Category Archives: Jewish 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.

 

Archaeological 12 Day Tour

Tens of thousands of years of history comes alive: see for yourself the ancient civilizations and experience Israel through its rich archaeology. This tour is not clean! You get dirty!! You will visit the archaeological sights from the north to the south of the country. You will help digging in the dust and the mud, go trough water, rivers, pools, desert, stones, ruins … it’s amazing for those who are interested in the archaeology of Israel, see for yourself how people lived thousands, even tens of thousands of years ago.

Itinerary:
Day 1 – Arrival
Day 2 – Jerusalem: Views from Above and Below
Day 3 – Jerusalem: The Jewish Quarter and Museum Treasures
Day 4 – Jerusalem and environs: Monarchs, Matriarchs and Tombs
Day 5 – The Judean Wilderness and the Dead Sea
Day 6 – The Judean Lowlands: hands-on archaeology and the “tel” of Tel Aviv
Day 7 – From the Mediterranean Coast to Galilee
Day 8 – Around the Sea of Galilee
Day 9 – From Dan to the Golan
Day 10 – From the Negev to Eilat
Day 11 – Eilat, Timna Park and Northward
Day 12 – Departure

Places to see:

  • Day 2 – Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, Underground Jerusalem, Western Wall Tunnel, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, City of David, royal palace, Warren’s Shaft, the “water fortress” of the Gihon, Second Temple-era Pool of Siloam, 2,000-year-old street, Jerusalem Archaeological Park, Davidson Visitor Center, Roman destruction, Robinson’s Arch, the Southern Wall, steps to Hulda’s Gates, Davidson Center, Tower of David Museum
  • Day 3 – Jewish Quarter, Hezekiah’s Wall, The Cardo, Herodian Mansions, Burnt House, Israel Museum, Bible Lands Museum
  • Day 4 – Herodium, Rockefeller Museum, Gezer, Megiddo, Jericho, Jerusalem, Kidron Valley, tombs of Absalom, Zechariah, the Sons of Hezir, Hellenistic tomb architecture
  • Day 5 – Qumran National Park, Dead Sea Scrolls, Essenes, wealthy Sadducee manor farm, Massada National Park, Roman siege ramp, Ein Gedi National Park, Dead Sea
  • Day 6 – Beit Govrin National Park, Archaeological Seminars excavation of caves, Hellenistic dwellings, the Sidonian Cave, the Roman amphitheater; Tel Mareshah, Land of Israel Museum, Philistine Tel Kasila, White City
  • Day 7 – Caesarea National Park, Crusader city, Megiddo National Park, Beit She’arim National Park, Talmudic-era catacombs, Acre, Knights Halls, fishermen’s port, Turkish Bath Museum, bazaar and mosque
  • Day 8 – Beit She’an National Park, Decapolis, Bet Shean boasts, mosaics, temples, fountains, pools, a theater, an amphitheater, Tiberias, Hamat Tiberias National Park, Mount Berenice, Capernaum, Bethsaida, Korazim National Park, Moses Seat, a ritual bath
  • Day 9 – Dan Nature Reserve, Dan’s “Abraham Gate”, High Place of Jeroboam, Katzrin, Gamla Nature Reserve, Umm el-Qanatir
  • Day 10 – Be’er-Sheba National Park, Judean monarchy, Avdat National Park, Avdat’s Nabatean temple, The Uvda Valley, Nahal Asharun, Leopard Temple
  • Day 11 – Eilat, Shahmon Site Bronze Age tumuli and temple, Eilot eighth-century Early Islamic village and copper smelting site, Wadi Tawachin, Samar Neolithic desert kites, Dapit Nabatean, Roman caravansary, Evrona eighth-century chain well, Timna Park, Solomon’s Pillars, Late Roman Fortress at Yotvata, Makhtesh Ramon, Nabatean caravansary at Ein Saharonim, Scorpion Ascent, Great Makhtesh and Mamshit National Park

Day 1 Arrival

Airplane

Airplane

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.

