Category Archives: Places in Israel

Breaking the Rules — A Contest

At a site in Israel, where this picture was taken, Jesus and/or his disciples broke both of these rules.

SignWhere is this place and what happened there?  Record your answer in the comment section.  The first to get it correct will receive a copy of my The Essential Bible Atlas.

Contest closes Wednesday 12:00 noon CDT.

The Synagogue at Kh. Umm el-Amud (Lower Galilee)

Khirbet Umm el-Amud is a site located in Lower Galilee.  Here there are remains of a village that existed from the Second Temple into the Byzantine Periods (unexcavated) and the remains of a synagogue (excavated) that dates to the third-fourth centuries A.D.

Synagogue at Kh. Umm el-Amud

The synagogue has one column stranding and thus the site is called “the ruin of the mother of the column” in Arabic.  The ancient name of the place is not known.

Lion Lintel at Kh. Umm el-Amud

Among the scattered remains is a large broken limestone lintel on which a pair of lions is carved.

Jesus may have passed by this site on his trips between Cana of Galilee and Capernaum.  For a panorama view of this road Click Here.

For a map and additional images Click Here.

Herod or Jesus: Which “King” Has Had the Most Lasting Influence?

A site located about 7.5 miles south of Jerusalem called the Herodium is a site that looks like a volcano—but it is not!   The Herodium was built by Herod the Great (Matthew 2).  According to Josephus, a Jewish historian, the Herodium served as a palace/fortress for Herod the Great.  Herod was buried here in 4 B.C.  Later the Herodium served as a base for Jewish rebels during the first (A.D. 66-70) and second (A.D. 132-135) revolts against the Romans.

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View looking southwest at the volcanic-shaped Herodium
The Palace, Fortress, and Burial Site of Herod the Great
Click to Enlarge and/or Download — without cost/obligation

In addition, the Herodium is located only 3.5 miles southeast of Bethlehem—where Jesus (called the Christ) was born.

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The Grotto of the Nativity
The “Traditional” Site Where it is said that Jesus was born
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download — without cost or obligation

Herod was the king when Jesus was born—the same one who killed not only three of his sons, his favorite wife (Mariamne), the High Priest, his mother-in-law, but also the babies of Bethlehem (Matt 2:16).

Visitors to Israel are keenly aware of all the places built by Herod the Great and will probably visit Caesarea Maritima, the Temple Mount, and Masada.  And there are many others.  If fact, the land is littered with archaeological remains of places and buildings built by Herod.  But really, one must consider the lasting (cosmic?) significance of Herod versus that of the child that was born in the insignificant hamlet of Bethlehem—namely Jesus.

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The Ascended  Jesus Surrounded by Mary and John the Baptist
From the Hagia Sophia Church in Istanbul
Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download — without cost or obligation

In spite of all the “oohing and aahing” at Herodian remains, today no one actually “worships” Herod—as they do Jesus.

Pigeons Pooping in/on the Second Temple?

Recently there has been some interesting discussion on how much of the temple was covered by gold plating—see for example Leen Ritmeyer Here (plus reference to The Biblical Archaeological Review)

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The “Golden Vine” as presented in Avi–Yonah’s model of the temple (= a “minimalist” view as to the amount of gold used). Note on the top of the temple the “golden spikes” to prevent birds from alighting and “pooping” in the Temple precincts. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

Ritmeyer discusses the various views regarding the ‘gold plating’ of the temple and the magnitude of the vine, he is more of a “maximalist” than Avi–Yonah.  He also cites the following from Josephus:

From its summit protruded sharp golden spikes to prevent birds from settling upon them and polluting the roof. (War 5.207–226 and also Ant. 15.391-395)

Please see image above.

In March of 2014, when visiting Capernaum, I noticed that the Franciscans had tried the same technique to ward off the pigeons.

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Note the two pigeons contentedly nesting among the spikes(!) above the light on the left! Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

It looked to me like the Franciscans were trying the old “Second Temple technique” to deter the two nesting pigeons—unsuccessfully!  Hmmmm . . . .

Not very Christmasy, but I couldn’t resist ;-)!

3 Christmases in Bethlehem

On December 25 Protestants and Roman Catholics will celebrate Christmas.  The festivities in Manger Square in Bethlehem will be broadcast worldwide—and some Protestants and Roman Catholics will be celebrating in “Shepherds’ Field” east of Bethlehem (now filled with homes and shops of the village Beit Sahur).

