Category Archives: Places in Israel

Land of Benjamin Video

Bill Schlegel has produced a wonderful 11 minute teaching/learning video composed primarily of drone shots of the approaches into the Central Benjamin Plateau from the west and of the CBP.  He focuses on sites of Biblical importance.  His commentary and graphics are very useful.

Be sure to use the HD version of this video.

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Absalom’s Home City—Near the Sea of Galilee

Absalom, David’s son who attempted to kill him (2 Samuel 15–18), was the “son of Maacah daughter of Talmai” who was the king of Geshur (2 Sam 3:3).  It was to Geshur that Absalom fled after killing his half-brother, Amnon, who had raped his sister Tamar. (2 Samuel 13).

The city of Geshur, capital of the kingdom, is well–identified with the site of et–Tell that is located 1 mi. [1.5 km.] north of the Sea of Galilee, slightly to the east of the present course of the Jordan River.  It is a large 22-acre [9 ha.] mound that has been excavated since 1987 by Rami Arav.  Almost all of the structures of et–Tell were constructed of black basalt (volcanic) stone.

It appears that Geshur, despite its nearness to Israel, was a semi–independent kingdom until its destruction by the Assyrian king Tiglath–Pileser III during his campaign in the area in 732 B.C.—during the days of Ahaz and Isaiah.

Iron Age II City Gate at et-Tell/Geshur

The remnants of this massive four–chamber city gate are located on the southeast side of the Tell.  This view is from the east, from the plaza outside the four–chamber gate, looking west.  Note the two chambers on the right (north) side of the central passageway, the two standing stones (massevoth) at the sides of the entrance, and on the right (north) side of the gate the High Place.

High Place at City Gate with: Standing Stone, Stepped Approach, and Basin

A high place, for the worship of a deity, is located on the right (north) side of the gate.  Note the staircase that leads up to a hollowed out basalt stone into which liquids could be ritually poured and the upright standing stone (massevah) on the left side of the high place.  This standing stone may have been inscribed, but it more probably represented the presence of a (pagan) deity.

Et–Tell’s identification with New Testament Bethsaida is possible, but not certain.  Bethsaida was the home of Philip, Andrew, and Peter—disciples of Jesus, and there Jesus performed a number of miracles including the healing of a blind man and the feeding of the 5,000.

To view more images of et–Tell/Geshur/Bethsaida Click Here.

My Favorite Site in Israel

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.

Plaza and approach to the Imperial Temple at Omrit (Caesarea Philippi?)

 

Omrit Excavation Teams

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!

Earliest “Shrine” — that was later covered by two later temples!

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.

Southwest corners of the:
First (slightly above and left of center) “Herodian Temple to the Emperor Augustus”
and the Temple from the time of Trajian (lower right)

Huge “composite” capital (combination of Corinthian and Ionic orders) and large base
Note the acanthus leaves

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.

Upside down corner capital of the “composite” order

To view new images of Omrit Click Here.

Architectural Fragment

The Holiest Druze Site in Israel

On the road that leads to the top of the Arbel Cliffs, on the west side of Lake Galilee, there is a turn off that leads to the most sacred Druze site in Israel.  I have known about it for many years but only a month ago was I able to visit it for the first time.

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View from the Nabi Shu’ayb complex looking northeast. The Arbel Cliffs and the Sea of Galilee are visible in the distance.

This site is located on the lower northeastern slope of the Horns of Hattin and commemorates Nabi Shu’ayb (=”the prophet Shu’ayb” = Jethro).   The identification of Shu’ayb with Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses is a Muslim and Druze tradition.

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View of the entrance ways into the main room that houses the “tomb” of Nabi Shu’ayb.

In the picture above, note the man on the left who is putting on a gray cape that covers him from head to calf.  Of course, one removes their shoes before entering the room.  As a non-Druze I was not permitted to enter the tomb area via the main doorway, but had to enter and exit via a side door—I was escorted by a Druze elder.  I was not permitted to take pictures within the room.

