Israel Travel Blog

A Little History About the Dead Sea

Less than an hour’s drive from Jerusalem and surrounded by the breathtaking scenery of the Judean desert, lies the Dead Sea (‘Yam ha Melach’ in Hebrew). Landlocked between Israel and Jordan, it has the lowest elevation (423 metres below seal level) on earth and is an extraordinary natural wonder due to the high saline (salt) levels it contains. The result of this salty water? Not only is it impossible to dive there (and it’s deep), it’s impossible even to swim! However, with its warm, arid temperatures and endless blue skies, it's also one of Israels’ most popular attractions, not just for tourists but for its citizens, who flock there to relax, hike, or indulge in ‘therapeutic treatments’ such as sulphur baths and mud packs, or simply soak up the sun’s rays, which are excellent for skin ailments such as eczema and psoriasis.The Dead Sea.Photo credit: © ShutterstockWhy is the Dead Sea Unique?Apart from the fact that its salt content is so high, and that it’s situated at the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea is unique because it’s actually full of life. Not life as we’d consider it - no fish or animal can survive there - but life in the form of minerals that aid and heal the body. The evidence is indisputable - in fact, both King Herod and Cleopatra visited the area to indulge in its healing properties. Today, it is still recommended by doctors worldwide as an excellent destination for the treatment of skin ailments, arthritis, and high blood pressure. And because of its desert location, there is very little rainfall, making it a popular year-round attraction. Whether you’re looking for a stone massage, an aromatic salt exfoliation body scrub, or a rejuvenating mud scalp treatment, you’ll be able to find it here.Mineral-rich Dead Seamud mask. Photo credit: © ShutterstockGeology of the Dead SeaAbout 2 million years ago, the land between the Sedom Lagoon (which connected to the Mediterranean through the Jezreel Valley) rose incredibly high, leading to the creation of this landlocked lake. As tectonic plates shifted, the floor of the valley shifted accordingly; at the same time, the arid desert climate led to the lake evaporating. As the years passed, the lake shrank and about 7,000 years ago, this resulted in what we know today.More recently, water from the Jordan River flowed into the Dead Sea but today, with water diverted from the Galilee, its only source of water is from flash floods and sulfur springs. Since water is continually evaporating (due to the desert climate) this means that the Dead Sea is actually shrinking, leaving behind crusty salt crystals which end up ‘snowing down’ up to 10cm worth on the seafloor each year. No wonder it’s impossible to swim here - the water concentration is so dense that your body automatically becomes lighter, leaving you floating to the surface!Amazingly though, at the same time, the Dead Sea still helps support a complex ecosystem. How? Freshwater springs and oases along the shore are home to many indigenous species of fish, plants, and mammals - including ibex and leopards. There are also over 300 species of birds in the area, including eagles, kestrels, and honey buzzards (all of which pass over, on their migration from Europe to Africa).A salt flat on the shores of the Dead Sea.Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe Dead Sea in Ancient TimesThere are many references in the Bible to the Dead Sea, with it called by other names, including the ‘Salt Sea’, the ‘Stinking Sea’, and the ‘Eastern Sea’. Historically, it has been regarded as more of a territorial boundary than a ‘destination’ - nevertheless, many important biblical settlements, including Ein Gedi, Qumran, and the ancient fortress of Masada were positioned there.Archaeologists also believe that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (referred to in Genesis as two notoriously sinful cities, and subsequently destroyed by God) happened in this area. The famous Old Testament story of Lot’s wife - who disobeyed God’s command not to look back and was then turned into a pillar of salt - is also believed to have taken place here. Fun fact: strange formations of salt, which resemble pillars, can be seen in the south-eastern corner of the sea, and have been nicknamed ‘Lot’s Wife’ by tour guides!TheQumran Caves near the Dead Sea.Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe Qumran Caves and the Dead Sea ScrollsQumran, nearby, is also home to the spot at which an astonishing discovery was made in 1949, when a shepherd boy (looking for a lost member of his flock) wandered into a cave and stumbled upon what, today, is named the Dead Sea Scrolls. Approximately 2,000 years old, and dating back to 3 BCE, these documents (made of animal skin, papyrus, and even forged copper) give us extraordinary and valuable insights into the Essenes, a community who had fled Jerusalem for this remote area, so as to continue with its unique way of life.Today, the Dead Sea Scrolls are a highlight of any visit to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Housed in an astonishing building named ‘The Shrine of the Book’ visitors enter this stunning white dome (an architectural masterpiece, designed to represent the lid of the jars in which the scrolls were found) to view these ancient Biblical manuscripts (also known as the Aleppo Codex). For any history lover, a private tour of the museum is highly recommended.The Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe Dead Sea Today - Shrinkage and SinkholesToday, there’s no point in pretending that isn’t a crisis on the horizon - the Dead Sea has a fraction of what it used to gain from its original water flow from the Jordan River. On top of that, the tiny amounts that remain are being diverted for other purposes - industry, irrigation, and hydroelectric power. To maintain its current size, it would need an infusion of 150 billion gallons of water annually and it receives about 10% of that. Time-lapse photography by Noam Bedein shows the alarming and dramatic changes that have occurred even in the last few years, as this landlocked lake literally dries up.And as if this were not problematic enough, there’s another problem with which to contend - sinkholes. As the Dead Sea shrinks, the freshwater aquifers along its perimeter recede; the water diffuses into salt deposits beneath the surface then slowly dissolves until the earth suddenly collapses (usually with no advance warning). In the last 15 years, over 1,000 sinkholes have arisen, swallowing up date palms, parts of the road, and even some buildings. More than one beach has even had to close, as a result. Scientists even fear that if things continue, the nearby springs that feed oases in the Judean desert will die too, leaving a vibrant ecosystem at great risk.A gazebo on the Dead seashore.Photo credit: © ShutterstockSocial Activism and Environmental ProjectsLuckily, it’s not all bad news. As more and more scientists and environmentalists speak out, highlighting the threat posed to the area, an increasing number of social activism projects are being set up, to counter this dangerous trend, Friends of the Earth Middle East, for instance, is part of a coalition of 21 environmental groups which have developed proposals to encourage individuals to conserve household water use. Moreover, the Dead Sea-Red Sea project is planning on opening a desalination facility in the area and, using advanced technology, aims to provide clean drinking water for millions of people in the region. Scientists are also trying to persuade local farmers in the area to plant different kinds of crops from those that exist now - olives, dates, and certain flowers, for instance, don’t require fresh water. And perhaps the most well-known venture is the Dead Sea Revival Project, which aims to become a leading NGO for environmental education and activism. Producing films, multimedia presentations, and photographic exhibitions, they aim to raise awareness not just amongst tourists and Israeli citizens but on a global level. Their fascinating ‘Virtual Museum’ allows you to tour the Dead Sea from your electronic device, and see for yourself the beauty of the place, as well as get involved in projects and enter competitions, all designed to highlight awareness of the challenges faced in preserving the area. Ibexes in Ein Gedi Nature Reserve.Photo credit: © ShutterstockSites and Activities in the Surrounding AreaFor any visitor to Israel, a day trip to the Dead Sea may well be one of the great highlights. But it’s not just the salty water itself that will leave people speechless, but also a large number of additional sites to explore and activities to join, all in the immediate area. For those, not a fan floating in salty water, or slathering themselves in black mud, a simple stroll along the promenade (from which Jordan is clearly visible) is highly recommended. All along are different beaches, with kiosks, cafes, showers, and sun loungers for rent. At some, it’s also possible to pop into hotels and enjoy their spa treatments. For the more adventurous, why not join a jeep safari? These four-hour adventures will take you inland, across rugged terrain, and let you see the beauty