Category Archives: History

The Foundation Stone of the World

The Foundation Stone is the name of the rock at the heart of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Jews traditionally face it while praying, in the belief that it was the location of the Holy of Holies in the Temple. Muslims believe that angels visited the site 2,000 years before the creation of Adam, the place to which Muhammad traveled in the Night Journey and it’s the place where Israfel, the angel of the trumpet, will sound his horn on Resurrection Day. Map.

Foundation Stone
Foundation Stone

Many sages from the Talmud were mentioned about the Foundation Stone.

  • God took the Foundation Stone and threw it into the depths and from it the world expanded. It’s the center point of the world and the first part of the Earth to come into existence.
  • Also it was close to the Foundation Stone, that God gathered the earth and created Adam.
  • It was on this rock that Adam—and later Cain, Abel, and Noah—offered sacrifices to God.
  • Jewish sources identify this rock as the place mentioned in the Bible where Abraham fulfilled God’s test to see if he would be willing to sacrifice his son Isaac.
  • It is also identified as the rock upon which Jacob dreamt about angels ascending and descending on a ladder and consequently consecrating and offering a sacrifice upon.
  • When (according to the Bible) King David purchased a threshing floor owned by Araunah the Jebusite (Canaanites), it is believed that it was upon this rock that he offered the sacrifice mentioned in the verse.
  • He wanted to construct a permanent temple there, but as his hands were “bloodied”, he was forbidden to do so himself. The task was left to his son Solomon, who completed the Temple in c. 950 BCE.
  • Situated inside the Holy of Holies, this was the rock upon which the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the First Temple.
  • During the Second Temple period when the Ark of the Covenant was not present, the stone was used by the High Priest who offered up the incense and sprinkled the blood of the sacrifices on it during the Yom Kippur service.
Foundation Stone
Foundation Stone

The rock itself is 90-million-year-old and quite different compared with rocks surrounding it. The southern side of the Foundation Stone forms a ledge, with a gap between it and the surrounding ground; a set of steps currently uses this gap to provide access from the Dome of the Rock to the Well of Souls beneath it.

Foundation Stone
Foundation Stone

The rock has several human-made cuts in its surface, created by the Crusaders. Flat sections on the stone indicates foundation trenches on top of which the walls of the original temple were laid.

Foundation Stone
Foundation Stone

Sodom Day Tour

By tradition, this area is the site of Sodom and Gomorrah, the biblical cities that were destroyed in a storm of fire and brimstone, punishment from God because of their people’s depravity (Genesis 18-19). These days, Sodom is much better known for its desert hiking and cycling trails than for sodomy. And for that we have this day tour. Normally, a day tour occupies about a half day, but I added several hiking opportunities to this day you and that means you will be busy the whole day. It’s breathtaking nature in action. Look also for the stories behind the cursed cities in Israel. See also the maps of the Dead Sea.



‘The Situation of Man’

The Situation of Man
The Situation of Man

Atop a bluff overlooking the Dead Sea Works stands this modern sculpture, a rusty steel column with old steel railway ties striving to climb it like desperate worms.
Next to the sculpture, a viewpoint looks out over a crazy juxtaposition of smoke-spewing heavy industry, electric-blue evaporation pools, green farm fields (over in Jordan) and the wild, tawny beauty of the desert.

Mountains of Moab
Mountains of Moab

Views are best in the late afternoon, when the setting sun turns the mountains of Moab a reddish gold.

Mountains of Moab
Mountains of Moab

The 600m-long access road intersects Rte 90 250m north of the main entrance to the Dead Sea Works. Turn off at the white-on-brown sign reading ‘Plant Viewing Point’ (ignore the yellow ‘no trespassing’ sign) and follow the green signs marked (in Hebrew) ‘LaMitzpeh’ (‘to the scenic lookout’). Beyond the sculpture, a 4WD road continues to the Amiaz Plateau.

