Category Archives: Places in Israel

The Best Rolling Stone Tomb in Israel — Khirbet Midras

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View Looking East at the Entrance to the First Century A.D. Tomb

View looking east at the entrance to the tomb. The rolling stone was 6 ft. [1.8 m.] in diameter and 1.3 ft [0.4 m.] thick. It was placed between two walls, each built of hewn stone. When discovered, it still rolled in its trough!

The tomb itself was in use during the Roman Period — up until A.D. 135.

In my estimation, it was the best example of a rolling stone tomb in the country of Israel. It seems to illustrate well passages from the Gospels which speak of Jesus’ tomb as being closed by a rolling stone. See especially Matthew 27:57-66; 28:1-2; Mark 15:42–47; 16:1–8; Luke 24:1–2, 10–11; and John 20:1, 11–18.

MidrasMap3Horvat Midras (Hebrew) or Khirbet Durusiya (Arabic) is located 19 mi. [30 km.] southwest of Jerusalem in the Shephelah. The ancient remains are spread over hundreds of dunams in the area. The site dates to the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

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View of the Courtyard of the “Rolling Stone Tomb” at Khirbet Midras—prior to its destruction

In 1976 part of the cemetery was excavated. Several tombs were uncovered, including, in my estimation, THE BEST ROLLING STONE TOMB in the country. Unfortunately in the late 1990’s the tomb site was totally destroyed by vandals!#%$@!!

BUT it has been reconstructed and is now visible in the Adullam Park!

To view 3 additional image of the tomb Click Here.

For images of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher see: Calvary and Tomb.

Click to see images of Gordon’s Calvary and the Garden Tomb.

Ancient Capital on Temple Mount?

Life on the Haram esh–Sharif (Temple Mount in Jerusalem) is not static but dynamic!  Over the years the Muslims have been refurbishing older structures and completely remodeling others.  In the process much debris has been discarded, some of which was from ancient structures—possibly even from the Second Temple Period.

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A well-carved ancient capital that was on the debris pile
of the Haram esh–Sharif/Temple Mount
June 2011
Click on image to Enlarge (or download if you wish)

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Debris pile on the Haram esh–Sharif/Temple Mount
located east of the Dome of the Rock — July 2009
Click on image to Enlarge (or download if you wish)

For additional images of “Life on the Haram esh–Sharif/Temple Mount”
Click Here.

Jonathan and His Armor Bearer — 1 Samuel 14

One of the famous stories surrounding the life of Saul is that of how Saul’s son Jonathan, along with his armor bearer attacked the Philistine garrison at Michmash (1 Samuel 14:1–16)—about 7.5 mi. north northeast of Jerusalem.

In the story it is recounted how from a ridge on the south they descended into a wadi (today the Suweinit) and ascended the slope north of the wadi to attack Michmash.

1Sam. 14:4     On each side of the pass that Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistine outpost was a cliff; one was called Bozez, and the other Seneh.  5 One cliff stood to the north toward Michmash, the other to the south toward Geba. (1 Samuel 14:4–5)

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View looking east down the Wadi Suweinit in the vicinity of Michmash (modern Mukmas). Note the rugged cliffs on the north (left) and south (right). — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

It is probable that the cliff on the north is “Bozez” and that on the south (right) is “Seneh.”  But this is an area that they probably avoided due to the steepness of the cliffs.  They probably looked for a more gradual slope as they made their way down into (from upper right) and up out of the Wadi bed (upper left).

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View looking north from the ridge on the south side of the Wadi Suweinit towards the Palestinian city of Mukmas—biblical “Michmash.”  This is probably in the vicinity of “the pass” mentioned in 1 Samuel 14:4. — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

View looking north from the ridge on the south side of the Wadi Suweinit—from where Jonathan and his armor bearer began their two man attack—towards the Palestinian city of Mukmas—biblical “Michmash.”  Michmash/Mukmas is situated on the hill in the distance.  The bottom of the Wadi Suweinit is (out of view) just beyond the fence and grass in the foreground.

The slope down into and out of the wadi is steep but passable—and this area avoids the cliffs to the north and south of this “pass”—see the image of the Wadi Suweinit above.

Caesarea — No Longer Visible Rooms and Passages

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Part of the Labyrinth under the Peristyle Courtyard. Note the stone arch as well as fresco on the walls. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

In a visit to Caesarea Maritima almost all groups will visit the “Promontory Palace” that was evidently constructed by Herod the Great and used by his successors and Roman governors.  A portion of the Palace was built on a promontory that juts out into the Mediterranean Sea and features a rectangular pool that was surrounded by a portico.

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View looking northwest at the “Peristyle Courtyard. The rectangular courtyard is outlined by the columns. In the center the green shrubs cover the underground labyrinth. The “Promontory Palace” is not visible but is off the left side of the image.

To the east of the Promontory Palace is a connected Peristyle Courtyard (photo above) in which a copy of the famous “Pilate Inscription” is currently displayed.  To the north of the courtyard are administrative offices and an “audience hall.”   The “audience hall” may indeed have been the place where the Apostle Paul appeared before the governors Felix and Festus and King Herod Agrippa II ca. A.D. 58 (Acts 23–26).

What few people realize is that under the “garden” of the Peristyle Courtyard there is a labyrinth of passage ways and arches.  Below are two additional images of this substructure.  One wonders what these substructures were used for.  Storage?  Servants quarters?  Housing of prisoners?

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First Century Synagogue at Magdala — Did Jesus Worship Here?

In 2009, in preparation for the construction of a Franciscan Retreat Center on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, excavations took place before the construction began.  Much to the surprise of the excavators they came down upon a first century A.D. synagogue.

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The Interior of the First Century Synagogue at Magdala
Note the benches around the side, the frescoed columns, and especially the unique stone box in the center of the image
Click to Enlarge — Photo: Gordon Franz

The synagogue measures 33 x 33 ft. and has benches on all four walls.  There is evidence that it was renovated between A.D. 40 and 50.  A coin from A.D. 29 was found among the debris and the synagogue was destroyed in A.D. 67 when Titus (the Roman General, later emperor) leveled the city.

If this dating, and interpretation are correct, it is very probable that Jesus, His disciples, Mary Magdalene, and others worshiped in this structure!!

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The “Stone Box” in-situ
Note the representation of a Seven Branch Menorah (on a tripod) that is flanked by two vases and clusters of columns
Click on Image to Enlarge — Photo: Gordon Franz

This solid “stone box” is totally unique.  Who ever carved the menorah probably saw the ones in the Temple in Jerusalem (prior to its destruction in A.D. 70).

For brief comments on Magdala see below
For 12 images of the Stone Box, Frescos,
and Mosaics of the Synagogue Click Here.
Many of these images are courtesy of Gordon Franz who publishes
articles on his website Life and Land

The site of al–Majdal (Arabic for “tower”) is located 4 mi. northwest of Tiberias, along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.  This is evidently the site of New Testament Magdala (from migdol “tower”) that is the same as Taricheae (“the place of salted fish”) mentioned by Josephus where a bloody naval battle took place between the Jews and Romans during the first Jewish Revolt (ca. A.D. 66–70; War 3.10.1–10 [462–542]).

It was evidently the home of Mary Magdalene, one of the followers of Jesus who is mentioned 12 times in the NT.  It actually may also be the site of “Magadan: (Matt 15:39) and/or “Dalmanutha” (Mark 8:10).

The site was excavated in the 1970’s and more recent (ongoing) excavations have found the remains of an early Jewish Synagogue dated to the first century A.D. as well as ritual baths, streets, houses, and even the wharf.

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.

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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.