of the Judean desert up close and personal. These tours usually pass Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, and also the ancient Murbaat caves. You’ll have the chance to experience some local Bedouin hospitality along the way, in the form of hot tea inside a large tent.A jeep safari in the Judean desert.Photo credit: © ShutterstockFor those who crave an adrenaline rush, there’s the possibility of rappelling down cliff faces in Wadi Qumran or skydiving off the face of the magnificent Masada fortress. If you’re looking for outdoor activity, but something not too extreme, then the hiking opportunities in the area are endless - Metsuke Dragot, David’s Waterfall, Einot Tzukim, Dodim’s Cave, and the Ein Gedi hot springs are all incredibly beautiful. The trails range in difficulty but there are 10 classed as ‘moderate’ which most people can manage. (Look out for the picnic areas, if you need a rest, and stop to look at the mountain goats on the slopes!)Another possibility, especially if you want someone else to do the hard work, is to take an organized Masada and Dead Sea tour, or combineMasada at sunrise, Ein Gedi, and the Dead Sea? Or, if you want a little culture thrown in, mix Jerusalem with a trip to the Dead Sea? For nature and history lovers, it might be worth taking a private guide to explore Qumran and Ein Gedi, who will know the best spots for you to spy ibex, eagles, and rock badgers. Or if you’re simply in the mood to kick back, then book the Dead Sea Relaxation Tour - it will revive every pore in your body!Qasr al Yahud, the baptismal site on the Jordan River.Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe Dead Sea is also very close to Jericho and the Jordan River, which give you the opportunity of visiting not just this small but ancient town but also the ancient baptismal site of Qasr al Yahud, where John baptized Jesus and where pilgrims still visit today, to dip themselves in the water. Sitting there, in the desert, by the Jordan, you truly feel you are in the wilderness. (Fun fact: historically, Christian pilgrims who traveled here from Jerusalem would be transported on camels - the journey took some days!)The fact is that the Dead Sea and its surrounding environment have something for everyone - and especially with a guided group touror a private excursion, with all the logistics dealt with for you, you’ll have time to take it all in. With its breathtaking hilltop fortress of Masada, a must-see for any tourist in the region, delicate ecosystem, and unique history, it’s the perfect destination for first-time and returning visitors. All you need to do is pack a broad-brimmed hat, comfortable shoes, sunglasses, and sunscreen and arm yourself with a bottle of water. Then start exploring - we don’t think you’ll ever forget what you see!Camel riding near the Dead Sea.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
Par Sarah Mann

The Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient Hebrew/Jewish manuscripts, discovered in the Judean desert, inside the Qumran Caves, in 1947. Historians are confident they date back to the last three centuries BCE and the first century. Written also in Aramaic (a Semitic language that was commonly spoken in this period and often used in the writing of holy scriptures) their contents include the second-oldest known surviving manuscripts that were later put into the Hebrew Bible. The majority of the scrolls were written on parchment, with some on papyrus and one on copper.The Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockHistory of the Dead Sea ScrollsThe Dead Sea Scrolls are, of course, of enormous significance - historically, theologically, and archaeologically - since they give us enormous insight into the daily religious practices at the time of the Second Temple. Because of the poor condition of some, less than half of them have actually had their texts identified to date.Of those that have been studied, scholars agree that about 40% relate to the Hebrew scriptures, roughly 200 books from the Hebrew Bible. Another 30% are related to the Hebrew Bible but not canonized. These include commentary on the Bible and apocalyptic proclamations. Finally, the remaining 30% relate to apocryphal manuscripts, containing books not included in the Jewish canon - either previously undiscovered or known only through translations. So how were the Dead Sea Scrolls actually found? In fact, it is an astonishing story.Qumran and the Discovery of the ScrollsThe story of the discovery dates back to 1947 when a shepherd boy and his cousin were out tending their flock. On realizing that one of them was missing, they wandered into the nearby Qumran Caves (close to the Dead Sea) to search for the animal. There, they stumbled upon seven scrolls, all of which were buried in earthenware jars. Burying worn-out Hebrew manuscripts was a common Jewish practice at that time, since - in Judaism - it has always been forbidden to discard them casually. Not knowing the importance of this discovery, they took the scrolls back to their Bedouin camp. There they remained for some time, whilst their family began looking for a dealer to whom they could sell them. How they later came to be recognized for the extraordinary items they actually were is, again, a fascinating story.The Dead Sea Shore.Photo credit: © ShutterstockDetective Story Behind the Discovery of the Dead Sea ScrollsEventually, not knowing their true value, the Bedouins sold all seven scrolls to two antique dealers - three to a man named Salahi and four to a man called Kando (who then resold his to Archbishop Samuel, head of the Syrian Orthodox Monastery of St. Mark, in Jerusalem). Professor Chaim Sukenik, an archaeologist working in conjunction with the Hebrew University, tracked down Salahi and, after seeing the scrolls and, in his own words, trembling with excitement, acquired them.In the meantime, because of the 1948 War of Independence, Archbishop Samuel smuggled his four scrolls out of Israel (to keep them safe) and shipped them to New York. In 1954, having decided to sell them, he placed an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal. This very advertisement was seen by Yigael Yadin, the son of Professor Sukenik, back in Israel. After having raised $250,000, he purchased them, through a middleman, on behalf of the State of Israel, and - once they were back in Jerusalem - reunited them with the other three. A true detective story!What Can We Learn from the Dead Sea Scrolls?The scrolls give us enormous insight both into history and biblical texts. Many of the words in the fragments found are quite different from the words of the same passages in the Greek Old Testament. This shows that the ‘sacred words’ of the Bible have changed over time, even after the Romans conquered the region.Obviously, there is an enormous debate between academics as to their origins and how they came to be placed in this cave. Many scholars believe they were put there by the Essenes. The Essenes were a sect in ancient times who were regarded as being extremely pious and who - it is believed - had deliberately left Jerusalem for the wilderness of the Judean desert. The Judean Desert.Photo credit: © ShutterstockWho Were the Essenes?The Essenes, essentially, were priests, many of whom practiced a monastic existence. They regarded Jerusalem as a city of corruption and, in comparison, regarded themselves as the ‘sons of light’. In the desert, they worked communally, eschewing private property. They were alone (they had left their families behind) though still kept Jewish law, although they ate no meat and carried out no sacrifices. They worked hard in their fields and not for profit, rather for basic survival. Their lives were disciplined, admission to their group was not easy, and, once a member, an Essene divulged nothing to the outside world. One of the professions in which they excelled was scribe, which is perhaps why the scrolls at Qumran were so well looked after. As well as having been placed in earthenware jars (which were water-resistant and practically airtight) most had been written on the hide (skin) of animals, which is known to be a long-lasting material. The cool, dark atmosphere of the caves acted as a deterrent against humidity.Not all academics, however, believe it was the Essenes who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some believe the scrolls were abandoned by refugees fleeing the Romans, after the siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Others believe that it could also be possible that they were placed there by a number of individuals, over a longer period of time. After all, these caves were used for shelter by all kinds of people, for hundreds of years.The truth is, we will never be entirely sure who wrote them. Without a doubt, however, the Dead Sea Scrolls have provided scholars with a unique window into a time in Jewish history that was extraordinarily complex.The Qumran Caves, Israel.Photo credit: © ShutterstockWhere are the Dead Sea Scrolls Today?The Scrolls today are held in a building erected especially for them, at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Named “The Shrine of the Book” it is by far and away one of the most popular attractions there and visited