Category Archives: Crypt Cave

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.

Wadi Daraja

Wadi Daraja
Wadi Daraja

One of the more difficult hikes in the area, this steep canyon descent (five to six hours not including stops), known in Hebrew as Nahal Darga, requires you to climb down about two dozen waterfalls (30m climbing rope required) and swim across year-round pools up to 4m deep – all your kit will get wet so leave those mobile phones and cameras somewhere safe. Map.

Wadi Daraja
Wadi Daraja

Wear proper shoes (ones you don’t mind getting wet), not sandals. The minimum age is 10 years.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority has an information booth (www.parks.org.il; Fri, Sat & Jewish holidays Sep-Jun, daily Jul & Aug ) right outside Metzukei Dragot, which is 1.5km from the trail-head; schematic maps are available there or at the Metzukei Dragot reception desk.

Wadi Daraja
Wadi Daraja

Begin this hike no later than 9am (10am during daylight savings) – and don’t begin it at all if there’s any chance of rain in the Judean Desert. The bottom of the trail intersects Rte 90 near Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem.

Wadi Daraja
Wadi Daraja

Several circular, family-friendly hikes (which don’t require you to get soaked) start at the same point. These include the Wadi Tekoa Circuit (five hours) and the Mashash-Murba’at Circuit (three hours), which passes caves in which letters personally signed by Bar Kochba (leader of the  Bar Kochba Rebellion of 132 to 135 CE) were found in 1952.

Wadi Daraja
Wadi Daraja

Ancient Sebastiya, rooted from Canaanite, Israelite, Hellenistic, Herodian, Roman and Byzantine Cultures

The ancient city Sebastiya is rooted from Canaanite, Israelite, Hellenistic, Herodian, Roman and Byzantine Cultures. Currently, Sebastiya is falling under Palestinian rule, located about 12 kilometers northwest of Nablus, to the east of the road to Jenin. Currently, only two religions are making claims: the Christians and Muslims alike honor a connection to John the Baptist. The Romans used this site to worship the Roman empire! And earlier then all of them, this site was being used for the worship of Phoenician gods by the Canaanites (Baal and Astarte). Map.

Sebastiya
Sebastiya

To start with the Christians, John the Baptist’s disciples buried his body here after he was beheaded by Herod Antipas during the infamous banquet at which Salome’s dance enthralled the governor (Mark 6:21-29). An Orthodox Christian tradition holds that Sebastiya was also the venue for the governor’s birthday banquet, though the historian Josephus says it was in Herod’s fortress at Machaerus, in modern-day Jordan. Overlooking the present village of Sebastiya are the hilltop ruins of the royal city of Samaria. Excavations have uncovered evidence of six successive cultures: Canaanite, Israelite, Hellenistic, Herodian, Roman and Byzantine.

Sebastiya
Sebastiya

Omri, the sixth king of the northern kingdom of Israel, built his capital on the rocky hill of Samaria in the ninth and eighth centuries before Christ. His son Ahab fortified the city and, influenced by his wife Jezebel, a Phoenician princess, built temples to the Phoenician gods Baal (Lord of the Flies) and Astarte (Goddess of Fertility).

Sebastiya
Sebastiya

Ahab’s (devil’s worship, sacrificing children and worse) evil deeds incurred the wrath of the prophet Elijah, who prophesied bloody deaths for both Ahab and Jezebel. During its eventful history, Samaria was destroyed by Assyrians in 722 BC (ending the northern kingdom of Israel), captured by Alexander the Great in 331 BC, destroyed by the Maccabean King John Hyrcanus in 108 BC, and rebuilt by the Roman general Pompey in 63 BC.

Sebastiya
Sebastiya

Herod the Great expanded the city around 25 BC, renaming it Sebaste in honor of his patron Caesar Augustus (Sebaste is Greek for Augustus). Herod even built a temple dedicated to his patron, celebrated one of his many marriages in the city, and had two of his sons strangled there.

Sebastiya
Sebastiya

The pattern of destruction and rebuilding continued during the early Christian era. Sebaste became the seat of a bishop in the 4th century, was destroyed by an earthquake in the 6th century, flourished briefly under the Crusaders in the 12th century, then declined to the status of a village.

John’s Tomb

Sebastiya
Sebastiya

John the Baptist’s burial place was at Sebastiya, together with the remains of the prophets Elisha and Obadiah.

Around the year 390, St Jerome describes Sebastiya as “… where the remains of John the Baptist are guarded.”. By then, according to a contemporary account by the historian Rufinus of Aquileia around 362, pagans had desecrated the tomb during a persecution of Christians under emperor Julian the Apostate. The Baptist’s remains were burnt and the ashes dispersed. But all was not totally lost. In the night, when the pagans slept, monks saved some of the bones.

Sebastiya
Sebastiya

In the 6th century two urns covered in gold and silver were venerated by pilgrims. One was said to contain relics of John the Baptist, the other relics of Elisha. Two churches were built during the Byzantine period.