Lot’s Wife

Lot's Wife pillar, Mount Sodom
Lot’s Wife pillar, Mount Sodom

About 11km south of the southern end of Ein Bokek, high above the west side of Rte 90, a column of salt-rich rock leans precariously away from the rest of the Mt Sodom cliff face. It is popularly known as Lot’s Wife because, according to the Bible, Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt as punishment for looking back to see Sodom as it burned (Genesis 19:17 and 19:26).

Dead Sea Works

Dead Sea Works
Dead Sea Works

Israel’s only major natural resource – other than sunlight and the gas fields off the Mediterranean coast – is the Dead Sea, from which products ranging from magnesium chloride and anhydrous aluminium chloride to table salt and cosmetics are extracted. Founded in the 1930s, the DSW is now the world’s fourth-largest producer of potash, an important component of agricultural fertiliser.
By day, the rusty (from the salt air) smokestacks, pipes and holding tanks of the DSW complex look like a mid-20th-century industrial dystopia, but by night, when the sprawling facilities are lit by thousands of yellowish lights, the site has a mysterious, otherworldly beauty.

Mount Sodom

Mount Sodom
Mount Sodom

Two trails head down the steep flanks of Mt Sodom from a lookout point, reachable by 4WD, whose views are at their best in the late afternoon.

Ma’aleh HaSulamot (Ladders Ascent; 1½ hours to walk down), named after its many stairs, connects with Rte 90 across the highway from the sun-blasted huts of the Dead Sea Works’ first workers’ camp, built in 1934.

Another descent to Rte 90 is Shvil HaDagim (Fishes Trail; 1½ hours down), so named because of the many fossilised fish you can see in the rocks.

Mt Sodom, 11km long and up to 2km wide, is one of the world’s stranger geological formations. Start with the fact that it’s made almost entirely of rock salt, a highly soluble material that in any other climate would have melted away. In fact, over the millennia the area’s rare rainfalls have dissolved some of the salt, creating deep in the bowels of the mountain a maze of caves (closed to the public) up to 5.5km long.

Many are connected to the surface by shafts that hikers need to make sure they don’t fall into, and some are filled with delicate, eerie salt stalactites. And then there’s the matter of Mt Sodom’s summit.

A respectable 250m above the surface of the Dead Sea – the views of Jordan’s Moab Mountains are gorgeous – it also happens to be 176m below sea level.

West of Mt Sodom, Wadi Sodom is ideal for mountain biking. If you start at the top (accessible by 4WD), it’s about two hours, mostly downhill, to the Neve Zohar area.

A round-trip circuit that connects with beautiful Wadi Pratzim (Wadi Perazim), whose upper reaches pass the famous Flour Cave (closed to the public), is another option.

Sleeping

The Mt Sodom area has several well-marked camping zones (chenyonei layla) without facilities, including one up on the Amiaz Plateau (Mishor Amiaz) and another further north at Wadi Tze’elim.

Mt Sodom International Bike Race: www.desertchallenge.co.il

Map of Dead Sea - Sodom Day Tour
Map of Dead Sea – Sodom Day Tour

The Mysterious Well of Souls, the Holy of Holies

The Well of Souls is a partly natural, partly man-made cave located inside the Foundation Stone under the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem. For Muslims, the spirits of the dead can be heard awaiting Judgment Day. For Christians, the site is known as the Holy of Holies and is venerated as a possible “site of the annunciation of John the Baptist”. The Well of Souls has also other names: Pit of SoulsCave of Spirits, and Well of Spirits in Islam.

There was never an archeological investigation because of political and diplomatic sensitivities. And that means that the mystery only gets more mystified!

Well of Souls
Well of Souls

For Christian Pilgrims it’s one of the places to visit. It’s not for nothing the Holy of Holies. It’s also the place covered in mysteries …

The Well of Souls, located on Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, may contain the fabled and elusive Ark of the Covenant. This is the sacred vessel that, according to biblical account, contained the original Ten Commandments tablets that God gave to Moses at Mount Sinai as the ancient Israelites wandered the desert.