by tens of thousands of visitors each year. This Shrine holds all seven scrolls - Isaiah A, Isaiah B, the Thanksgiving Scroll, the Habakkuk Commentary, the Community Rule, the War Rule, and the Genesis Apocryphon. Save for the last (written in Aramaic), all are written in Hebrew. The Isaiah and Copper ScrollsThe most impressive of the Dead Sea Scrolls is, perhaps, the Isaiah Scroll - the only one from Qumran that is completely preserved. At almost 735 centimeters long, it is the oldest of its kind - academics estimate that it was written around 100 BCE. This stands in the center of the hall, beneath the Dome itself.The Copper Scroll also has a fascinating backstory - it is, in many respects, a ‘treasure map’ because it lists 54 different underground places where caches of silver and gold were hidden. Unfortunately, none of these hoards have ever been recovered (historians believe they may have been pillaged by the Romans (or, if you are more cynical, never existed at all). Since it was not made of parchment, the Hebrew and Greek letters of this scroll were actually chiseled onto it.The galleries of the building are also worth exploring - the upper section tells the story of the people who lived at Qumran and the lower gallery center of the 10th-century Aleppo Codex, which is the oldest-known complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible.Israel Museum, home to the Dead Sea Scrolls.Photo credit: © ShutterstockDesign of the Shrine of the BookThe Shrine of the Book was designed by two architects - Frederick Kiesler and Armand Baros. Built in 1965, with funds detonated by the David Gottesman family (a Hungarian philanthropist) its magnificent design is structured to represent one of the earthenware jars in which the scrolls were found.The building itself is contemporary, and striking because of its use of black and white. Some have referred to it as an abstract modernist’s dream. The white dome of the building is shaped like the lid of the jar, with a black basalt war standing nearby. This contrast is deliberate and mimics the theme of the struggle between the forces of light and dark (i.e. good and evil) mentioned in the texts.A Modernist Design for a Building Symbolising SpiritualityTwo-thirds of the building is actually housed underground - the entrance is beneath the basalt wall - and walks through a passage that has been designed to imitate the actual caves in which the scrolls were discovered. Inside are many glass cases that contain pages of scrolls. However, it is the central display, which resembles a giant spindle, along with a handle, that really catches the eye. More pages of the scrolls are displayed here, and spun around (rotated) regularly so that no one section is ever at risk of deterioration from being ‘over-displayed.’ The building took seven years to complete and its location, is a reflection of the national importance that is placed on these ancient texts and the extraordinary building which is now housing and preserving them. Today, the building is regarded as an icon of modernist design. The symbolism of the building has also been taken, by many, to show the Shrine of the Book as a kind of sanctuary, in which deep spiritual meaning can be found. Not accidentally, a corridor links it with the Second Temple of Jerusalem model, emphasizing that these two buildings, together, are an invaluable source of learning for anyone seeking to understand that period in history.View of the Dead Sea from Masada fortress.Photo credit: © ShutterstockVisiting Qumran and the Israel MuseumQumran, which is set in the Judean Desert, not far from the Dead Sea can be seen from afar during any day trip to the Dead Sea and Masada. Alternatively, individuals with a particular interest in history and archaeology can choose to travel to the archaeological park alone, or take a trained guide, as part of a private tour of the Dead Sea area. Approximately 20 miles from Jerusalem, it takes around 50 minutes to reach there by car.The Israel Museum is one of the country’s most prominent museums and world-renown, not just for the Dead Sea Scrolls but also for its fine art collection, Model of the Second Temple, sculpture garden, reconstructions of synagogues that once existed in Venice, Curaçao, and Cochin and engaging exhibits (both permanent and temporary) relating to Jewish culture, art and life.The Israel Museum is situated 2 km from the Central Bus Station and is close to the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament). It can be visited alone, as part of a guided tour, with aJerusalem Private Tour, or with a Jerusalem New City Jewish Private Tour. Parking is available and buses numbers 14 and 15 run there from the city center.The Israeli Museum is open seven days a week and offers discounts for students, senior citizens, and the disabled. A number of guided tours take place each day, in different languages, most of which are free. Audio guides are available and can also be downloaded onto your smartphone. Tickets can be booked online at a price of 59 NIS/18 USD (regular) ad 39 NIS/12 USD (discount).The museum also boasts an excellent shop, which sells beautiful jewelry, sculptures, small statues (including the replica of the famous ‘Ahava’ statue there), art books, and Judaica (menorot, hannukiot, and wine cups) made by established Israeli and international artists. Visitors can also purchase refreshments and meals in its two eateries, both being kosher, with one serving dairy products and the other a meat menu.The Judean Desert vegetation.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
Par Sarah Mann

Jerusalem Southern Wall Excavation

Since the 1960s excavations in the area of the south-west side of Temple Mount in Jerusalem have uncovered remarkable remains from the Second Temple (516 BC-70 AD) which stood on Temple Mount. Part of these excavations included what would have been the southern retaining wall of Temple Mount. The Southern Wall Excavation Site is accessed from the Dung Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City. Just past the gate is an archaeological park which includes the Southern Wall, the Southern Wall Museum and a Visitors Center.The Second Temple was originally built in 516 BC but was drastically altered and expanded under Herod the Great from 37 BC to 4 BC. It was during this reconstruction that the southern side of Temple Mount was fortified. The southern retaining wall of Temple Mount would have risen 32 meters above street level and run for a length of 281 m. The Temple and almost all of the Temple Mount structures were destroyed by the Romans during the Jewish Revolt of 66 AD-70 AD.Herodian StreetRunning the length of the wall would have been a paved street lined with stores. Along the wall remains were uncovered of an 8 meter wide street now known as the Herodian Street. When the Herodian Street was discovered it was cleared of a mountain of rubble that had accumulated over the almost 2,000 years since the temple’s destruction. On one side of the ancient Herodian Street the massive Temple Mount Southern Wall rises 32 meters and on the other side of the street a wall was uncovered with openings where there would have been stores. Here pilgrims could buy offerings to sacrifice in the temple and also visit the money changes. It may have been here in these stores that Jesus “cleared the temple courts of people selling cattle, sheep, doves and people sitting at tables exchanging money” (John 2:1322). As the Roman’s set about destroying the temple in 70 AD they would have toppled down massive stones onto this street. Above the stores we can see the remains of the base of a staircase.Robinson ArchHalfway up the side of the Southern Wall are the remains of the Robinson Arch (named after the researcher who discovered the arch in 1838). The arch was part of a large bridge structure which allowed access from the lower city to the Temple Mount. The arch was part of a 13 m wide and 19 m high walkway giving pilgrims access from the Herodian Street up a wide flight of stairs to the south-western Temple Mount entrance. This would have been one of three such bridge walkways into the temple. Only the small section of the arch attached to the Southern Wall and the base of the staircase have survived.Trumpeting PlaceOn the southwest corner of the Southern Wall a large slab of stone was found inscribed with the Hebrew words meaning: to the trumpeting place to proclaim. This could refer to the place where a priest would stand on the walls and blow a trumpet to announce the approaching Shabbat. The stone may have been thrown down from the temple walls during the destruction.Ritual BathsWhile excavating the Southern Wall many ritual baths (mikvah) were found. The baths are located close to the walls and were built according to Jewish laws. The baths would have been used by thousands of pilgrims to purify themselves before they entered the temple.Later Structures at the Southern WallThe Al-Aqsa Mosque was built in 705 AD and stands along the inside of the Southern Wall; you can see the mosque’s distinctive silver dome above the wall. Along the Southern Wall it is possible to see the remains of several structures from the later Arab Period including a number of Umayyad Palaces.