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Grotto/Cave at the Roman Catholic Site of Shepherds’ Field
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

On January 7, the Greek, Coptic, and Syrian Orthodox Churches will celebrate Christmas.

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The Grotto of the Nativity
Said to be the very spot where Jesus was born
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

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A Greek Orthodox Priest Celebrating the Eucharist
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

On January 6 the Armenian Orthodox Church will celebrate Christmas.

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An Armenian Service in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem
Armenians Celebrate Christmas on 19 January
Click On Image to Enlarge/Download

For additional images of Bethlehem Click Here.

Our friends a “Israel’s History – a Picture a Day” have posted 6 photographic images of Bethlehem at Christmas around 1900 under Turkish Rule: grotto, processions, etc.  Very interesting!

–   –    –    Personal Story Follows    –    –   –

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Grotto of the Manger — Only 15 feet from the “star”
Said to be the place where the “manger” was
Click on Image to Enlarge/Download

In the early 1970’s, when we were living in Israel, Mary and I and John (our two-year old barely–able–to–walk son) were visiting the grotto of the Nativity, Mary and I were looking at a variety of things.  When we turned around, looking for our son John, there he was, blowing out the candles that the faithful had placed by this site—sorry about that!

Bulla of King Hezekiah Found in Jerusalem

Today it was announced that a bulla was discovered in Dr. Eilat Mazar’s excavation on the Ophel that mentions Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz, King of Judah!

Seal impression of King Hezekiah unearthed in the Ophel excavations

Seal impression of King Hezekiah unearthed in the Ophel excavations. Photo: © Eilat Mazar, with Ouria Tadmor

Yes, the same Hezekiah as mentioned in the Bible.  The announcement can be found here and I will not repeat all that you can read in the press but I would like to alert you to two items:

The First is a 10 minute video describing King Hezekiah, the discovery, and a great explanation of the bulla.

At 5 minutes into the video there is a great graphic sequence explaining what is on this precious object—please don’t miss this part.

Second, if you are interested in images of the area where this bulla was found, please see my previous post that I have appended below.

Because of the extensive archaeological excavations in Jerusalem over the last one hundred and fifty years most tour groups to Israel will be introduced to, and ooh and ahh at, archaeological remains from the Second Temple Period—particularly from from the time of Herod the Great (37–4BC).

Some, but not all groups, will visit remains from the First Temple Period at the City of David’s Visitor center—including the water system from that and earlier periods.

Remains of a large “Royal Structure” with Storage Jars that was located right next to the Judean Gate.

However, this past year a new area has been opened up that also displays remains from the First Temple Period (ca. 1000 to 586 B.C.)—including the remains of a Judean Gate, a “Royal Structure,” and reproductions of the large storage jars that were found there.

Royal Structure Plus Artifacts

Royal Structure plus Judean Gate

Royal Structure plus Judean Gate

This area was well excavated by, most recently, Eilat Mazar and its reconstruction and signage are outstanding—including a helpful drawing by Balage Balogh.

The Judean Gate Complex
Click Here to view a larger version of the drawing without my markings.

The excavation is located in the southeastern corner of Jerusalem Archaeological Park that is south of the Temple Mount.  The path to it is now open.

#1 Marks the Location of the Remains of the Gate and Royal Structure

The excavation is also visible from the sidewalk along the road.  The remains are clearly visible from that vantage point and photographs from there are good.  But due to the traffic and limited space it is difficult to discuss the significance of the area with a large group.

For more images of this area Click Here.

The Galilee Boat

One of the very interesting archaeological discoveries related to the days of Jesus is the 27 foot boat that was discovered on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee in 1986.  The “carcass” of this unique boat is now on display in the Alon Museum on the grounds of the Kibbutz Ginnosar.  This is the only 1st century boat that has been found on the Sea of Galilee.  Possible Jesus and/or his disciples used a craft such as this one (for example Matt 13:18, 23–27; Mark 4:35–41; Luke 8:22–25).

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The Galilee Boat on display at the Yigal Alon Museum on the grounds of Kibbutz Ginnosar. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

A full scale version of this boat use to be visible at Kibbutz Ein Gev.  Unfortunately it is now wasting away on a trash heap.

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Full scale reconstruction of the Galilee Boat many years ago on the grounds of Kibbutz Ein Gev. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.