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View of a courtyard with a fountain that is located west of main room that houses the “tomb” of Nabi Shu’ayb. No one used the fountain while I was visiting the site.

Since 1948 this shrine has been under Druze control (= holy property [wakf]).  It was rebuilt in the late 20th century and is a place of pilgrimage for Israeli Druze.  On April 25th, the Druze community has an annual meeting (celebration) here.  Usually new Druze soldiers in the Israeli army swear loyalty to the state at this site.

This is one of 4 or 5 places where Shu’ayb is said to be buried.  The main tomb of Shu’ayb is in Jordan and there are several candidates in Sinai.

To view 9 images of this sacred site Click Here.

For a quick overview of the Druze Religion Click Here.

Beth Shemesh

Beth Shemesh is an Israelite site located 12 mi. west of Jerusalem in the Sorek Valley where it exits from the Hill Country of Judah into the Shephelah.

The tribe of Dan settled in this area and the main activities of Samson took place here (Judges 13–16).

Sorek Valley looking west from Beth Shemesh

During the period of the Judges the Philistines returned the Ark of the Covenant to the Israelites via Beth Shemesh (1 Samuel 4–6).

During the recent excavations, a huge “cruciform” cistern from the years of the Judean Monarchy was discovered.

Interior of the Israelite Cistern

For more free, high-resolution images of Beth Shemesh Click Here.

Unique Tombs from 2200–2000 BC

Dhahr Mirzbaneh is a site located about 16 mi. northeast of Jerusalem. The hillsides in the area are covered with tombs from the Middle Bronze I Age (2200-2000 B.C.).

Cut Away of MB I Tombs During Construction of the “Alon Road”

View looking northwest. When the “Alon Road” was being constructed in the 1970’s, the construction workers cut through the hillside of Dhahr Mirzbaneh exposing a side, “cut-away,” view of a number of Middle Bronze I (2200-2000 B.C.) tombs.  Some scholars place the migration of Abram from Ur to the Land of Canaan during this period.

A perfect “cut-away” view of such a tomb is visible on the left side of the image. The shaded semi-circular area is a tomb chamber, and to its left the “cut-away” outline of a vertical shaft (partially filled with rubble) is visible.

On the right side of the image more exposed tomb chambers are visible.

Detail of MB I (2200–2000 BC) Tomb

View of a MB I (2200-2000 B.C.) tomb which was sliced in half by road building activity.

A typical MB I tomb consisted of a vertical shaft, 4 to 9 ft. [1.2 to 3 m.] deep, cut into the rock. At the bottom of the shaft one or more chambers radiated from it. Usually only one person was placed in each chamber.

To the left of the leg of the man, the shaded arched outline of a burial chamber is clearly visible – it had an arched top and a flat horizontal floor. To the left of the chamber, partly shaded, is the outline of the vertical shaft, which led down from the surface to the burial chamber. This shaft is partly filled with rubble.

To view more images of Dhahr Mirzbaneh, and a map, Click Here.

Sea of Galilee lowest in 97 years

Ynetnews has an article “How low can you go: Sea of Galilee lowest in 97 years.”

Visually, compare the water–levels at the Church of the Primacy, that is located on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, during non–drought and drought years.

Staircase on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee during non–drought year.  Note the water of the Sea of Galilee lapping at the foot of the Staircase.

Compare the same area in recent years:

The same area during a time of drought. Note the same Staircase and the distance to the shore of the Sea of Galilee (on the right side of the image)

A statement put out by the authority said that last May’s recording showed the lowest water level since May 1920, when official measurements of the Sea of Galilee were first recorded.

The Sea of Galilee’s dire condition was made worse in recent years, due to a rare, four-year sequence of droughts in the north, which have caused water pumping from the Sea of Galilee to almost completely stop.

According to the article, the water level of the Sea of Galilee now stands at -214 meters!  FWIW — in the day’s of Jesus (aka Second Temple Times) the level, based upon the level of harbors from this period, was two meters higher—at -212 meters.