Apr 05

Northern Israel – Israeli Cities – Caesarea

The town of Caesarea in Israel with its select neighborhoods, lovely gardens and impressive golf course is situated on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, midway between Tel Aviv and Haifa.

Caesarea - Roman TheatreAdjacent to the modern town is the Ancient Roman Port City and amazing archeological park, with the remains  from many periods that were uncovered during archeological excavations that took place during the 1950’s and 1960”s. The excavations uncovered multifaceted remnants of the Roman and Crusader cities that existed there.

Aquaduct in Caesarea IsraelIn the first century BCE King Herod, who was without doubt an architect of exceptional ability, established a city on the site Straton’s Tower which had been a Phoenician outpost and named it Caesarea in honor of Augustus Caesar. He also built a harbor so outstanding that it became a wonder of the ancient world. His planning and building of the ancient walled city included a magnificent palace, and facing the sea he built an Amphitheatre that is used today for concerts and is popular with visiting artists, a Hippodrome where chariot racing took place and a Citadel. The streets were paved and huge statues were placed in various positions.

During the time of Herod, an aqueduct was constructed that supplied water to the city through a network of pipes. It started at the foot of the Carmel at springs about 9 km north of Caesarea and according to the growth of the city it was repaired and enlarged. The aqueduct is clearly visible to this day.

During the Byzantine period a Christian academy was established in the city and churches were built.  At that time Christians, Samaritans and Jews who built synagogues lived side by side. During excavations the remains of a synagogue from the 5th century were uncovered north of the harbor. Found in the ruins of the Synagogue were carved Candelabra (menorot) and parts of an inscription in Hebrew listing the priestly courses in the Temple in Jerusalem, as well as a column with “shalom” inscribed on it.

The Arabs conquered Caesarea and both the population and the importance of Caesarea declined. Remains of a 3 meter thick wall that surrounded the Arab town in the 10th century were uncovered during excavations.

Restaurant in Caesarea IsraelDuring Crusader times King Baldwin I with the Frankish army conquered Caesarea and Eastern Christians and Muslims came to settle. Then in 1187 it was captured by Saladin, but retaken in 1191 by the English King Richard the Lionheart who exiled all the Muslim inhabitants. Caesarea remained a Crusader city until 1265 when it was captured by the Mamluks and its fortifications razed to the ground.

Visitors to the ancient city of Caesarea with its enthralling history will need plenty of time to walk around the ancient sites. It is a good idea to start the visit at the Travel and Time display with an interesting 10 minute visual multimedia experience leading the visitor from Phoenician times right up to Zionistic period. Then take in the Time Tower that has huge screens that enables visitors to take a virtual tour of the city.

For those interested in snorkeling or Scuba diving a visit Caesarea’s underwater museum which is unique in the world is a must. Other centuries old ruins and the great harbor that Herod built can be viewed here as well as a Roman Shipwreck and a ruined lighthouse.

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.

Nov 13

Israel – Israeli Places of Interest – Ein Gedi

At the lowest point on earth on the shores of the Dead Sea in Israel and nestled at the foot of imposing cliff and mountains, is the vibrantly green oasis of Ein Gedi. This exciting location is a combination of spas and various tourist attractions together with a beautiful and ancient vista of history and archeology that makes it perfect for an unusual desert experience.

Ein Gedi OasisEin Gedi Nature Reserve stretches from the shores of the Dead Sea which is 423 meters below Sea Level up to the Plateau of the Judean Desert 200 meters above sea level. One of Israel’s most important nature reserves it has four fresh water springs, two of which feed the streams Nahal David and Nahal Arugot that flow throughout the year.  Visitors can enjoy the sight of rivers running through canyons bordered by abundant vegetation and can spot animals coming to drink at the river.

Ein Gedi archeologyEvidence has been found of human settlement going back to the Chalcolithic period more than 5000 years ago and from about the 7th century BCE Ein Gedi has been significant in Jewish History.  The area around Ein Gedi was included in the territory of the Tribe of Judah. When fleeing from King Saul, David took refuge in Ein Gedi it was a place where rebels fled to from Jerusalem. Temples and Synagogue were built that strengthened the Jewish grip of the area. Visitors to the reserve can view the lovely mosaic floor of a Synagogue dating back to the third century BCE.

Dead Sea beauty treatmentsTourists from around the world visit this internationally renowned health spa and rejuvenate themselves with the mud baths, mineral waters and hot springs that are available or bathe in the Dead Sea’s healing waters. There are other interesting activities available in the area such as excursions by jeep, desert safaris and tours of Masada and Qumran which are the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.

Accommodation is available at Hotels, Kibbutz guest houses or camping on the Dead Sea shore.