Par Petal Mashraki

Guide to the Jerusalem Old City

If you were to choose just one place to visit while in Israel it should be the Old City of Jerusalem. Packed within the 450 year old city walls is 1km² holding some of the country’s top attractions.The Old City is an exciting, exotic, spiritual and fascinating world of narrow cobbled alleys, mosques, churches, eateries, markets and more. The Old City remains as it was thousands of years ago and people still live and work here in the ancient buildings. Among the wonders of the Old City are the most important Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious sites in the country.Brief History of JerusalemJerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and getting an overall understanding of the history is extremely useful for anyone visiting the City of Gold. As you tour the various sites you’ll hear names of historic periods, leaders, and events so this brief history of Jerusalem will help you get some perspective. It was here in Jerusalem that the ancient Jewish temples were built and where Jesus often visited and eventually was crucified. Golgotha, the site of Jesus's crucifixion is within the Old City marked by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. King David conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites in the 11th century BC and established his kingdom. Muslims took the city in 637AD and in 1099AD the first Christian Crusaders arrived. The city changed hands several times and saw pilgrims arriving to various religious sites. The Old City walls we see today were built under Ottoman leader Suleiman the Magnificent in the 1500s. Up until 1860 all of Jerusalem was within the Old City walls, then the first neighborhood beyond the walls was established and the new city grew into the modern metropolis we see today. But within the Old City walls, time seemed to stand still. From 1848 to 1867 the Old City was ruled by Jordan and no Jews were allowed to visit or live in the Old City until it was retaken by Israel in the Six-Day War. Jews returned to the city and it was repopulated with people in all four of the Old City’s quarters. The city has remained a tourist attraction and a pilgrimage site for Muslims visiting Temple Mount, Christians visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and Jews visiting the Western Wall.Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinThe Timeline of Major Events in the History of Jerusalem3500 BC – First signs of human settlers.c.1800 BC – Jerusalem mentioned in Egyptian texts.1010-970 BC – Reign of King David, during this time he declares Jerusalem Capital of United Israel.970-931 BC – Reign of King Solomon, during this time the First Temple was constructed in Jerusalem (957BC) on Temple Mount, and the county was divided into Israel and Judah.837-800 BC – Reign of Hezekiah, King of Judah, during this time the underground waterways from Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam were dug to bring water to the city.597 BC – Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar II captured Jerusalem.586 BC – Due to rebellion Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed the city, including the First Temple, and exiled many inhabitants including Jews who were sent to Babylon.537 BC-332 BC – The Persian Period. Persians ruled under Cyrus who encouraged Jews to return to Israel and begin work on rebuilding the Temple. 521 BC-516 BC – The Second Temple was completed. 445 BC – City walls are rebuilt. 332 BC-167 BC – Hellenistic Period. Alexander the Great conquers Palestine, taking it from the Persians.167 BC-63 BC – Hasmonean Period. With the Maccabean Revolt led by Mattathias, the Maccabean War is started and Jewish Priest Judah Maccabee takes over Jerusalem and restores the Temple which had been profaned under the earlier non-Jewish leaders. 63 BC -324 AD – Roman Period. Romans capture Jerusalem but the Hasmoneans continue to rule under Roman protection. 40 BC – Herod is appointed King of Judea and reigns as Herod the Great. Under Herod, they began rebuilding the Temple.Sculpture of King David playing the harp, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock1 AD – Jesus of Nazareth born in Bethlehem.26 AD – Pontius Pilate appointed as Roman procurator of Judea.c.33 AD – Jesus is tried and crucified in Jerusalem.41 AD-44 AD – Agrippa King of Judea rebuilds the city walls. 63 AD – The Second Temple is completed. 66 AD-73 AD – Jewish Revolt against the Romans, during this time the Temple was destroyed (70 AD) by Titus. 132 AD-135 AD – Following the Bar Kochba War Jerusalem became the Jewish capital once again. 135 AD – Roman Emperor Hadrian captured and destroyed the city, built new city walls, and expelled Jews from the capital.324 AD-638 AD – Queen Helena, mother of Roman Emperor Constantine comes to Jerusalem and sets about identifying the locations of famous biblical events. She initiated the construction of several churches on holy sites including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, constructed in 335 AD. The Jews are permitted to return to Jerusalem (438); the city is captured by the Persians and the Jews are expelled (614) and then the Byzantines recapture the capital (629).638 AD-1099 AD – Muslim Period. During this time the Caliph Omar comes to the city and the Jews are allowed to return. The Dome of the Rock is completed (691) and the al-Aqsa Mosque is completed (701). Under Caliph al-Hakim many synagogues and churches were destroyed.1099 AD-1244 AD – Crusader Period. Godfrey de Bouillon captures Jerusalem, and Baldwin I is declared King of Jerusalem. 1187AD – Saladin, a Kurdish General, takes Jerusalem from the Crusaders and allows Jews and Muslims to return to the city. 1192 AD – Richard the Lion Heart attempts to capture Jerusalem but having failed makes a treaty with Saladin allowing Christians to pray at the holy sites.Dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock1219 AD – Sultan Malik-al-Muattam has the city walls destroyed.1244 AD – The Turks capture Jerusalem from the Crusaders once and for all.1260 AD-1517 AD – Mamluk Period. During this period the Mamluks capture Jerusalem; Nahmanides the great Jewish thinker arrives from Spain and established Jewish learning centers (1267AD); Marco Polo passes through and the Black Death plagues the city.1517 AD-1917 AD – Ottoman Period. The Turkish Ottomans peacefully take over the city and Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent rebuilds the city walls which have not stood for over 300 years. The walls include the city gates and Tower of David which remains today.1700 AD – Under Rabbi Yehuda HaHassid the Hurva Synagogue was built. 1860 AD – First Jewish settlements outside the city walls to escape overcrowding and disease. 1917-1948 British Mandate Period. The British led by General Allenby enter the city and lay their claim to the land. The construction of the Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus begins.1947 –1949 – With the announcement of the UN resolution to partition Israel into an Arab State, Jewish State and Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem civil war breaks out. This resulted at the end of the British Mandate and the Israeli War of Independence. Egypt, Syria, and Jordan fight against the Jewish State which is just coming into shape. The Israel-Transjordan Armistice Agreement (April 1949) gives Transjordan control of East Jerusalem. 1949 – Establishment of the State of Israel. 1967 – Six-Day War between Israel and Jordan, Israel captures the Old City which had been under Jordanian rule since 1949, and the Old City is united.Old City market, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinOverview of the Old CityThe Old City is surrounded by fortified walls and it is possible to walk along the ramparts. Visitors enter the Old City through the wall’s seven gates (there are actually eight gates but one is closed). The Old City is divided into four uneven quarters – the Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian quarters. The division is not with walls but rather the quarters flow one onto the other.In each quarter there is a distinct character; you’ll see people in traditional dress in each of the quarters – Hasidic Jews in their black coats and black hats in the Jewish Quarter, nuns, monks, and friars in their habits in the Armenian and Christian Quarters and in the Muslim Quarter the traditional keffiyeh headdress and long kaftan-type jellabiyah. In each of the quarters, you can buy souvenirs, taste ethnic food and see art and architecture unique to that quarter’s culture, religion, and history.Christian QuarterThe Christian Quarter in the northwestern of the Old City has the New Gate, Jaffa Gate, Damascus Gate, and the junction of David Street and Souk Khan el-Zeit at its corners. This quarter is home to approximately 40 holy sites but the star of the quarter is without question the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The church is a beautifully ornate and cavernous structure