Apr 21

Israel – Northern Israel – Cities and Sites

Cities and Sites in Northern Israel

The North of Israel comprising of  the Golan Heights and the Galilee region is filled with Jewish and Christian Biblical and historical places of interest. There are an abundance of National Parks and archeological excavations as well as beautiful scenery and rich plant life.

The Sea of Galilee area and Nazareth are of particular interest to Christian Pilgrims who flock here every year to visit the sites where Jesus grew up and performed his miracles.

The whole North of Israel is full of spectacular views and during spring the flowers that bloom  cover the ground with beautiful colors.

Lake Kinneret

Choose a city or site in the North of Israel and click on the  link to read more about it.

Acre
Atlit

Banias
Caesarea

Capernaum
Golan Heights

Haifa

Megiddo

Metula

Nahariya

Nazareth
 

Rosh Hanikra
Safed

Tiberias

Zicron Yaakov

Apr 15

Israeli History – Historical Places in Israel – Atlit

The Town of Atlit in Northern Israel is situated on the Mediterranean coast South of Haifa. It was originally a Crusader outpost. In 1903 the new village was founded with the help of Baron Edmond de Rothschild.

Atlit is best known for the place where the British built a military camp in 1938 and was used by them as a temporary holding Camp from 1939 until 1948. At first thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing Europe were detained in the camp and later it was used for holocaust survivors deemed to be illegal immigrants to Palestine. This was a direct result of the infamous “White Paper” that limited the number of Jews that would be allowed into the country.

Boats, which were arranged by the Mossad and operated by the Haganah and volunteers from the Diaspora carrying refugees from the Holocaust and from Arab Countries, would arrive covertly late at night to unfrequented beaches in Israel. Many of the boats were intercepted by the British and the people were taken ashore and transported to Atlit, some managed to avoid British Patrol Boats and the immigrants actually made it to shore but were ambushed by the British on the beaches and rounded up and sent to Atlit. The Atlit Camp had barbed wire around it and armed guards.

One of the most heroic stories of those times is that of the bold and brilliant Palmach military operation led by Nahum Sarig Palmach and Yitzchak Rabin on the 10th October 1945 who successfully broke into the Atlit illegal immigrant detention camp and freed all 280 detainees who escaped and made their way on foot to Kibbutz Yagur, a distance of approximately 5 km from the camp.

After 1948 the camp was used as an absorption centre for the thousands of Holocaust survivors and refugees from surrounding Arab Countries.

Today the Atlit Detention centre is a national monument.  In 1987 the Council for Israel Heritage Sites was allocated part of the 25 acres of the original camp to reconstruct and serve as a museum for visitors to learn about this very special time in Israel’s history. It enables visitors to have a firsthand experience of how traumatic it was for the immigrants detained there in conditions very much like those they had been subjected to in the extermination camps.

There is a ship at the site that is comparable in size and appearance to the ships that were used to transport the immigrants, a model of the barracks that housed the prisoners as well as a model of the reception area which was extremely traumatic as the detainees had to remove their clothes to be disinfected and had to shower, all bringing back memories of the concentration camps that they had recently been rescued from. Atlit also has a memorial to those who died while making their way by land and sea to the Land of Israel.

Apr 01

Israel – biblical and historical sites – Capernaum (Kfar Nahum)

Capernaum (Kfar Nahum) is situated on the shores of Lake Kinneret (The Sea of Galilee), in the north of Israel. This ancient fishing village was inhabited between the years of 150 BC up to approximately AD 750.

Capernaum in IsraelCapernaum is mentioned a number of times in the New Testament however the earliest references to the ancient town were made by the Jewish historian Josephus who at the time of the Jewish-Roman war spent a night there and wrote about a connection with the village to a fertile spring.

Remains of a Synagogue in Capernaum IsraelIn 1838 the biblical scholar Edward Robinson while visiting the holy land identified correctly the remains of a synagogue at the place that is now known to be Capernaum. A partial excavation took place around 1865 but it was only in the early 20th century that more extensive excavations began to take place and the Synagogue was partially restored.

