People often ask me “what is your favorite place to visit [in Israel]?” This is a tough question to answer, for I am “in love” with many “sites” in Israel. But when forced to commit myself, my favorite site is a not-too-well-known place called Omrit — a site that is located on the western slopes of the Golan—just east of the Huleh Valley.
As I began to think about why this was the case, my blog entry became longer and longer. So I decided to produce several articles on this topic over the next week.
One major reason for my “love” of Omrit is that here you can really clearly see the foundations and significant architectural pieces of THREE temples that actually look like temples—including the one that Herod the Great built for the worship of the Roman Emperor Augustus and that was actually in existence in Jesus’s day!
Josephus says that Herod the Great built three such temples, one at Caesarea Maritima (but virtually nothing of the Herodian original is visible to today), at Sebastia (where significant remains of a second century AD rebuild are visible), but here at Omrit the foundations and architectural fragments of “Herod’s Imperial Cult Temple” still exist!
Since 1999 J. Andrew Overman of Macalester College of St. Paul, Minnesota(USA) has been excavating the site. He has discovered three successive religious structures—the earliest (a “shrine”) dating to the Early Roman Period.
Overman believes that the first Temple was built by Herod the Great to honor his patron—the emperor Caesar Augustus (ruled 28 B.C. to A.D. 14). Many believe that his temple was constructed in nearby “Panias” but Overman argues (I think correctly) that it was here at Omrit—”in the vicinity of Panias”—that it was constructed. The second “Temple” was probably constructed during the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajian (A.D. 98-117). The finds here are so significant that the Israel Museum has a prominent display of them.
To view new images of Omrit Click Here.
More on “why I love Omrit” in coming days (hint, it has to do with places visited in Turkey!) — and directions on how to get there!