The Well of Souls is purportedly located below a natural cave under the rock upon which Jewish tradition says Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. Islamic tradition indicates Muhammad ascended to heaven from this same stone.

No one knows with absolute certainty whether the Well of Souls—or the Ark of the Covenant—actually exists. Though knocking on the floor of the cave under the Muslim Dome of the Rock shrine elicits a resounding hollow echo, no one has ever seen this alleged chamber. The Temple Mount itself is rife with a network of some 45 cisterns, chambers, tunnels, and caves.

Well of Souls
Well of Souls

There has never been any proper archaeological exploration of the site, which is under control of the Waqf Muslim religious trust.

The famed 19th-century British explorers Charles Wilson and Sir Charles Warren could neither prove nor disprove the existence of a hollow chamber below the cave. They believed the sound reportedly heard by visitors was simply an echo in a small fissure beneath the floor.

Well of Souls
Well of Souls

Shimon Gibson, senior fellow at the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, published a definitive review together with colleague David Jacobson called Below the Temple Mount in Jerusalem: A Sourcebook on the Cisterns, Subterranean Chambers and Conduits of the Haram Al-Sharif. “Since the 19th century, no Westerner has been allowed access to the subterranean chambers on the Temple Mount,” Gibson said.

The Temple Mount and the natural cave below the Dome of the Rock are periodically open to tourists, depending upon the local security and political situation.

History

Well of Souls
Well of Souls

Both Jewish and Muslim traditions relate to what may lie beneath the Foundation Stone, the earliest of them found in the Talmud in the former and understood to date to the 12th and 13th centuries in the latter.

The Talmud indicates that the Stone marks the center of the world and serves as a cover for the Abyss containing the raging waters of the Flood.

Muslim tradition likewise places it at the center of the world and over a bottomless pit with the flowing waters of Paradise underneath. A palm tree is said to grow out of the River of Paradise here to support the Stone.

Noah is said to have landed here after the Flood. The souls of the dead are said to be audible here as they await the Last Judgment.

Well of Souls
Well of Souls

The Crusaders recaptured Jerusalem in 1099 and converted the Dome of the Rock into a church, calling it the Templum Domini, or the Temple of the Lord.

They were cutting away much of the rock to make staircases and paving the Stone over with marble slabs. They enlarged the main entrance of the cave and probably are also responsible for creating the shaft ascending from the center of the chamber. The Crusaders called the cave the “Holy of Holies” and venerated it as the site of the announcement of John the Baptist’s birth.


Reference

  • The earliest reference to a “pierced rock” (the shaft in the cave’s roof) may be that in the Itinerarium Burdigalense by the anonymous “Pilgrim of Bordeaux” who visited Jerusalem in 333 AD.
  • References to the “Well of Souls” under the Foundation Stone date back at least to the 10th-century Persian writer Ibn al-Faqih who mentions it as an Islamic sacred site.
  • The 11th-century Persian writer and traveler Nasir-i Khusraw related the traditional story of the origin of the cave in his classic travelogue Safarnama:

They say that on the night of his Ascension into heaven, the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, prayed first at the Dome of the Rock, laying his hand upon the Rock. As he went out, the Rock, to do him honor, rose up, but he laid his hand on it to keep it in its place and firmly fixed it there. But by reason of this rising up, it is even to this present day partly detached from the ground beneath.

  • The 16th-century rabbi David ben Solomon ibn Abi Zimra attested to the existence of a cave found under the Dome of the Rock and known as the “Well of Souls”.
  • The definitive modern review of the Well of Souls, along with other underground openings beneath the Temple Mount, is in Shimon Gibson and David Jacobson’s Below the Temple Mount in Jerusalem: A Sourcebook on the Cisterns, Subterranean Chambers and Conduits of the Haram Al-Sharif.

 

Cave Tour, 12 days

The cave tour, part of the ecotourism and Eco-tours. This tour is meant for the normal public from the ago of 15 and older. It also means climbing, dragging your feet through the mud, becoming wet, walk under the burning sun, becoming dirty, etc. You’re warned!