with many small chapels and intricate artwork. Muristan fountain in the Christian Quarter; Old City of Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe church dates back to at least the 4th century and houses the site where Jesus was crucified at Calvary, the tomb where he was buried and resurrected, and the last four Stations of the Cross. The church is shared by the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Armenian Orthodox churches as well as the Syriacs, Ethiopians, and Egyptian Copts to a lesser extent.Jewish QuarterJews have inhabited the Jewish Quarter almost continuously since the 8th century BC. Parts of the Jewish Quarter have been excavated to reveal ancient Roman remains including the Cardo, which would have been the colonnaded main street during Jesus’ lifetime. The star of this quarter is the Western Wall; the last remaining part of the Second Temple which was destroyed in 70AD.The Western Wall (Kotel) opens up to a large plaza and Jews come from across the globe to worship here. Local Jews worship at the Western Wall as they would at a synagogue. You can place a prayer note with your personal message to God between the large stones of the Western Wall.Jewish Quarter, Jerusalem. Photo credit:Photo credit: © ShutterstockMuslim QuarterThe largest quarter of the Old City is home to the Muslim population (and a few Jewish families). It has narrow cobbled lanes that are a bustle of activity. Within this quarter there is the Temple Mount, this is where the ancient 1st century Jewish Temple stood, and today it is the site of the beautiful Dome of the Rock which covers the Foundation Stone from where Muhammad is believed to have ascended to Heaven.The Dome of the Rock has a distinctive golden dome which is a symbol of the city. Also on Temple Mount is the al-Aqsa Mosque, Muhammad’s destination in the Night Journey, and the Dome of the Chain a free-standing dome and the oldest structure on Temple Mount. The Western Wall Tunnels run beneath the Muslim Quarters and the Muslim Quarter has several Roman and Crusader remains. The Muslim Quarter has a lively market or “shuk” where you can find a huge range of goods. The Via Dolorosa runs through the Muslim Quarter and is home to the first seven Stations of the Cross.Armenian QuarterThis is the smallest quarter of the Old City. It is home to Christian Armenians who arrived in Jerusalem in the 4th century AD when Armenia adopted Christianity and Armenian pilgrims came to visit the holy sites and settled here. The Armenian Quarter centers on St. James Monastery and the 4th-century Cathedral of St. James which houses the Jerusalem Patriarchate of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Armenian Quarter, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin(Pop trivia: This is where Kanye West and Kim Kardashian held their daughter, North’s christening in 2015). The Armenians have their own distinct culture, religious traditions, and language. The Jerusalem Armenians are famed for their distinctive hand-painted tiles, tile murals, and handmade ceramics. You can buy ceramics in several stores in the Armenian Quarter and see street signs made from the brightly painted Armenian tiles.And Now for Something Special in the Old City….Dei res-Sultan Ethiopian Monastery accessed via the 9th Station of the Cross on the roof of a medieval annex in the Christian Quarter.Shopping in the Old City Market.Walking the Ramparts of the Old City walls.The Tower of David (Jerusalem Citadel) at Jaffa Gate, a museum, archaeological site, and sound and light show.Mamilla luxury shopping street – Northwest of Jaffa Gate.Follow the Via Dolorosa retracing Jesus’ route as he carried his cross towards Calvary.Join today our wonderfulJerusalem Old City TourСapers growing on the wall of a house in Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
Par Petal Mashraki


Tabgha is a small area right on the edge of the Sea of Galilee, on the western shore between Capernaum and Ginosar and just below the Mount of Beatitudes. The name Tabgha comes from the Greek – Heptapegon, meaning place of the seven springs. Tabgha has been identified as the site of the miracle of the loaves and fish (Mark 6:30-46) and the place where resurrected Christ came to meet his disciples (John 21:1-24). The seven springs of Tabgha bring warm water into the Sea of Galilee attracting fish which has made it a popular fishing area for centuries. The area has lush green vegetation, trees offering shade and the cool water just a few steps away.Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish, Tabgha. Photo credit: © ShutterstockBiblical TabghaThe Gospel of Matthew tells us that after Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been beheaded by the Romans he withdrew in a boat to a secluded area. Crowds of followers went after Jesus and by nightfall, there were 5,000 people gathered on the hillside. Jesus took five loaves of bread and two fish and gave them the traditional blessing. Then he divided the food among the gathered crowd. The loaves and fish miraculously fed all of the 5,000 people and there were even leftovers.After Jesus was resurrected he appeared several times to the disciples; one of these appearances took place in Tabgha. Peter, Andrew, Simon, and four other disciples were at Tabgha where they had been fishing through the night but had failed to catch anything. They came ashore and as the sun rose they saw Jesus standing in front of them on the beach of Tabgha. The disciples did not recognize Jesus but he called out to them. He told them to throw their fishing nets back into the water. When the disciples brought their nets in they found them full of fish. Jesus prepared food for the disciples over a fire and lay out the food on a rock. This rock became known as the Mensa Christi and can be seen today in the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter at Tabgha.Jesus challenged Peter’s faith three times symbolically canceling out the three times that Peter denied Christ on the night before the crucifixion. Then Jesus commissioned Peter to lead the church. He asked Peter to feed his lambs, tend his sheep and feed his sheep. Jesus also told Peter that he would die a martyr. From this point onwards Peter was recognized as the head of the church and the apostles.History of TabghaFloor mosaics in theChurch of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish, Tabgha.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinIn the Byzantine era, the spring water of Tabgha was channeled into three water towers and taken via aqueducts to nearby Ginosar to be used for irrigation. During the 4th century, a small chapel was built by Joseph of Tiberias. It was replaced with a chapel in 480 by Martyrius of Jerusalem, the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Martyrius was originally from Egypt and he had the floor mosaics of the chapel created in the Egyptian style. The mosaic we see today of the fish and loaves has survived from this original chapel.The chapel was destroyed in 614 and remained in ruins until excavation in the 20th century. Under the Crusaders the Church of St Peter’s Primacy was constructed in Tabgha and the city was known as Mensa Christi (table of Christ) or Mensa Domini (work of the table). During the Ottoman era in 1595, a village existed on the site of Tabgha with a few houses and mills. Under the British Mandate, a community of Muslim and Christian Arabs lived here and farmed the land. During the 1948 Israeli War of Independence, Tabgha was cleared of residents and structures destroyed. Since then Tabgha’s lands and historic structures have been restored.Tabgha AttractionsChurch of the Primacy of St. PeterAfter Jesus’ resurrection, he appeared to his disciples at Tabgha where they sat down together to eat. It was at this time that Jesus chose Peter to lead the Christian church. This site is commemorated on the beach of Tabgha by the Church of the Primacy of St Peter. It is a small structure built in 1934 of black basalt rock. In the surrounding gardens, you can see a bronze sculpture depicting Jesus giving Peter his blessing. The church is literally on the water’s edge and you can take just a few steps down to the shore and even touch the water. This is a quaint and peaceful church with idyllic gardens and ample shade all around.Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and FishThe 20th centuryChurch of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish that we see today stands on the site of the original 4th-century church and the Byzantine floor mosaic has survived. The mosaic features images of birds, snakes, vines, fish, and flowers. There are peacocks, a flamingo, swan, ducks, herons, geese, cranes, geese, and cormorants. The most significant mosaic is the one closest to the altar that depicts a basket of bread flanked by two fish. Rock in its natural state lies beneath the altar and is believed to be where Jesus placed the bread and fish as he made the blessing.To visit Tabgha, join ourNazareth and Galilee Tour.