More recently it has been discovered that there were in fact two synagogues, the earliest from the first century CE and built from Black Basalt, the later one built sometime around the 4th century CE and built from white limestone. A major discovery was also made of a house believed to be St Peters house and an octagonal church.

The Franciscans and Greek Orthodox Church own and control the ruins. The area itself is considered holy by Christians and Jews alike however it has special interest for Christians because Jesus made it his home after he left Nazareth and the place where he performed a number of miracles.  He also chose his first four disciples from Capernaum, Peter, Andrew, James and John, and later on Matthew.The modern Franciscan church was built in 1990 on the site of St Peters house.Capernaum with and the Sea of Galilee in the background

The area of the Capernaum National Park is operated under the auspices of The Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the archeological part with the ruins is managed by the Franciscan Church. The Parks authority has constructed a walkway of about 3 ½ km connecting Capernaum to the Taghba churches that are situated nearby as well as a landing for boats that bring visitors from Tiberias.

When Pope John Paul II was in the Holy Land in March 2000, he paid a visit to Capernaum.

Mar 20

Golan Heights – Northern Israel – Israel

The Golan Heights is situated in the north of Israel and borders on Syria.    The area had been part of the Ottoman Empire and after the First World War it became included in the territory of the British Mandate of Palestine.  However this was changed when in 1923 an agreement was reached between Britain and France ceding the Golan Heights to French Mandated Syria.

 

Golan Heights IsraelAfter 1948 the Golan Heights became the Armistice Line between Syria and Israel and for 18 years the Syrians used the high positions on the Golan to attack Israel by shelling Kibbutzim and settlements in the Galilee as well as Israeli water projects in the Hula valley.

 

 

In June 1967 during the 6 Day War Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria and in 1973 defended its position after a heavy attack by Syrian armored forces and at great cost.  Israel counter attacked and drove deep into Syria only to withdraw later but remain on the Heights.  In 1981 Legislation was passed in the Knesset that replaced the Military Authority and extended Israeli Civil Laws and Administration to the Golan Heights.

 

 

 

 

Today the region of the Golan Heights in Northern Israel is a magnificent mountainous area extremely popular with local holidaymakers and visitors from abroad offering a wide variety of activities, glorious scenic vistas, interesting Nature Reserves and many archeological and historic places of interest.

Golan Heights IsraelThe region of the Golan Heights comprises lush agricultural land in the South and awe-inspiring volcanic topography further north.  There are activities year found. Winter offers opportunities for both professional and amateur skiers alike to take advantage of the snow covered slopes of Mt Hermon. Summer is a perfect time for swimming in the many streams, spring brings with it a plethora of beautiful wild flowers and the pleasing autumn weather is perfect for hikers. Not to be forgotten are visits to the many boutique wineries in the area.

The Golan Heights is truly a beautiful place to visit and the many guest houses offer a wide variety of accommodation and many excellent restaurants to suit all tastes.

Mar 15

Cities In Israel – North Israel – Haifa

The beautiful Port city of Haifa in Israel is situated on the Mediterranean Sea and built on the slopes of Mount Carmel. It is the third largest city in Israel and its many sided distinctive characteristics make it an interesting and attractive point of call for visitors to spend time in.

Haifa, Israel

photo: www.goisrael.com

It has often been compared to other cities with similar locations such as Naples and San Francisco with its terraced landscape offering a wide variety of magnificent panoramic views. Across the bay in the northeast is the walled medieval city of Acre. In good weather on a clear day, with visibility allowing, the imposing white cliff of Rosh Hanikra on the Lebanese border can be seen in the North and the snow capped peak of Mount Hermon in the Northeast.