Bus

Bus

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 be fed real food and drink. That is included in the tour! So, please don’t spend your money on that.


Day 2  – Jerusalem: Views from Above and Below

Places: Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, Underground Jerusalem, Western Wall Tunnel, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, City of David, royal palace, Warren’s Shaft, the “water fortress” of the Gihon, Second Temple-era Pool of Siloam, 2,000-year-old street, Jerusalem Archaeological Park, Davidson Visitor Center, Roman destruction, Robinson’s Arch, the Southern Wall, steps to Hulda’s Gates, Davidson Center, Tower of David Museum

This spiritually significant mountain is also the place for a bird’s-eye view of Jerusalem’s topography and for understanding how it grew through the ages.

Underground Jerusalem including:

The Western Wall Tunnel – the original Western Wall of Herod’s Temple Mount over which Jerusalem of later eras was constructed, walking along 1,445 feet of the original, enormous 2,000-year-old Herodian stones, seeing the lofty Warren’s Gate, a street and other finds, and a fascinating interactive model. You are still in the city and you don’t start digging or rolling in the mud … yet.Western Wall Tunnel

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre – most of the complex over the sacred ground marking the tomb of Jesus is a complicated combination of medieval and Byzantine architecture. The thing with this tour is that we browse somewhat through the church, but then we dive under the ground.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Tomb

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Tomb

Deep below the surface are remains going back to a First Temple-era stone quarry and the world-famous and rarely viewed “ship inscription,”  probably carved by long-ago pilgrims. All kind of stories are about this and the guide will tell them all.

You will visit the City of David – King David’s “fortress of Zion” (2. Sam. 5:7), looking at the ongoing excavations include a royal palace, the Warren’s Shaft, the “water fortress” of the Gihon (1 Kings 1:33), the Second Temple-era Pool of Siloam (John 9:7) and a 2,000-year-old street that once led up to the Temple. The stories what we can tell about all of those excavations!

City of David

We visit the Jerusalem Archaeological Park and the Davidson Visitor Center – a “still-life” of the original Herodian street (FYI), the revealing Roman destruction, the Robinson’s Arch, the Southern Wall and steps to Hulda’s Gates; and in the Davidson Center – in the basement of an eighth-century-CE palace – its virtual-reconstruction, high-definition interactive model.

Tower of David

We will not forget the Tower of David Museum – located at the Jaffa Gate inside the rooms of Jerusalem’s Turkish citadel, abutting the huge tower which despite its name was constructed by Jerusalem’s master-builder, Herod.  Each of the many rooms features exhibits devoted to a different time-period, clarifying the capital’s complex history.

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


Day 3 – Jerusalem: The Jewish Quarter and Museum Treasures

Places: Jewish Quarter, Hezekiah’s Wall, The Cardo, Herodian Mansions, Burnt House, Israel Museum, Bible Lands Museum

Old City Jewish Quarter

The Jewish Quarter is amazing to visit. This part of the city Jerusalem has it’s own beauty and it’s root in the thousands of years of history. There is not much changed over the more then two thousands of years.
We will see the Hezekiah’s Wall – part of the First Temple-era city wall built over Jerusalem’s homes (Isa. 22:10) to protect the city against Assyrian invaders, and which finally fell to the Babylonians. You will hear the exciting story about the the Assyrian invaders.

The Cardo

The Cardo

The Cardo – Jerusalem’s main street in the Byzantine and medieval eras, its colonnades and arched chambers now restored as a commercial center and archaeological display.

The Herodian Mansions – restored as a living museum beneath contemporary buildings, with remnants of the fine homes, mosaics, implements of daily life and architecture of the city’s wealthy class before the destruction of the Temple.

The Burnt House – the basement of a Jerusalem home revealing dramatic evidence of the Katros family who probably lived and worked here, and of Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 CE. An audiovisual presentation offers a powerful version of the family’s story.

Burnt House

Burnt House

The Israel Museum – the museum’s Archaeology Wing displays rare and world-famous finds from pre-historic times to the Byzantine/Talmudic era; the Shrine of the Book, houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest copies of the Old Testament ever found and the famed 1:50 Model of Second Temple Jerusalem.