Par Petal Mashraki

Acre (Akko)

Acre (also spelt Ako, Acco, Akka or Akko) is a city on Israel’s northern Mediterranean coast just north of Haifa. Visitors to Acre come to see the Old City, one of the oldest cities in the world with a rich history and structures from a number of historic periods. The Old City sits on a peninsula on the edge of Acre’s natural harbor, once an important commercial port and gateway to the Levant. The Old City is completely surrounded by the ancient city walls with just two entrance points for traffic. The city’s narrow lanes are mostly left to pedestrians and visitors can safely explore the alleyways discovering history at every turn. Acre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Acre waterfront.Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe Old City consists of several layers built one on top of the other over the course of hundreds of years. Acre was frequently conquered and each empire left behind impressive structures that allow us to trace Acre’s history. Today the Old City is a lively bustling hub for residents and tourists and is home to people of several faiths. Akko is mentioned in the Bible in Judges 1:31 and again when describing the territory of the Tribe of Asher. In the New Testament, the Book of Luke tells of Paul of Tarsus stopping in Ptolemais (the name of Acre at the time) in 59AD.A Brief History of AcreAkko is first mentioned in the 15th century BC as one of the cities conquered by Tutankhamun, King of Egypt. During the Old Testament period Acre was within the territory of the Israelites Tribe of Asher. In 333BC Alexander the Great occupied the city and in 261BC the Egyptians changed the city name to Ptolomeus after the Egyptian ruler Ptolemy. During the Hasmonean Period (140BC-116BC) Acre was a Jewish settlement. Under the Romans Acre was an important port city and during the Byzantine era Acre became a Christian city with its own Bishop. It was considered sacred because Saint Paul had visited the city.In 640AD Acre was conquered by the Muslims and in 1104 the Crusaders took the city. The Crusader Knights Hospitallers’ mission was to protect pilgrims and care for the sick and poor. For a brief period, Salah a-Din captured the city from 1187 until 1191 then Richard the Lionheart recaptured Acre. Bahai Gardens, Acre.Photo by Shalev Cohen on UnsplashIn 1347 the Knights Templars (a military branch of the church) join the Hospitallers in Acre and built their own fortress with a tunnel to the port to use in the event that an escape was necessary. When the Egyptian Muslims (Mamluks) conquered the city in 1291 all Christians fled. The extensive Crusader city was destroyed leaving only remains beneath newly built Mamluk structures. The city fell into disrepair and became an insignificant village.The Ottomans arrived in 1750 in the form of Daher el-Omar. The new ruler had the fortified city walls built and renovated the Acre port. In 1775AD El-Omar was overthrown by El-Jazar who went on to become one of the most powerful and ruthless rulers Acre has known. El-Jazar had many renovations and new structures built. In 1799 Napoleon reached Acre but failed to breach the fortified city walls.El-Jazzar died in 1804 and was followed by successive Muslim rulers. In 1831 the Egyptian General Ibrahim Pasha conquered and destroyed the city. The British took the Holy Land from the Turks in 1918 and the Acre fort was converted into a British prison. In 1947 Jewish underground resistance forces broke into the jail and released Jewish prisoners. In 1948 with the establishment of the State of Israel Acre became part of the Jewish State.Acre Old City Market.Photo credit: © ShutterstockHighlights of the Old City of AcreAcre Old City Market - As you enter the Old City of Acre you will be immediately met with a busy market street lined with vendors selling everything from fresh fish and meat to toys and electronic gadgets. In the market stop to sample freshly squeezed juice or try one of the local eateries that offer Arabic delicacies and fish dishes.The Underground Crusader City of Acre- The city we see above ground today is mostly from 1750 built by Ottoman Turks. With the Crusader city beneath the surface, it remained untouched until being excavated and restored in the 1990s. The Crusader City beneath Akko is one of the most important attractions in the city although unseen from ground level. Visitors can tour the hidden Crusader City and discover the large halls, the Templars' Tunnel, and chambers.Turkish Bathhouse, Acre- also known as Pasha’s Hammam, this public hot bath and sauna complex has been restored and enhanced by metal figures of men enjoying the different sections of the baths.Acre port.Photo credit: © ShutterstockUnderground Prisoners Museum - Acre has several outstanding museums including the Underground Prisoners Museum. The Citadel of Acre was originally built during the Ottoman era over the remains of a Crusader fortress. The Ottoman citadel was used as administrative offices and later a prison, army barracks, and arsenal. Under British rule, the Citadel was converted into a prison. Several members of the Jewish resistance were held here under the Turkish and British in the years before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 as well as many hundreds of other prisoners. Among the well-known Jewish heroes who spent time in the British prison, there were Zeev Jabotinsky and Moshe Dayan. Today the former prison is a museum focused on the story of the Acre prison and the Jewish resistance fighters.Acre Old City MosquesThe beautiful Al-Jazzar Mosque (the White Mosque) stands at the entrance to the Old City. The 18th-century mosque is the largest mosque in Israel outside of Jerusalem and has many outstanding architectural features. Beneath the mosque are vast water cisterns. Other Acre mosques include the el-Bahar Mosque, built in the 16th century; the el-Majadalah Mosque built in 1809; the el-Mualek Mosque constructed in 1748; the el-Ramal Mosque, the first Muslim place of worship built in Acre and el-Zeituna Mosque.The Templars' Tunnel.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinAcre Old City SynagoguesThe Or Torah Synagogue (Jariva Synagogue) is unique in having mosaics covering almost every surface inside and out. Today the four floors of the synagogue are used to display mosaics from Kibbutz Eilon, seven Torah Arks, and an extensive collection of natural stones from across the Holy Land. The synagogue mosaics and stained glass windows illustrate the history of the Jewish people.The Ramchal Synagogue and the Achav Synagogue were the two places of Jewish worship in Acre from the 16th-18th century. In 1758 Dahar el-Omar had the el-Mualek Mosque built on top of the Ramchal Synagogue. The Jews were given a small property alongside the former synagogue as compensation.Other Acre Landmarks and AttractionsThe Old City is home to four churches and two monasteries. St. John Church was built over the 12th century Crusader Church of St. Andrew. Visitors can follow the City Walls around the city, along the water’s edge past the marina and to the lighthouse. Acre is sacred to the Baha’i faith and is the site of magnificent Baha’i gardens. The gardens surround the shrine of Baha’ullah, the founder of the Baha’i religion who lived and died in Acre in the 1800s.There are many other wonderful sites to discover and things to do in Acre. One of the latest additions to the attractions of Acre is a ferry ride along the coast from Akko to Haifa.To visit Acre join a group coastal excursion or a privatetour of Acre.Acre City Walls.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
Par Petal Mashraki

UNESCO Site: Biblical Tels – Megiddo, Hazor, Beer Sheva