Haifa has a long and eventful history that goes back to biblical times and in the 3rd century CE it was mentioned in Talmudic literature as being the home of Jewish scholars including Rabbi Avdimos and after that it was captured and ruled by Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans, Egyptians, and the British until 1948 when it became part of the State of Israel.
The residents of Haifa, a city which is an outstanding example of tolerance, belong to all three of the main world religions as well as a variety of minority beliefs, all living in harmony and co-existence.

Haifa is the world center for the Baha’i faith and the Magnificent Baha’i Shrine with its golden dome and its spectacular Gardens are a city landmark. The Shrine itself is the burial place of the Bab who was the founder of the faith.

Bahai Temple in Haifa

photo: www.goisrael.com

There are many other impressive landmarks in the city with its many churches, the most famous being the Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery at the top of the Carmel with the cave believed to contain the grave of the prophet Elijah according to Christian tradition. The site of Elijah’s cave is revered by Jews, Christians and Moslems alike.

There are also unspoiled magnificent beaches known only to the locals and as yet undiscovered by tourists but plans are being made to develop the area around these beaches into a tourist paradise. There are many places of interest for visitors to see and things to do in the Haifa area and there is a range of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets.

Mar 01

Israel – Holy Land Biblical Sites – Megiddo

Megiddo also known as Armageddon (mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible), is a Unesco World Heritage site situated in Northern Israel’s Jezreel Valley and is extensively regarded as the Holy Land’s most significant Biblical period site.

Megiddo in Northern IsraelArcheologists have uncovered the remnants of 26 civilizations at Tel Megiddo covering a period of 35 centuries and each surrounding valley and hill tells a biblical tale. Every army crossing this land in the past clashed in the area of Megiddo and in many cases decided the fate of empires which could explain why, in the Book of Revelation, Armageddon is named as the place where the great battle of “The End of  Days” will take place, when good will triumph over evil.

The excavations at Megiddo began in 1903 and it has since become the cradle of Israeli archeology answering practically every question that relates to the Iron and Bronze Ages in the Land of the Bible. The history of the city of Megiddo goes back approximately 5000 years but was completely destroyed during the Persian Invasion about 2,300 years ago, the only thing left is the ruins of King Solomon’s stables and fortress and the excavations of 26 civilizations.

Tel Megiddo - IsraelTunnel at Megiddo IsraelIn 2005 only a short way down the road from Megiddo an astonishing discovery was made. When digging was carried out for the purpose of expanding a prison in the area a mosaic floor was discovered which had inscriptions written in Greek.  One was in honour of a woman called Akeptos which read “lover of God, who contributed the Table to God, Jesus Christ as a memorial”   Archeologists are in the process of renovating the site and believe that the inscriptions could make this the oldest Christian Church that has ever been found.

During the first ever visit of a Pope to the Holy Land in 1964, Megiddo was chosen as the place for the historic meeting of Pope Paul the VI and the President of the State of Israel.

It also was the archeological site used as the background of James Michener’s famous bestselling book “The Source”.

Feb 22

Places to visit in Israel – Israeli Towns – Metula

The small town of Metula is situated on the border with Lebanon and is located in the area of what once were the biblical cities of Dan, Abel Bet Maacah, and Ijon. It is also the northernmost town in Israel and was founded in 1896 by Baron Edmond de Rothschild who had purchased the land from a Lebanese landowner by the name of Jabur Bek Junbalat .

The land was settled by approximately 80 families, mainly immigrants from Russia who had escaped the pogroms and who had been living for a time in coastal areas. Many of these new settlers were farming families. Joining them were some families from Petah Tikva as well as a group of scholars from Safed.

Metula is the largest town on the Lebanese border and has a tranquil and quiet atmosphere about it. This pleasant rural village nestled at the foot of Mt Hermon has magnificent scenery and beautiful views and is surrounded by wonderful flora and fauna.