Day 1 – Arrival
Day 2 – Sorek (Avshalom) Cave
Day 3 – Bell Cave
Day 4 – Zedekiah’s Cave
Day 5 – Hariton Cave
Day 6 – Malcham
Day 7 – Caves of Qumran
Day 8 – HaYonim (The Pigeons) Cave
Day 9 – Tabun (Tanur) Cave (Oven Cave)
Day 10 – Hanahal (El-Wad) Cave
Day 11 – Pa’ar Cave
Day 12 – Departure

Where are your accommodations?

Day 1 – Jerusalem
Day 2 – Jerusalem
Day 3 – Jerusalem
Day 4 – Jerusalem
Day 5 – Jerusalem
Day 6 – Dead Sea
Day 7 – Dead Sea
Day 8 – Acre
Day 9 – Haifa
Day 10 – Haifa
Day 11 – Nahariyya/Tiberias

What will you see?

  1. Sorek (Avshalom) Cave
  2. Bell Cave
  3. Zedekiah’s Cave
  4. Hariton Cave
  5. Malcham
  6. Caves of Qumran
  7. HaYonim (The Pigeons) Cave
  8. Tabun (Tanur) Cave (Oven Cave)
  9. Hanahal (El-Wad) Cave
  10. Pa’ar Cave
  11. Old and New city of Jerusalem
  12. Acre
  13. Haifa
  14. Golan
  15. Dead Sea

Day 1 – Arrival

This is the day that you arrive in Israel. Well, it’s not the case for those who are already here or who are living in Israel.

For those who are arriving in Israel, will be picked up from the airport by the guide and driver from Shalom Israel.

  • For those, who ordered the hotels, they will be driven by bus to their hotel and for this tour it means Jerusalem.

During the drive to your hotel, the bus will stop multiple times if the group requires so. One stop is for stretching your legs and to eat real food and drink. That is included in the tour! So, please don’t spend your money on that.

When you’ve arrived at your hotel, you check in and relax. The guide is with you and stays with you until you go back home at the end of the tour. He is available day and night (for example when you can’t sleep!).

The evening (this totally depends how late you arrive in Israel), we have a surprise for you in Jerusalem. Please, don’t eat before, because we will dine in Jerusalem.


Day 2 – Sorek (Avshalom) Cave

(Click here for map)

Avshalom Cave, also known as Soreq Cave or Stalactites Cave, is a 5,000 sq m cave in Israel, unique for its dense concentration of stalactites
Avshalom Cave, also known as Soreq Cave or Stalactites Cave, is a 5,000 sq m cave in Israel, unique for its dense concentration of stalactites.
Traditional breakfast before you go into the Negev

Traditional breakfast

After your breakfast at your hotel in Jerusalem, the bus is waiting for you. Officially, the tour starts at 9:00 in the morning, so we leave at 8:15. For more information about the route, click here for map.

Also called the Stalactite Cave, this small cavern is in a nature reserve on the western slopes of the Judean mountains between Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh.

Workers blasting at a limestone quarry 44 years ago came across it by accident. Inside were stalactites and stalagmites up to 13 feet long. Some of them are believed to be at least 300,000 years old, while others are still forming.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority installed wooden walkways, lighting and handrails inside the cave and offers an audiovisual presentation and guided tour.

At the end of the day, we return to our hotel. At your hotel, dinner is waiting.

Day 3 – Bell Cave

(Click here for map)

Delicious breakfast

Delicious breakfast

After your breakfast at your hotel in Jerusalem, the bus is waiting for you. Officially, the tour starts at 9:00 in the morning, so we leave at 8:15. For more information about the route, Click here for map.

One of many caves to explore at Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park — which lies in the “land of a thousand caves” region of central to southern Israel – the Bell Cave complex is a series of 70 large caves connected by passageways. The tallest of the Bell Caves are more than 16 feet high.

Dug out as quarries during the Early Arab period in the seventh-11th centuries CE, the caves got their name because the digging was done in the shape of a bell. Arabic inscriptions and crosses can still be seen on the walls. Even Hollywood finds the area awesome; Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo III was filmed here.