One was on the southern side of the Roman acropolis (on the site the Orthodox Church believes John was beheaded).

The other church, a cathedral built over the Baptist’s reputed tomb, was just east of the old city walls and within the present village. Rebuilt by the Crusaders, it became the second biggest church in the Holy Land (after the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem).

But after the Islamic conquest of 1187 the cathedral was transformed into a mosque dedicated to the prophet Yahya, the Muslim name for John the Baptist. The mosque, rebuilt in 1892 within the ruins of the cathedral, is still in use.

Sebastiya
Sebastiya
Sebastiya
Sebastiya

Pilgrims still visit the tomb associated with John the Baptist and other prophets. Under a small domed building in the cathedral ruins, a narrow flight of 21 steps leads down to a tomb chamber with six burial niches set in the wall. Tradition places John the Baptist’s relics in the lower row, between those of Elisha and Obadiah.

Sebastiya
Sebastiya

The remains of the cathedral’s huge buttressed walls dominate Sebastiya’s public square.

In the extensive archaeological park at the top of the hill are remnants of Ahab’s palace, identified by the discovery of carved ivory that was mentioned in the Bible (1 Kings 22:39). The ivory pieces are displayed in the Rockefeller Museum, Jerusalem.

Sebastiya
Sebastiya

Also to be seen are the stone steps leading to Herod the Great’s temple of Augustus, an 800-metre colonnaded street, a Roman theater and forum, and a city gate flanked by two watchtowers.

Sebastiya
Sebastiya

Interest in Sebastiya’s heritage and community — now entirely Muslim except for one Christian family — has been revived in the early 21st century by a project involving the Franciscan non-profit organization ATS Pro Terra Sancta, funded by Italian aid.

Herod’s Tomb

Herod died in Jericho (early April in 4 BCE) 69 years old. Herod suffered from excruciating, which was sometimes called “Herod’s Evil” (chronic kidney disease complicated by Fournier’s gangrene), just like his grandson Agrippa I in 44 CE. The pain of his illness made Herod attempt to kill himself by stabbing, but he was seen and prevented by a cousin. Other much later accounts recorded that Herod had successfully committed suicide. Map.

Herod’s Tomb
Herod’s Tomb

When we are on tour and visit the Herod Tomb, we will visit the location where the tomb is found (Herodium) and the actual crypt at the Israel Museum. Herod’s life is dominated by the many constructions (still here to see), the murdering of many people (including his own family) and the physical and mental suffering by his various diseases. For more information about Herod, his tomb and his important history, ask Wim.

Herod suffered throughout his lifetime from depression and paranoia. Herod was so concerned that no one would mourn his death, that he commanded a large group of distinguished men to come to Jericho, and he gave an order that they should be killed at the time of his death so that the displays of grief that he craved would take place. Herod’s son Archelaus and sister Salome did not carry out this wish.

Herod’s Tomb
Herod’s Tomb

The location of Herod’s tomb is documented by Josephus, who writes, “And the body was carried two hundred furlongs, to Herodium, where he had given order to be buried.” Josephus provides more clues about Herod’s tomb, which he calls Herod’s monuments: So they threw down all the hedges and walls which the inhabitants had made about their gardens and groves of trees, and cut down all the fruit trees that lay between them and the wall of the city, and filled up all the hollow places and the chasms, and demolished the rocky precipices with iron instruments; and thereby made all the place level from Scopus to Herod’s monuments, which adjoined to the pool called the Serpent’s Pool.

Herod’s Tomb
Herod’s Tomb

Professor Ehud Netzer, an archaeologist from the Hebrew University, read the writings of Josephus and focused his search on the vicinity of the pool and its surroundings. An article in the New York Times states, Lower Herodium consists of the remains of a large palace, a race track, service quarters, and a monumental building whose function is still a mystery.

Herod’s Tomb
Herod’s Tomb

Perhaps, says Ehud Netzer, who excavated the site, it is Herod’s mausoleum. Next to it is a pool, almost twice as large as modern Olympic-size pools. It took thirty-five years for Netzer to identify the exact location, but on May 7, 2007, an Israeli team of archaeologists of Hebrew University, led by Netzer, announced they had discovered the tomb.

Herod’s Tomb
Herod’s Tomb

The site is located at the exact location given by Josephus, atop tunnels and water pools, at a flattened desert site, halfway up the hill to Herodium, 12 kilometers (7.5 mi) south of Jerusalem. The tomb contained a broken sarcophagus but no remains of a body.

Herod’s Tomb
Herod’s Tomb

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Gush Etzion Regional Council intend to recreate the tomb out of a light plastic material.

In October 2013, archaeologists Joseph Patrich and Benjamin Arubas challenged the identification of the tomb as that of Herod. According to Patrich and Arubas, the tomb is too modest to be Herod’s and has several unlikely features. Roi Porat, who replaced Netzer as excavation leader after the latter’s death, stood by the identification.