For a number of years an attraction that drew visitors to Metula was “The Good Fence” which was an opening on the border of Israel and Lebanon and was once the place where supplies were passed to Lebanese Christians. In 1976 the Good Fence opened officially allowing free passage into Israel for Lebanese Christians and Druze in order for them to get medical treatment, visit relatives and some even found work in Israel. This remained in force until June 2000 when Israel withdrew from Lebanon and The Good Fence was closed.

Although agriculture is the economic mainstay of Metula with its delicious tasting fruits that are known throughout Israel and around the world, in recent years tourism has increased due to the opening of the Canada Centre that includes recreational facilities as well as a world class Ice skating rink that hosts international events.

There are a number of beautiful and interesting places to visit in the area around Metula such as the Ayun Canyon Nature Reserve with its lovely waterfalls and on the west side of the town there is the Dado Lookout observation point which has enthralling views of Mt Hermon, the Hula Valley, Lebanon and the Golan Heights.

Feb 20

Israel – Northern Coastal Cities – Nahariya

Nahariya is a coastal resort town in Northern Israel. It was founded in the mid 1930’s by German immigrants. It was originally settled with the intention of it being an agricultural village but it soon became apparent to the residents that the attractive location, lovely scenery and its long and beautiful beach would make it ideal for tourism.

Nahariya IsraelThe original inhabitants were industrious and hard working and made the decision to develop manufacturing industries and Nahariya became the home to a number Israel’s foremost entrepreneurs who founded several highly successful enterprises.

During the time of the British Mandate, Nahariya was a popular stopping off point for British Officers seeking some rest and relaxation as they came from Khartoum and during the mid 1940’s it was used for the landing of illegal immigrant ships that were bringing in refugees and survivors from the holocaust who had not been legally allowed to enter Palestine during the Mandate.

HaGa’ton Boulevard is Nahariya’s main thoroughfare which runs from the east right down to the shore and the  Ga’aton River flows along the center of the boulevard. During the rainy season the gushing river is a lovely sight to see as it rushes along to the sea. Lining this picturesque street are a variety of shops, restaurants and coffee houses and during the high tourist seasons, handsome horse drawn carriages can be seen lined up, their drivers waiting to take visitors on tours of the coast and the city.

Nahariya Israel

Nahariya is a perfect base for visitors to see the many attractions and interesting sites in the surrounding areas. Only 5 minutes from Nahariya is the Achziv National Park and the Crusader Castle also the magnificent Baha’i Gardens outside Akko (Acre), as well as the magnificent Grottos at Rosh Hanikra on the border of Lebanon. The Ghetto Fighters Kibbutz (Lochamei Hagetaot) with its interesting museum is also well worth a visit. There is a wide choice of hotels and accommodation available.

Feb 15

Israel – Cities in North Israel – Nazareth

The Israeli city of Nazareth is located in Northern Israel in the heart of the Galilee region. Approximately 25 km from the Sea of Galilee and 9 km from Mount Tabor, it is the largest Arab city in Israel inhabited by both Christian and Muslim Israeli Arabs. There are also many Jewish Israelis living in Upper Nazareth.

View of NazarethNazareth is regarded as “the Cradle of Christianity” because it was here, according to tradition, that the angel Gabriel announced to Mary the news of her conception by the Holy Spirit’s power. It was also the place where Jesus spent the years of his childhood and youth.  Most people who come on a tour of the Holyland will visit Nazareth.

Basilica of Annunciation Nazareth, IsraelAbout 2000 years ago Nazareth was a small Jewish village which, during the Byzantine period, became a Christian stronghold and soon became a very popular place of pilgrimage because of its connection to Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Soon the building of churches began, the first being that of the Church of the Annunciation which was placed at the site of the home of Joseph and Mary. Many churches were built over the years, destroyed and rebuilt as the rulers changed from Christian to Muslim over the centuries.

The 19th century bought about renewed interest as Christians returned to take up residence in Nazareth and began to rebuild the Churches and monasteries.  Today there are approximately 30 churches as well as mosques and ancient synagogues. The Basilica of the Annunciation heads the list of places to see. It is modern and was consecrated in 1969 after being built over the foundations of previous structures from the Byzantine and Crusader periods. The dome of the Basilica rises 55 meters high and shaped like a Madonna lily which symbolizes the Virgin Mary.