Bible Lands Museum – a unique collection of ancient treasures mirroring the powerful cultures of Bible days including the Egyptians, the Hittites, the Philistines the Assyrians and others who left their mark on the region and in Scripture.

Bible Lands Museum

Bible Lands Museum

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


Day 4 – Jerusalem and environs: Monarchs, Matriarchs and Tombs

Places: Herodium, Rockefeller Museum, Gezer, Megiddo, Jericho, Jerusalem, Kidron Valley, tombs of Absalom, Zechariah, the Sons of Hezir, Hellenistic tomb architecture

Herodium

Herodium

We will visit the amazing Herodium. Herod the Great created this artificial mountain, which he topped with a palace-fortress. Archaeologists have also discovered, huge cisterns, a “playground” pool at the base of the mound, and hideouts for Bar Kokhba’s warriors and, recently the grand, long-sought tomb of the king himself. And we will visit them as well.

We can’t forget the Rockefeller Museum – an architectural monument in its own right, this grand 1930s-era complex houses finds from some of the great early excavations – Gezer, Megiddo, Jericho, Jerusalem and many others.

And then we have the Kidron Valley – Jerusalem’s famed Mount of Olives cemetery began here over 2,000 years ago, when the monumental tombs of Absalom, Zechariah and the Sons of Hezir were built, some of the finest examples of Hellenistic tomb architecture in the world.

Rockefeller

Rockefeller

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


Day 5 – The Judean Wilderness and the Dead Sea

Places: Qumran National Park, Dead Sea Scrolls, Essenes, wealthy Sadducee manor farm, Massada National Park, Roman siege ramp, Ein Gedi National Park, Dead Sea

Qumran National Park

Qumran National Park

Now it’s going to get warm for everyone, because we are going into the desert. The first on our list is the Qumran National Park- the ruins on the plateau in sight of the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered are an enigma wrapped in a mystery – were they the home of the Essenes who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, a wealthy Sadducee manor farm. We will visit the caves where they found several of the Dead Sea scrolls. Be aware, it will be warm and dusty and we need good shoes for climbing.

Masada National Park

Masada National Park

We can’t skip the Masada National Park – Herod’s magnificent fortress, with its palaces, bathhouses and ramparts was also the scene of the last stand of the Jews against the Romans in the Great Revolt, attested to by a huge Roman siege ramp and other finds. The combination of its dramatic story and its fabulous architecture and finds has won it recognition as a World Heritage Site.

Caves of Ein Gedi

Caves of Ein Gedi

The Ein Gedi National Park – a walk through an oasis, and the remains of a thriving Talmudic town. Its synagogue mosaic bears a mysterious warning not to reveal “the secret”- perhaps the manufacturing process of perfume from the now-extinct balsam plant that once grew here. We will here be able to cool of our feet and get some much needed relaxation.

Dead Sea

Dead Sea

The Dead Sea – a rejuvenating rinse-off of the dust of the generations in the lowest, most mineral-rich lake on earth. For those who want to have a mud-bath, here is your change.

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


Day 6 – The Judean Lowlands: hands-on archaeology and the “tel” of Tel Aviv

Places: Beit Govrin National Park, Archaeological Seminars excavation of caves, Hellenistic dwellings, the Sidonian Cave, the Roman amphitheater; Tel Mareshah, Land of Israel Museum, Philistine Tel Kasila, White City

Beit Govrin National Park

Beit Govrin National Park

Beit Govrin National Park including an Archaeological Seminars excavation of caves that once lay beneath Hellenistic dwellings; the Sidonian Cave, the Roman amphitheater; Tel Mareshah – a city fortified by King Rehoboam of Judah (2 Chron. 11:8) and more.

Tel Aviv –
Land of Israel Museum, with its exhibit of antiquities and contemporary traditional cultures, is itself located next to an ancient mound that is part of the experience – the Philistine Tel Kasila.