We return to our hotel in Jerusalem.


Day 4 – Zedekiah’s Cave

Cave of Zedekiah
Healthy breakfast too if you really want

Healthy breakfast too if you really want

After your breakfast at your hotel in Jerusalem, the bus is waiting for you. Officially, the tour starts at 9:00 in the morning, so we leave at 8:15. For more information about the route, Click here for map.

Cave of Zedekiah

Steeped in legend, Zedekiah’s Cave goes back about 1,000 feet under the northern wall of Jerusalem’s Old City, and more than 2,000 years in history. People long believed that this was the cave described in the bible’s account of how Zedekiah, Jerusalem’s last biblical king, attempted to flee to Jericho during a Babylonian siege. He was captured and tortured, which is why the spring at the back of the cave is called “Zedekiah’s Tears.”

Cave of Zedekiah

However, the cave has no exit, so it wouldn’t have made a good escape route. Still, it has great significance because archaeologists believe it was from this quarry that workers cut the giant stones to build the Second Temple in the fourth century BCE. The cave is lighted and has signage in Hebrew, Arabic and English. About half of its length is open to the public.

At the end of the day, we return to Jerusalem.


Day 5 – Hariton Cave

Hariton Cave

(Click here for map)

Bedouin breakfast

Breakfast

After your breakfast at your hotel in Jerusalem, the bus is waiting for you. Officially, the tour starts at 9:00 in the morning, so we leave at 8:15. For more information about the route, Click here for map.

Israel’s largest limestone cave is shaped like a labyrinth, necessitating a guide from the nearby field school, lanterns and appropriate shoes. It’s located near Bethlehem and Herodion south of Jerusalem, near the town of Tekoa. According to ancient historian Josephus Flavius, Hariton was part of an underground system of escape routes used by Jews fleeing the Romans more than 2,000 years ago.

Hariton Cave

At the end of the day we return to our hotel in Jerusalem.


Day 6 – Malcham

(Click here for map)

Breakfast from heaven

Breakfast from heaven

After your breakfast at your hotel near the Jerusalem, the bus is waiting for you. Officially, the tour starts at 9:00 in the morning, so we leave at 8:15. For more information about the route, Click here for map.

The largest cave in Israel and the largest salt cave in the world, Malcham is one of more than 100 salt-rock caves in Mount Sedom at the southwest end of the Dead Sea. Open free to the public, this rare formation has huge rooms, vertical shafts over 426 feet deep, stalactites and stalagmites made of salt.

“It’s a river cave,” explains Frumkin. “Water flowing in a surface stream flows underground and dissolves the salt, creating caves – a process that is still going on when there is strong rain over the mountain about once a year.”

At the end of the day, we go to our new hotel near the Dead Sea.


Day 7 – Caves of Qumran

(Click here for map)

Food and Cuisine - RestaurantAfter your breakfast at your hotel near the Dead Sea, the bus is waiting for you. Officially, the tour starts at 9:00 in the morning, so we leave at 8:15. For more information about the route, .

In the year 68 CE, a Jewish cult occupying these caves overlooking the northwest end of the Dead Sea fled from the invading Romans. But first they hid their treasures in clay jars. They were only discovered starting in 1947, and became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The parchments – including the oldest known Bible — can be seen at the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book or online.

The caves are now a tourist site complete with a video presentation. You can walk through a room where ancient scribes may have worked and an area where the caves’ ascetic inhabitants dried dates and made clay pots like the ones used to store the scrolls for two millennia.

Our tour though, will lead us to the known and unknown (for the tourist) caves of the Qumran caves. There are more then 250 caves discovered and a few presented to the normal tourists.

Dead Sea

At the end of the tour, we might take a dip in the Dead Sea if someone volunteers. As a tip, you have there good showers to wash the dust, dirt and sweat and enables you to redress. Take pots and pans with you, because you might collect the mud of the Dead Sea, because at home you need to pay a fortune for that.