Tels are prehistoric settlement mounds predominantly found in the Middle East. Megiddo, Hazor and Beer Sheva are three of 200 such Tels in Israel, which contain significant remains of cities which have Biblical connections. Excavation has found large multi-layered settlements which existed over the course of several millennia. The locations were probably chosen as settlement sites due to their strategic positions along important trade routes and because of the available water supplies. The three Tels are referred to as “Biblical Tels” as they appear in the Old Testament Bible.In 2005 UNESCO declared these mounds as having outstanding universal value according to three criteria: 1. The Tels show an interchange of ideas and values between the east and west through trading, this can be seen in the many styles of building including those of Egypt and Syria. 2. The Tels offer a rare insight into living conditions and lifestyle of the Canaan cities of the Bronze Age and the Biblical cities of the Iron Age. 3. The development of Levant (Israel, Lebanon, Syria and eastern Turkey) urban development evident in the Tels had a great impact of future historic developments in the region. 4. Having been mentioned in the Bible the three Tels have spiritual and religious universal value.The findings at these Tels show us that there was a centralized authority which controlled the important trade routes through the region. Thankfully the remains at each site have retained their integrity and have been left untouched for centuries. Over the course of time the Tels have become conical shaped mounds with a flat top. The Tels show evidence of sophisticated, geographically responsive, engineering in the ancient underground water systems designed to bring water to the cities.Tel Hazor is located in northern Israel near the Sea of Galilee and boasts one of the best examples of ancient ramparts in the Middle East. The ramparts enclosed the city with 9 meter high walls and there were two monumental gates. Its late Bronze Age palaces and temples stand out as some of the best in the Levant and the most complex in Israel. Excavation began at Tel Hazor in 1928 and later in the 1950s the well known archaeologist Yigan Yadin led further excavations; in 1990 work was once again resumed on the site. A six chambered stone gate was found which can be attributed to the time of King Solomon. The complex water system involved a 30 meter descending tunnel and a cave with a vaulted corridor. As with the other two Tels, Tel Hazor held an important position at a major ancient cross road.Tel Megiddo is just 50km southwest of Tel Hazor at the northern point of the Qishon River and has an unparalleled number of temples in its early Bronze Age temple compound, which shows that there was a continuity in the ritual activity on the Tel. the mound was the site of a powerful Canaan settlement which controlled the Via Maria,a route connecting Egypt with Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia. Megiddo is referred to as Armageddon in the New Testament. The site was first excavated in 1903-5, then again in 1925-39 and again in the 1960s – 70s. Archaeologists uncovered around 30 different cities built one on top of the other on at least 20 levels. Another major archaeological finds was an 80 meter long aqueduct which brought water from a spring at the foot of the mound up a vertical shaft to supply the city with fresh water.Tel Beer Sheva is in southern Israel near the Negev Desert and the archaeological findings show an elaborate, oval-shaped and walled, Iron Age town plan unparalleled in the Levant. The well planned town has a central square and an underwater drainage system as well as a well 69 meter below the ground. Excavation of Tel Beer Sheva only began in the 1960s. They discovered the remains of a 9th century Judahite settlement which continued into the 8th century until it was destroyed by a fire during the Assyrian campaign. Among the remains is the Governor’s Palace with three long halls and several ancillary rooms.
Par Petal Mashraki

Historical Figures in Israel

Whether the connection is religious, literary, biblical or political, many a famous historical figure has come out of the land of Israel - both from the pages of the Bible (thousands of years ago) and more contemporary times. ‘The Jewish People’ - after all - have been around from the time of Abraham, which is some history!David Playing the Harp Before Saul, Mount Zion, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockIsrael is particularly astonishing - when you think about it - because the Jews who live there are speaking the same language, living in the same land, and worshipping the same God from thousands of years ago. No wonder then taking a vacation to Israel is so popular - it is a way of seeing for yourself the continuing of a rich cultural tradition that has passed down through endless generations.Here, we look at some well-known characters that every Israeli child learns about in first grade - both from biblical times and in the history of modern-day Israel. Each one of them, in their own exceptional way, played their part in making an enormous contribution to the country that exists today. That’s also why Israel has a tradition of naming streets, squares, highways, bridges, museums, and even scientific institutes after them. Yes, this is very common and it’s something quite extremely noticeable when you’re traveling in Israel, whether on a tour of Jerusalem, exploring Tel Aviv and Jaffa, or even just wandering around small towns in the Galilee or Negev desert. Without further ado, let’s take a look:Tourist at Mount Scopus observation point, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock1. King David, the legendary great from Israeli historyKing David was the Second King of Israel, who founded the Judean dynasty. Under his rule, all the tribes were united, which is why his rule is often looked back on as a ‘Golden era’. Born to humble origins (a shepherd boy) he killed Goliath with nothing more than a slingshot and a stone and, according to the Hebrew Bible, since being anointed by Samuel was protected from harm by God himself.There are numerous references to David today, in Jerusalem, including the Tower of David, King David’s Tomb, and the 3,000-year-old underground City of David. The Bridge of Chords (which you will see, as you drive into Jerusalem) is an architectural masterpiece, deliberately shaped to look like King David’s harp - the cables being the strings. An excellent way to explore King David's Jerusalem is with a City of David Jerusalem Tour.2. King Solomon, the most famous Israeli historical personalityBoth wealthy and wise, King Solomon came to the throne after his father David, in around 970 BCE. According to the Hebrew Bible, he was responsible for the building of the First Temple in Jerusalem, which he dedicated to the God Yahweh. After this, he is said to have erected many other important buildings in the city, including a Royal Palace.The First Temple was eventually destroyed by the Babylonians, razed to the ground in 587/586 BCE. Today, even after archaeological excavations, little remains (it is probably buried under the Western Wall) but the entire area, including Jerusalem Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock (extremely holy both to Jews and Muslims) can be visited in the course of the Jerusalem Temple Mount & Dome of the Rock Tour.Entrance to King David's Tomb, Mount Zion, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock3. Judas MaccabeusJudas Maccabeus (also spelled ‘Judah Maccabee’) was a Jewish Priest who led a revolt against an invasion by King Antioch IV, to prevent the imposition of Hellenism in what was then Judea, therefore reconsecrating the Temple and helping preserve the Jewish religion. This great military deed of his is remembered by Jews each year when celebrating Hanukkah - the ‘Festival of Lights’.Many things today in Israel remind us of him - the football teams named after him, the Maccabi health fund (which ensures millions of Israelis), and the Maccabiah games - a kind of ‘Jewish Olympics.’ To learn more about Judas, and his brave Maccabean followers, it’s really worth taking a tour of Masada the ancient desert fortress at which the Jews made a last, brave stand against the Romans. 