Other places to visit in Nazareth are St Joseph’s Church located next to the Basilica of the Annunciation. This church has an underground cavern that is believed to contain Joseph’s workshop and the Synagogue Church traditionally thought to have been the original synagogue where Jesus studied, prayed and preached when he was young.

The Nazareth Village is well worth a visit. It is a reconstruction of Jewish lifestyle at the time of Jesus and what Nazareth was like 2000 years ago. Visitors are greeted by authentically dressed inhabitants and the parables of Jesus are brought to life in their original setting.

A tour of Nazareth’s old city is completed by a visit to the market with its colorful souvenir, artwork, spice as well as lovely fabric stalls and enjoying some of the local foods. Your authentic Middle Eastern experience will be complete.

Accommodation is available in Christian Hostels and excellent Hotels to serve the needs of the tourists who visit the area in large numbers especially around Christmas time when the city is really beautiful with wonderful decorations and its holy ambience. There are also many restaurants serving delicious foods that attract visitors throughout the year.

Feb 05

Israel – Visit Northern Israel – Safed

In the mountains of the Upper Galilee in Israel, you will find one of the four holy cities of Judaism, the town of Safed (Pronounced Tsfat) which is spelt in many different ways that sometimes cause confusion (Safed, Zefat, Tsfat, Zfat, Safad, Safes, Safet, amongst others). The other 3 holy cities are Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias.

Safed and the Hula Valley in North IsraelSafed is situated 900 meters above Sea Level and is the highest city in Israel resulting in its experiencing the coldest winters. Due to its high elevation there are magnificent views to be seen in all directions, the Golan Heights in the east, Mount Hermon and Lebanon in the north, Mount Meron and the valley of Amud in the west and in the south Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret). In recent years Safed has become a popular holiday resort for both Israeli’s and visitors from abroad due to its mild climate and attractive surroundings. Safed is filled with places to see, religious, historical and modern day sites that will keep visitors endlessly entertained.

Safed in Northern IsraelIn the 17th century Safed became the centre of Jewish Mysticism (Kabala) when the Kabbalist Mystics lived, taught and studied in the city. Today Safed is a charming location with its mix of spiritual people and artists as well as the thousands of new immigrants from the USSR and Ethiopia who have made it their home in recent years.

Visit the Citadel at the top of the city which has ruins dating back to Crusader times, or stroll through the Jewish Quarter with its ancient and quaint alleyways with intriguing niches and superb synagogues with their ancient Torah scrolls and pleasing decorations.

Visit the Artists quarter in what used to be the Arab Quarter of the city where artists live and work in beautiful old houses that line the narrow alleyways to view their paintings and artifacts set in window displays.

To see evidence of more modern history find the model of the Davidka weapon that was used by the Jewish defenders of the city during the war of independence in 1948 and visit the site of the very long staircase which the British used to separate the Jewish and Arab quarters of the city before the Jewish State was established.

Tzfat (Safed) in North IsraelSafed has exciting museums to visit and interesting cobbled streets to stroll along and browse through the many shops and galleries available. This fascinating city has something of interest for all.

Safed’s setting in the north of Israel is a perfect place for excursions and day trips, outdoor adventures include a trip to the Hula Nature Reserve, there are many hiking routes in the area and wineland tours available. A day out in Tiberias and the Kinneret for a swim is a popular choice amongst the many other pastimes available in the area.

There are a variety of hotels and B&B’s to choose from in Safed that will suit all tastes.

Jan 31

Israel – Northern Israel – Tiberias

The Northern Israeli city of Tiberias is situated on the Western shores of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret). It is situated near 17 hot springs and is sometimes called the City of Water.

