Category Archives: Flora and Fauna

Herodium Display in Israel Museum

When visiting the Israel Museum this past summer I was pleasantly surprised to find that a number of wonderful finds from the Herodium were prominently displayed in the Second Temple Section.

These included two wall paintings from the Royal Box that was associated with the theater.


Naval Battle A wall fragment/painting from the Royal Box of the theater at the Herodium.  Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

It depicts a naval battle with two ships with sails billowing the wind. On the deck are soldiers armed with shield and spears.

“The painting may represent the victory at Actium and possibly the beginning of Augustus’s rule following the conquest of Egypt. The choice of theme supports the possibility that the royal Room was decorated in anticipation of the visit of Marcus Agrippa, Augustus’s second–­in–­command, in 15 BCE, since he was the general responsible for the victory.” — From the description of the painting in the Israel Museum.


Nature A wall fragment/painting from the Royal Box of the theater at the Herodium. Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

“In this painting the artist depicts a sea view along with a bull, trees, a temple, a palm tree, and a boat, recalling sacred scenes from the time of Augustus while also alluding to the conquest of Egypt.

“The walls of the Royal Room were decorated with wall paintings in the secco technique [painting on dry plaster] and stuccowork. They were divided vertically by stuccowork pilasters and decorated with painted ‘hanging pictures’ that were suspended by imaginary ‘strings’ and ‘nails.’ [See the picture above] The pictures imitate windows with open shutters affording views of imaginary landscapes.” — From the description of the painting in the Israel Museum.


The Royal Box in the spring of 2014.

Royal Box A view of the interior of the “Royal Box” above the theater at the Herodium. Note the well–preserved paintings on the wall.


Jesus’ Crown of Thorns

The Roman soldiers (Matt. 27:29) . . . twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said.


A “Crown of Thorns” made from a branch of a tree just outside of Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives. Click on image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Mark 15:17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him.

John 19:2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe . . . John 19:5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”


View looking west over the Old City of Jerusalem from within Dominus Flevit. The “golden” Dome of the Rock is visible beyond the cross, and to the right of the Dome the grey Domes of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher are visible. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

You can view/download 10 images of Dominus Flevit  Here.

Fallow Deer Extinct, but Reintroduced to Israel

Shmuel Brown has a very interesting/informative post about the intrigues, via Iran, entitled “Introducing Fallow Deer” [to Israel].  This is an amazing story!

Photograph by Shmuel Browns

Photograph by Shmuel Browns

Shmuel Browns is an Israeli Tour Guide/Photographer and also has an online store, “Designed in Israel,” where Calendars, Cards, T-Shirts, and Tote Bags featuring his photography can be purchased.

Wild Boar (pigs!) at Caesarea Philippi (Banias, Israel) — with 3 photos

On a recent trip to Israel our student group was preparing our lunch at the picnic grounds on the site of Banias (NT Caesarea Philippi—think Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ/Messiah—Matthew 16:16 and gospel parallels).  Looking up from our lunch, much to my surprise I saw a herd of about 15 wild boar near another picnic table close to us (adults plus young ones)!!  During my 15 years in Israel I had never seen a wild boar in the wild and here we were IN a Jewish national park and there they were!


Two Adult Wild Boar near a Picnic Table at Caesarea Philippi Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

When we tried to approach them (bad move) they made aggressive moves towards us—in fact some of the students had to run away!  Their aggressiveness was evidently known to the Psalmist who wrote that God’s people were like a fertile vineyard that had been ravaged by animals, including boars—depicting how foreign nations had ravaged Israel.

Boars from the forest ravage it [the fertile vineyard]
and the creatures of the field feed on it.
(Psalm 80:13 NIV)

In the New Testament there is a reference to not throwing “your pearls to pigs.  If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces“!!


Two Adult Wild Boar and 5 Piglets Foraging in the Picnic Grounds at Banias (= NT Caesarea Philippi) Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

Pigs (domesticated boars) and boars are mentioned 22 times in the Bible.  They were unclean, and not to be eaten by the ancient Israelites (Lev 22:7; Deut 14:8).  In the New Testament there is the famous story about Jesus casting demons into “a herd of swine” that rushed down a steep bank into the sea [of Galilee] (Matt 8:28-34; Mark 8:28–34; Luke 8:26–37) and also of the “Prodigal Son” who resorted to eating the pods that the [domesticated] pigs were eating—in a distant country (Luke 15:11–32).


Two Adult Wild Boar Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout
is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.”
(Proverbs 11:22 NIV)

I am told by expert guide Ofer Drori that there are plenty of the creatures in the Golan, Galilee, and Mount Carmel.  Possibly they multiply rapidly because both Jews and Muslims are forbidden to eat them.

Photos courtesy of:  Lorna Davis, Brady Bobbink and Joe Kirkland.

Blue/Purple Fringes — Techelet Dye Discovered

In recent days there have been a plethora of reports on a one day conference recently held in Jerusalem entitled “100 Years to Tekhelet Research”—honoring the anniversary of Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog’s doctoral dissertation, The Dyeing of Purple in Ancient Israel have appeared.

One very useful article, “Hidden secrets of Techelet holy blue dye discovered in Israel,” by Miriam Kresh, was published by the “Green Prophet” on December 31.  It includes pictures of the “tassels” (tsitsit), the murex shell, a Roman coin depicting a murex shell, a page from the 1913 dissertation of Rabbi Isaac Herzog, conference participants, and the laboratory production of the dye.  The Israel Antiquities Authority also has an announcement on the topic.

The purple dye was extracted (at great cost) from the murex shells that are found along the coast of Israel and Lebanon.


A murex shell found on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem — indicating that a dying industry was located in the vicinity
From an article in the “Green Prophet:

This purple dye (tekhelet, variously spelled), is mentioned at least 49 times in the Hebrew Bible.  It was used for a variety of purposes—especially for priestly garments.   However, each male Israelite was to include strands of this blue/purple woven into the “tassels” of their garment—indicating their special status in relationship to the divine.

Num. 15:37   The LORD also spoke to Moses, saying,  38 “Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue.  39 “And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot,  40 in order that you may remember to do all My commandments, and be holy to your God.  41 “I am the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the LORD your God.” (NASB)


Photo of the modern production of Techelet from an article on the “Green Prophet”