh (697–640 BC). He was an idolater, the Bible relates, who supported a cult of child sacrifice by fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom. Over time, the biblical Hebrew name of the valley—Gei Ben Hinnom, contracted to Gehennom
or Gehenna—became a synonym for a hellish place of burning in both Hebrew and New Testament Greek.
In the late 1970s, Israeli archaeologist Gabriel Barkai discovered a series of Old Testament–period rock tombs at the bend in the valley, below the fortress-like St. Andrew's Scots Church. The most spectacular finds, however, were two tiny rolled strips of silver inscribed in the ancient Hebrew script. (The text, from Numbers 6, begins: "The Lord bless you and keep you.") The 7th-century-BC text is the oldest biblical passage ever found. The tombs are an open site, accessed through the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.
6 Nachon St., below St. Andrew's Scots Church, Jerusalem, 9411014, Israel