Apr 19

Cities in South Israel – Israeli places of interest – Ashkelon

The city of Ashkelon is situated at the southern end of Israel’s beautiful Mediterranean coastline. This coastline with its white sandy beaches and stunning views stretches from Ashkelon all the way north to Rosh Hanikra on the Lebanese border.

Ashkelon has a long and interesting history. As in many other places in Israel the ruins of previous civilizations are evident. When the Philistines migrated to Israel’s coastal plain in about 1200 BCE they settled  in 5 cities Ashdod, Gaza, Gaath, Ekron  and Ashkelon which was the only one built on the shore, the ancient ruins at Ashkelon cover 150 acres and have been under excavation since 1985. The excavations which actually began in the late 19th century have uncovered remains going back to the Neolithic age right through to the 13th century BCE. One of the most exciting finds in recent years is a bronze and silver calf that is about 3,500 years old


Over the centuries, Ashkelon has come under the control of many invaders before undergoing a revival after King Herod who enhanced and enlarged the city. Later after Muslim and then Crusader rule and then again by Muslims the city was abandoned until 1948 when rebuilding began and in 1953 was established by the Jewish South African development company Afridar.

Today Ashkelon has become a tourist centre with many activities available, its major attraction being the National Park which lies southwest of the city. The Park contains the tel (Hebrew name for abandoned ruins) with remains from going back 4000 years ago from the Canaanite period, the Roman era and the times of the Crusaders. The Park includes large stretches of lawn and a public beach.

There are also many ancient sites to be found in the city itself such as remains of Byzantine churches, two coffins from Roman times and a grave situated next to the Marina from the Mamluk period.

The Ashkelon Marina is situated between two beaches in the heart of the tourist area and has the ability to hold about 600 boats and is well known and popular with the International yachting community.

Accommodation is available in Hotels and self catering holiday rental apartments.

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”.

Sep 11

Tourist Sites in Israel – historical places in Israel – Masada

The Unesco World heritage site of Masada is situated not far from the shores of the Dead Sea in Israel. This ancient and majestic fortress is located on the top of a sheer rock cliff that rises 400 meters above the desert that surrounds it.

View from MasadaThe fortress was built originally in the second century BCE by a Judean King and at that time was one of eight other strongholds in the desert which were used to protect the land against the Seleucid armies.

In the first century BCE Herod continued the development of these fortresses and Masada in particular by adding bath houses, huge storage areas to keep supplies in and even swimming pools and turning them into magnificent and bold palaces.

The most dominant buildings at the site are the Western Palace with its lovely geometric mosaic floor and without doubt the palace on the north end which balances down the rock in terraces. This palace still has a few stunning marble columns and attractive frescoes that remain from the original construction.

The story of Masada was recorded by the famous historian Josephus Flavius; he wrote that about 75 year after the death of Herod the Great, a Jewish revolt against the Romans began and a group of Jewish rebels took control of the fortress of Masada. After the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in 70 CE these rebels were joined by a group of Zealots and their families who had escaped from Jerusalem.

For a period of time the rebels harried and attacked the Roman forces wherever and whenever it was possible and eventually  Roman soldiers under the command of Lucius Flavius Silva besieged Masada. The Jewish Zealots managed to hold out for about 3 years during which time the Romans built a rampart up the cliff side.

MasadaJosephus described how when the Romans broke through the defenses they found that all 950 Jewish rebels defending Masada had taken part in a mass suicide. The fall of Masada brought an end to the Jewish State that lasted for nearly 1,900 years

During excavations of the site that took place in the early 1960’s under the direction of Yigal Yadin and conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem a great deal of evidence for the siege was found, however only about 30 skeletons were uncovered during the dig.

Today Masada holds a special legendary status for the Jewish people and after Jerusalem it has become one of the most popular tourist sites. When Moshe Dayan was chief of staff he introduced a practice for soldiers completing their basic training to hold their swearing in ceremony on the top of Masada. This ceremony begins with the soldiers climbing Masada during the night and ends with the declaration that “Masada shall not fall again”