At the end of the day, the bus drives us to our hotel in Acre (Akko).


Day 8 – HaYonim (The Pigeons) Cave

HaYonim (The Pigeons) Cave

(Click here for map)

'Fruits and Grains' the foods of-the future according to Baha'i

‘Fruits and Grains’

After your breakfast at your hotel in Acre (or Akko), the bus is waiting for you. Officially, the tour starts at 9:00 in the morning, so we leave at 8:15. For more information about the route, Click here for map.

Situated in a limestone bluff in the upper Galilee, HaYonim Cave was used as a living space on and off between 250,000 and 12,000 years ago. Excavations have turned up blades, cooking hearths, finished floors and graves.

“This is a good example of a prehistoric natural cave. Such caves could be associated with two types of humans that coexisted in the last Ice Age – Homo sapiens and Neanderthals,” explains Frumkin. “In the Natufian period about 11,000 years ago, people started building small houses, and there are such structures inside the entrance of the cave.”

HaYonim (The Pigeons) Cave

Visitors can explore part of the cave for free. The archeological excavation area is blocked off. Our guide will bypass that little rule for you. Please don’t start digging though.

At the end of the day, we move hotel to Haifa.


Day 9 – Tabun (Tanur) Cave (Oven Cave)

(Click here for map)

Baha'i food

Baha’i food

After your breakfast at your hotel in Haifa, the bus is waiting for you. Officially, the tour starts at 9:00 in the morning, so we leave at 8:15. For more information about the route, Click here for map.

Not far from HaYonim, a 120,000-year-old Neanderthal-type female skeleton was discovered in the Tabun Cave, so named because it resembles a chimney (“oven” is “tanur” in Hebrew and “tabun” in Arabic). Different groups of humans lived inside it from 500,000 to 40,000 years ago.

Tabun is the highest one of three Carmel Caves in the Nahal Me’orot Nature Reserve. Stairs lead from a visitor’s center to the entrance. Archeologists found many hunting and foraging tools here along with piles of fallow deer bones and other leftovers of ancient meals.

The guide will explain why that is so important for the ancient history in the world, the development of the modern human and the land of Israel and it’s unique history.

At the end of the day we return to our hotel in Haifa.


Day 10 – Hanahal (El-Wad) Cave

Hanahal (El-Wad) Cave

(Click here for map)

The food plate

The food plate

After your breakfast at your hotel in Haifa, the bus is waiting for you. Officially, the tour starts at 9:00 in the morning, so we leave at 8:15. For more information about the route, Click here for map.

This is the largest of the Carmel Caves. Here you can watch an audiovisual presentation about prehistoric daily life, and see a model of a skeleton illustrating burial customs of the Natufian culture 10,000 years ago. More than 100 ancient skeletons were discovered buried here in a tightly flexed position, some with ornaments made of stone, bone or shell. (Don’t worry: The bodies were long since removed from the premises … but maybe we might find some when the guide starts wandering around with you.)

Hanahal (El-Wad) Cave

At the end of the day, we go to our new hotel in Nahariyya/Tiberias.


Day 11 – Pa’ar Cave

(Click here for map)

Druze food

Druze food

After your breakfast at your hotel in Nahariyya/Tiberias, the bus is waiting for you. Officially, the tour starts at 9:00 in the morning, so we leave at 8:15. For more information about the route, Click here for map.

This limestone sinkhole in the Upper Galilee was formed by water flowing from the surface Pa’ar Stream to the underground.

“This is maybe the best example of such a limestone phenomenon in Israel,” says Frumkin. “In winter you can follow the water with your eye and see it sinking underground. It’s in a nice [3.5-acre] nature reserve open to the public for free. Just be prepared for mud because it’s an active cave.”


Day 12 – Departure

Popular foods include cabbage, milk, sour cream, curds, mushrooms, lard, cucumbers, tomatoes, apples, berries, honey, sugar, saltWe will bring you back to the airport after breakfast (this depends on your departing time).