4. JosephusTitus Flavius Josephus was born in Jerusalem in 37 CE to a family of noble lineage - his father was descended from Priests and his mother claimed Royal ancestry. Initially fighting against the Romans in the Galilee, the First Jewish-Roman War, he later defected to the Romans and was granted citizenship by them.Josephus’ most famous work was ‘The Jewish War’ where he recounts in brilliant detail the manner in which the Jews revolted. For scholars, these writings are a valuable insight into first-century Judaism and also early Christianity. They give great context for anyone seeking to understand more about the revolt at Masada and the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as Jewish customs and life inside the Temple. Masada National Park, Herod's Palace Complex.Photo credit: © Shutterstock5. Herod the Great King Herod 1 (also known as Herod the Great) was a Roman King who is known for his enormous building projects throughout Judea, in particular the erection of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Details of his life are recorded by Josephus (see above) and in the Gospel of Matthew, in the Christian Bible, it is said that he was directly responsible for the massacre of thousands of baby boys at the time of the birth of Jesus.Herodian architecture is everywhere in Israel, including famous sites such as the Western Wall, the ancient port of Caesarea, Herodion, the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Masada, and temples dedicated to Augustus (at Sebastia, Caesarea, and Banias). For any history buff or lover of archaeology, you couldn’t do better than to take out In the Footsteps of Herod Private Tour.6. John the BaptistJohn the Baptist was a Jewish prophet, born in 1 BCE and quite possibly a member of the Essene sect. Said to have lived on wild honey and locusts, he preached widely about the final judgment of God and was responsible for the baptism of many ‘repenters.’ Even though Jesuswas technically sinless (as the Son of God) John baptized him and many Christians believe that this ritual filled Jesus with the Holy Spirit.Today, Christian pilgrims flock to Yardenit - Israel’s most famous baptismal site - located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and next to the River Jordan - to undergo this sacred ritual personally. Bein Harims also offers a tour of Nazareth and Galilee, which is an ideal way to learn more about the life and times of Jesus. There is also the possibility of visiting the more intimate baptismal site of Qasr al-Yahud, as part of a tour of Jericho and the Dead Sea area.The ruins of King Herod's bathrooms in Herodion, West Bank.Photo credit: © Shutterstock7. Jesus of NazarethDoes Jesus really need an introduction? The central figure in the Christian religion, whether you believe he was the Son of God or just a radical preacher who was condemned to death for heresy, he’s a central figure in the Holy Land and reminders of his remarkable life and times surround you, whichever way you turn. Many tourists in Jerusalem choose to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, retracing his steps in the last week before his death, exploring landmarks such as the Garden of Gethsemane, the Via Dolorosa, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It’s also possible to take a tour of Bethlehem (his birthplace) or travel north and explore both Nazareth (where he spent his early years) and Galilee, where he found his disciples and ministered to crowds. You don’t have to be religious to be fascinated by this man’s extraordinary life.Gethsemane Garden, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock8. Pontius PilatePontius Pilate was the fifth governor of the Roman province of Judea, at the time of Jesus’ death. Little is known about his early years, or how he rose to prominence. He is known best for being the official who presided over Jesus’s trial and subsequently ordered that he be put to death, by way of crucifixion. The Christian Bible often represents Pilate as being ambivalent - even reluctant - about his actions in condemning Jesus (pointing to the fact that he asked the crowd their wishes and then washed his hands i.e. absolving himself from his actions). Today, he is venerated by the Ethiopian Church as a saint.The Praetorium (buried underneath an Ottoman prison, the Kishle, next to the Tower of David) is thought by archaeologists to be the place where Pilate made his famous decision and can easily be explored on any private tour of Jerusalem.Kishle, the Possible Site of Jesus’ Trial, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin9. David Ben-GurionDavid Ben Gurion was Israel’s first Prime Minister after it became an independent state widely regarded as one of its ‘founding fathers’ of the state. It was Ben Gurion who proclaimed the Declaration of Independence, in Tel Aviv, in 1948 and who oversaw the absorption of huge numbers of Jews in the early years of Israel’s existence.Ben Gurion served as Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Israel for many years. During this time, he lived in Tel Aviv, in a small unassuming house, which today is a museum showcasing his life. Filled with books, it gives an indication of just how learned he was. In 1970, he moved to the Kibbutz Sde Boker, in the Negev desert, since he had a deep belief that Zionism entailed settling barren areas. He is buried there and his grave and house can be easily visited. 10. Teddy KollekTeddy Kollek was an Israeli politician who famously served as Mayor of Jerusalem between 1965 and 1993. The old adage about him was that he was ‘the greatest builder in Jerusalem since Herod’ because of his interest in redeveloping and modernizing the city.Kollek dedicated himself to many cultural projects, particularly those relating to the Israel Museum and Jerusalem Biblical Zoo (today, two ofJerusalem’s most visited attractions).Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin11. Theodor HerzlTheodor Herzl was not just a journalist and playwright, but also the father of modern Zionism. Born in Budapest, he moved to Paris at the end of the 19th century, and witnessing the aftermath of the scandalous ‘Dreyfus Affair’ convinced him that the only way for Jews to avoid anti-semitism was to create a Jewish state. From this point on, Herzl devoted himself to this vision, visiting Jerusalem finally in 1898. Herzl never lived to see his dream realized, dying in 1904, but Israel celebrates him annually with ‘Herzl Day’ in the Hebrew month of Iyar. Mount Herzl in Jerusalem whereTheodor Herzl is buried and the town of Herzliya with its beautiful marina are named after him.12. Meir DizengoffMeir Dizengoff was born in Russia in 1881 and was one of the early Zionist leaders of his day. A great advocate of establishing Jewish communities in Palestine, particularly Tel Aviv, he was widely regarded as a great leader at that time and many world leaders (including Winston Churchill) who visited Palestine were impressed by him. He was actually one of the families who founded Tel Aviv, on its sand dunes, in 1909.Dizengoff later became Mayor of the city and kept that office until just before he died. Today, Tel Aviv’s largest street is named after him - running through the heart of the city, Dizengoff Street is famous for its cafes, restaurants, boutiques, and 24/7 activity. His home was the spot at which Ben Gurion made his famous declaration and today is a history museum known as theHall of Independence. It can be visited with some of Tel Aviv tours.The Hall of Independence, Tel Aviv. Photo credit: © Shutterstock13. Yitzhak RabinYitzhak Rabin was a military leader, politician, and statesman, who became famous in Israel as the Labour Leader who signed the Oslo Accords, in conjunction with Yasser Arafat’s PLO, and was, soon after, assassinated by a radical right-wing Jew. Rabin was Chief of the Southern Front in the 1948 War of Independence in 1948, and in 1964 was appointed Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army. In 1994, a year before his murder, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.Tel Aviv’s famous central square was afterward renamed Yitzhak Rabin Square and in 2005, ten years after his death, the Yitzhak Rabin Center was inaugurated. Part of this is a museum that explores the history of Israeli society, using Rabin as a connecting theme.14. Yigal AllonYigal Allon was an Israeli military leader who, after a celebrated career, became a Labour politician. He is well-known as the architect of the ‘Allon Plan’ which was a peace initiative formed by him in 1967, after Israeli captured territories in the Six-Day War. The Yigal Allon Museum, at Kibbutz Ginosar in Galilee, is open to visitors and a major highway in Israel is also named after him.15. Chaim WeizmannBorn in Russia, Chaim Weizmann was the President of the Zionist Organisation and then the first President of the State of Israel. It was Weizmann who was widely acknowledged as being the person who persuaded the USA to recognize Israel, after its establishment in 1948. A biochemist by profession, the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot - is today, a worldwide leader in scientific research and an excellent tribute to him.Tel Aviv City Hall with rainbow flag projection, Rabin Square. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
Par Sarah Mann
  • Affichage de 1 - 8 résultats sur 8
  • 1