Header Tel Aviv

Header Tel Aviv

The White City – an evening tour of Tel Aviv’s early-20th century Bauhaus monuments that have earned recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will make a small tour through this city, which claims never to sleep. We will see and witness if it is indeed true.

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Tel Aviv.


Day 7 – From the Mediterranean Coast to Galilee

Places: Caesarea National Park, Crusader city, Megiddo National Park, Beit She’arim National Park, Talmudic-era catacombs, Acre, Knights Halls, fishermen’s port, Turkish Bath Museum, bazaar and mosque

Caesarea in Israel

Caesarea in Israel

The Queen of the Coast, Caesarea National Park. It was Herod’s showcase city, including the amphitheater; the theater; Byzantine walls; the “bird mosaic”; the Crusader city, the aqueduct and more.

Tel Megiddo

Megiddo was a site of great importance in the ancient world. It guarded the western branch of a narrow pass and trade route connecting Egypt and Assyria. Because of its strategic location, Megiddo was the site of several historical battles. The site was inhabited from approximately 7000 BC to 586 BCE

Megiddo National Park – King Solomon’s regional capital (1 Kings 9:15), Megiddo’s fortifications, water system, palaces, stables and dwellings spanning thousands of years and its great biblical significance have made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Beit She’arim National Park – Talmudic-era catacombs with huge, decorated stone sarcophagi, where sages and leaders from across the ancient world were laid to rest, are just part of the fascinating antiquities of this city, one of the places where the Sanhedrin had its headquarters.

Acre – this medieval gem on the Mediterranean retains a 900-year-old urban plan. The capital of the Crusaders after the fall of Jerusalem, Acre’s ramparts overlooking the sea, its Knights Halls, fishermen’s port, Turkish Bath Museum, bazaar and mosque over a gigantic medieval water cistern have all contributed to this city’s selection as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Akko (Acre)

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Acre or Tiberias.


Day 8 – Around the Sea of Galilee

Places: Beit She’an National Park, Decapolis, Bet Shean boasts, mosaics, temples, fountains, pools, a theater, an amphitheater, Tiberias, Hamat Tiberias National Park, Mount Berenice, Capernaum, Bethsaida, Korazim National Park, Moses Seat, a ritual bath

Beit She'an National Park

Beit She’an National Park

Beit She’an National Park – the biblical mound containing remains of the city to which the Philistines brought the bodies of Saul and his three sons (1 Sam. 31:10), and capital of the Greco-Roman alliance of cities known as the Decapolis, Bet Shean boasts colonnaded streets, mosaics, temples, fountains, pools, a theater, an amphitheater and more.

Tiberias – The present-day capital of the Sea of Galilee, built by Herod Antipas and once the headquarters of the Sanhedrin, ancient Tiberias is now undergoing excavation that will one day reveal in all their glory its market streets, colonnades, theater and more treasures.

Hamat Tiberias National Park

Hamat Tiberias National Park

Visit the dig, as well as Hamat Tiberias National Park – the remains of a magnificent synagogue mosaic and Mount Berenice – the Anchor Church.

Capernaum – the first of the three cities of the “evangelical triangle” (including Bethsaida and Korazim) to return from historical oblivion, with Byzantine and Roman remains of a synagogue, a church and dwellings that raise many interesting questions and illustrate New Testament stories.

Bethsaida – excavations are underway of the Roman city that figured centrally in the ministry of Jesus, and of huge remains of the biblical city of Geshur, hometown of David’s wife Maacah (2 Sam. 3:3).

Korazim National Park – an early Talmudic-era synagogue that is interesting to compare to Capernaum’s, with the replica of its original Moses Seat, a ritual bath, dwellings and other elements that bring alive Talmudic descriptions of community life.

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Tiberias.


Day 9 – From Dan to the Golan

Places: Dan Nature Reserve, Dan’s “Abraham Gate”, High Place of Jeroboam, Katzrin, Gamla Nature Reserve, Umm el-Qanatir

Dan Nature Reserve

Dan Nature Reserve

Dan Nature Reserve – one of the finest examples of a biblical city and the capital of the Northern Kingdom, Dan’s “Abraham Gate” (Gen. 14:14) is the second-oldest arch in the world. Also visit the Israelite gateway and the High Place of Jeroboam in their tranquil Dan River setting.