Ruins at Tiberias on the Sea of GalileeTiberias is 200 meters below Sea Level and is the lowest city in Israel. It is a very popular vacation destination attracting thousands of tourists as well as local holidaymakers.

The city itself is regarded as one of the Judaism’s four “Holy Cities” the others being Jerusalem, Hebron and Safed and has a long history as a place of Jewish study and culture in both ancient and modern times. It was established by Herod Antipas the son of Herod the Great and named after the Roman Emperor Tiberius in 20 CE.

Mount of Beatitudes -  the site of the Sermon on the MountTiberias has places that are of Importance to Jews and Christians alike, from the 2nd to the 10th century CE it was the political and religious centre for the Jewish population particularly in the 16th century when Sephardic Jews from Spain fled the Inquisition and settled in the city, amongst these were the well known sage and philosopher Moses Maimonides (Rambam) and Moshe Chaim Luzzato, the renowned Kabbalist teacher.

After its establishment, it was a place during the time of Jesus where many miracles took place and a lot of churches were built there and in the surrounding areas.  A popular site is the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus delivered his Sermon on the Mount.

Tiberias has been inhabited continuously and there are a variety of buildings and ruins from different periods that have been well preserved and in the Old City many sites can be seen from the time of the Crusades and the Ottoman Empire including the Church of St Peter.

Tiberias on the Sea of GalileeVisitors to Tiberias can enjoy the tranquil and peaceful surroundings as well as visit the many unique religious sites in the area as well as take advantage of the water activities on offer.

Watching the sun set on the Sea of Galilee is an experience not to be missed. The light makes the water appear almost luminous and the water takes on the color of the sky which is flushed with hues of gold, blue and grey and patches of pink, definitely a sight worth waiting for.

Visitors can swim in the Kinneret or take a boat trip, or even visit Hamat Gader with its lovely tropical gardens, crocodiles and beautiful exotic birds.

There are numerous Hotels available to suit all budgets and restaurants, to suit all tastes.

Jan 25

Places To Visit In Israel – Israeli Sightseeing – Zichron Yaakov

The picturesque town of Zichron Yaakov was founded in 1882 with the help of Baron Edmond de Rothschild. He was a Jewish philanthropist who had assisted in the establishment of many of the early communities, often helping with financial support.

Northern Israel - Zichron Yaakov

Photo: Ilana Shkonik אילנה שקולניק

Zichron Yaakov is situated about a half hour drive from Haifa and 15 minutes from Caesarea. It has a particularly attractive location at the southern end of the Carmel mountain range overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Local visitors and tourists from abroad are drawn to the quaint pedestrian mall in the center of the town with its many lovely small stores, offering local art and souvenirs and an array of quaint restaurants and coffee shops all adding to the special and unique atmosphere.  There are art galleries and artists workshops to explore. There is a part of the street paved with cobblestones and lit by gaslight and on either side the visitor can see the buildings that have red shingles roofs dating back to the 19th century.

There are museums that are housed in two of the original buildings.  One is Beit Aharonson which is devoted to the Nili underground resistance organization. This spy ring was pro British and operated during the First World War in what was then Turkish controlled Palestine. This organization was under the leadership of Aaron Aharonson and his sister Sarah Aharonson who was acclaimed around the world as an agronomist. The Aharonson family was part of the early settlement of the area. Another museum is that dedicated to the First wave of immigration to Israel (First Aliyah).

Zichron Yaakov in Israel winemaking barrel ship in the 19th centuryThe early farmers of Zichron Yaakov cultivated vineyards and today wine has become one of the area’s biggest industries. The winery has a visitor’s center that offers visitors free guided tours

There are other interesting places to see around the Zichron Yaakov area. Visit the tombs of Baron de Rothschild and his wife which are situated in the beautifully maintained Ramat Hanadiv Gardens. Close to these gardens is a nature reserve with striking views of the coastline. An interesting place to visit in the same area especially for families is Kfar HaNokdim that features activities from the past like camel rides and Bedouin hospitality.