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”.

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.

Aug 31

History of Israel – Wars – War of Independence

On the 29th November 1947 the United Nations General Assembly voted to partition Palestine. Immediately after the vote the first Arab attack was launched in Jerusalem and it did not take long before the fighting spread throughout the country. When Britain made it clear that their mandate would end on the 14th May 1948 and that their forces would be withdrawn by then the surrounding Arab countries stated that if the Jews declared independence they would immediately invade the country to prevent partition.

Independence Hall Tel Aviv

While the armies of seven countries amassed on Palestine’s borders, 37 Jewish leaders signed the declaration of the State of Israel and on the 14th May 1948 David Ben-Gurion read out the declaration as follows –

Declaration of Independence May 14th 1948
“The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish People. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books…And thus we the members of the Peoples Council, representatives of the Jewish community of the Land of Israel and the Zionist Movement, are here assembled…to declare the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.”

 

Only a few hours passed before the Arab armed columns advanced upon the fledgling State, from the south, the east and the north. After 1878 years when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by Roman armies, Jews were again fighting for their independence.

Despite the fact that the Arab forces were better equipped and significantly larger than Israel’s, they were uncoordinated and disorganized, with the exception of the British trained Arab Legion from Transjordan, as opposed to the Jewish fighters who despite their relatively small numbers were organized, disciplined and well trained and included a large number of World War II veterans from around the world.

War of Independence IsraelAt the start it was the Arab armies that took the offensive causing severe casualties to the Israeli forces, however the Haganah then took the initiative and within six weeks had captured the Arab sections of Tiberias and Haifa and later Safed and Acre (Akko) and gained control of much of the territory allocated to the State of Israel under the Partition Plan. On the 31st of May 1948 the Haganah was renamed the “Israel Defense force”

By January 1949, Israel had taken control of an area significantly larger than that designated by the United Nations and this remained Israel’s territory until 1967. The areas remaining in Arab hands were Gaza held by Egypt and the area of the west bank and the old city of Jerusalem including the Western Wall and Solomon’s Temple, upon which the Muslim Dome of the Rock had been built, were in the hands of Jordan. Armistice agreements were signed by all the surrounding Arab States except for Iraq who withdrew their forces and handed over its positions to Jordan.

Aug 30

Israel History – Wars in Israel – leading up to the War of Independence

Since biblical times and as recorded in the Torah, the Land of Israel was promised to the Jewish people by God and has been sacred to them ever since. After the establishment of the First Kingdom of Israel in about the 11th century BCE the area was ruled by the Israelites sporadically for the next 1000 years.

Historical map of IsraelOver centuries the Jewish presence dwindled due to persecution and massacres at the hands of invaders, the scattering of the Jews throughout the world began. However a Jewish presence constantly remained, particularly in the Galilee which became the religious centre. Eventually after the land had been conquered and ruled over by most of the major civilizations that had power at various times, The Land of Israel was captured in 1516 by the Ottoman Empire who ruled the area up until the 20th century.

Throughout the centuries the Jews who had been dispersed around the world had always had a yearning to return to their land and in 1492 many Jews, on being expelled from Spain, returned to their land and communities began to grow in the four Holy Cities of Judaism : Jerusalem, Tiberias, Hebron and Safed.

Pogroms in Eastern Europe started the first Aliyah in 1881 which was the beginning of what is known as modern immigration. At around that time the Zionist movement founded by Theodor Herzl started to take root. This movement had as its basis the wish to establish a Jewish State in the Land of Israel.

The second Aliyah began in 1904 and those who came were mainly orthodox Jews but amongst them were socialists who began to establish the kibbutz movement. This Aliyah lasted until 1914 and the outbreak of World War I.  During the war Arthur Balfour, who was the British Foreign Secretary, issued The Balfour Declaration which favored the establishment of a National Home for the Jewish People in Palestine.

The Jewish Legion, composed mainly of Zionist Volunteers, assisted the British in their conquest of the Ottoman Empire in Palestine. In 1920, rioting Arabs vehemently opposed the Balfour plan and this led to the forming of the Haganah (Hebrew word for Defense).

The years between 1919 and 1929 brought 100,000 Jews returning to their land during the third and fourth  Aliyah and after the rise of Nazism the 5th Aliyah began with the arrival of about a quarter of a million Jews fleeing the situation in Europe. This influx caused Arab Riots and resulted in the notorious British White Paper that stopped the arrival of Jews to Palestine.  All those Jewish refugees trying to flee the Holocaust were being turned away by countries around the world. This led to the formation of the underground Aliyah Bet organization who sought to bring these Jews to Palestine.

The "Exodus" Ship arriving in Haifa on July 20 1947A furious conflict between the Jewish Community and Britain began after 1945 when the Haganah joined the underground movements Irgun and Lehi in armed resistance as thousands of Jewish Refugees and survivors of the Holocaust who were seeking refuge in Palestine were being turned away by the British or placed in Detention Camps.

In 1947 Britain found themselves unable to reach any acceptable solution to the situation and decided to withdraw from the Mandate of Palestine and in November of that year the Partition Plan for Palestine was approved by the United Nations with two states, Arab and Jewish with Jerusalem an International City under U.N. rule. This was accepted by the Jewish leadership but immediately rejected by the Arabs who began a series of attacks against Jewish communities.

On the 14th May 1948 Independence of the new State of Israel was declared and the next day the armies of 5 Arab States: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt with contingents from the Sudan, crossed their borders, in an attempt to overthrow the new state and so began Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.