Katzrin – a Talmudic-era Golan Heights village, Katzrin’s reconstructed house and synagogue create a three-dimensional perspective on ancient life.

Gamla Nature Reserve – called “the Massada of the north” because of Josephus’ description of its famous last stand, a hike leads to Gamla, which boasts remains of the earliest synagogue ever found, ramparts that held back the Romans, and olive presses that were the town’s livelihood.

Gamla Nature Reserve

Umm el-Qanatir – a Talmudic-era town with unusual synagogue remains and unique finds, this site is now undergoing excavation using cutting-edge techniques and technology.

Gamla Nature Reserve

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Tiberias or Haifa.


Day 10 – From the Negev to Eilat

Places: Be’er-Sheba National Park, Judean monarchy, Avdat National Park, Avdat’s Nabatean temple, The Uvda Valley, Nahal Asharun, Leopard Temple

Be'er-Sheba National Park

Be’er-Sheba National Park

Be’er-Sheba National Park – this city that Abraham founded (Gen. 21:31) marked the southern border of biblical Israel (1 Sam. 3:20). Beersheba also shows fascinating evidence of urban planning from the time of the Judean monarchy, a unique water system and other finds that, along with its biblical significance, have accorded Beersheba a place on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites?.

Avdat National Park – an important stop on the Incense Route, and a World Heritage Site, Avdat’s Nabatean temple, which was converted into a church, reveals a fabulous Negev panorama, while its wine-press reveals the inhabitants’ uncanny skill at cultivating the desert and ancient private dwellings and tombs complete the picture.

Ein Avdat

The Uvda Valley – containing over 150 prehistoric and early settlement sites, including the Nahal Asharun site and the Leopard Temple.

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Eilat.


Day 11 – Eilat, Timna Park and Northward

Places: Eilat, Shahmon Site Bronze Age tumuli and temple, Eilot eighth-century Early Islamic village and copper smelting site, Wadi Tawachin, Samar Neolithic desert kites, Dapit Nabatean, Roman caravansary, Evrona eighth-century chain well, Timna Park, Solomon’s Pillars, Late Roman Fortress at Yotvata, Makhtesh Ramon, Nabatean caravansary at Ein Saharonim, Scorpion Ascent, Great Makhtesh and Mamshit National Park

Eilat

Eilat

Eilat – best known for its contemporary attractions as Israel’s Red Sea Riviera,  Eilat and its environs also boast a selection of off-the-beaten track archaeological sites, among them: the Shahmon Site Bronze Age tumuli and temple; the Eilot eighth-century Early Islamic village and copper smelting site; the Wadi Tawachin grinding site (possibly for gold); the Samar Neolithic desert kites (ancient gazelle-hunting traps); the Dapit Nabatean and Roman caravansary; the Evrona eighth-century chain well and farmhouse and more.

Timna National Park

Timna Park – a geological and archaeological wonderland including an ancient copper-mine shaft; Solomon’s Pillars – a natural formation featuring a carving of the goddess Hathor and Hathor’s shrine; the chariot carving and the multimedia presentation “The Mines of Time” and even an artificial lake.

Timna National Park

We head north on road 90 via the Late Roman Fortress at Yotvata, and then via road 13 to Makhtesh Ramon, seeing Roman milestones and the Nabatean caravansary at Ein Saharonim, or via the dramatic

Scorpion Ascent

Scorpion Ascent

Scorpion Ascent (on road 227) following an ancient Roman route across the Negev to the Great Makhtesh and Mamshit National Park, a well-preserved Nabatean city along the UNESCO World Heritage List Incense Route, including a market, a bathhouse, early churches, mosaics and more.

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Eilat.


Day 12 – Departure

This is the day of the departure. We bring everyone back to the point where we picked them up.