Israel Mystery Photo #9

Mystery Photo Israel tourism tour guide tourguide Fun Joel

Let's hear your guesses on this mystery photo!

Been a busy week for me, so I apologize for the delay on this Mystery Photo, but I hope that won’t ruin the momentum I’ve been building with these: more comments/guesses each week. Keep ’em coming gang! I love seeing your guesses on these!

I liked the responses to last week’s photo. A nice mix of correct answers, and almost correct answers. The picture was in fact from the baptistry of the Northern Church (more on that later) from the ancient Nabatean city of Avdat. Ilana was the first with the correct answer, and Aaron and Steven both got it right as well, with Steven giving the most complete and detailed answer. (By the way, for those who read Steven’s comment, stay tuned for a review post soon on the excellent materials from Biblical Backgrounds, his company.)

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Israel Mystery Photo #7

The next Israel Mystery Photo

Yet another mystery: where in Israel was THIS photo taken?

My previous Israel Mystery Photo seems to have struck a good balance. 2 correct answers, and one incorrect, but the incorrect was a decent guess from a first time commenter, Sharone. And Shmilty finally got a right answer! Happy for you buddy. Of course, Aaron once again got it right. That man is like a machine, I tell you.

But yes, the correct answer to last week’s photo was indeed the Tower of David in Jerusalem’s Old City.

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A Tour of Crusader Caesarea

Moat of Crusader City of Caesarea

The moat and walls of Caesarea's Crusader-era city.

When most people visit Caesarea, the beautiful Israeli coastal city between Netanya and Haifa, they focus on its history and archaeology in the Herodian (early Roman) and Byzantine periods. While most visitors walk right through the heart of the Crusader era city, they barely pay any attention to it. But the truth is that Caesarea has some of the best remains in Israel through which to gain an understanding of the architecture of the late Crusades, and of the impact that this slice of history had on the land of Israel.

I remember the first time I visited Caesarea (a few years ago), I started as most people do at the southern end of the National Park, near the Roman-era Theater. We toured through most of the Roman and Byzantine areas, and then approached a large, walled-in area. As we passed through the wall, I saw a large open space with lots of green grass. Inside of these walls I also found a number of stores and restaurants, which probably contributes to the area being overlooked within the archaeology at Caesarea. True, the walls are virtually impossible to miss. But when the inside has a lot of modern stores and eateries, it is easy to overlook the history, despite the benefits of this mix.

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Jerusalem’s Archaeological Surprises

archaeology, Malha, Malcha, Jerusalem, Israel, Middle Bronze, village, foundations

Malha Mall archaeological site -- a village from about 1800 BCE

Construction in Israel is always a difficult endeavor. In a country with as long a history as ours is, every time a spade or backhoe touches earth, there is the chance (or even the likelihood) that you will come across finds of archaeological significance. And when you do, construction grinds to a halt until the archaeologists can come in and examine the finds, determining whether they are significant, and whether construction can even continue there at all.

In recent years, building expansions have uncovered an ancient church at the site of a modern prison and an ancient cemetery near a hospital. In both cases, the building plans were halted until solutions could be found. Sometimes the archaeological site will be preserved at the location so people can see the finds in situ — where they were found, and construction will be abandoned. Other times, they will be covered and preserved underground, with the construction proceeding above the site. And sometimes the material will simply be removed and catalogued for later research.

I’ve recently visited a few of these types of sites, all within the boundaries of modern Jerusalem. It is yet another reason why I love living here. I am constantly surprised by the history and archaeology that you practically trip over every time you walk around this magnificent city.

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Sample 1-Day Jerusalem Itinerary

The Catholicon (Greek Orthodox sanctuary) of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

One of the fun things that I do as I prepare to become a tour guide in Israel is practice! It helps me learn to plan a tour, make it flow seamlessly and learn such things as timing, reading the audience, use of visual aids and organization of material. So it is really a very necessary aspect that, while not an official part of my tour guide studies, I still take quite seriously.

A few weeks ago, I took two women around for a day-long walking tour of the Old City of Jerusalem (mostly). They were two friends, one of whom was Jewish and one of whom was Christian, though neither was particularly religious. The Christian was here on her first trip to Israel, while the Jewish woman lives here, though not in Jerusalem. My goal for the day was to expose them to the sheer wealth of history that fills Jerusalem, as well as show them the diverse cultures and religions that are found here. Ultimately, I wanted them to see what a beautiful, complex and historic city I live in. I thought it might be interesting and useful to describe the itinerary we had for the day.

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What Is… A Cistern?

Not just a hole in the ground. A cistern opening on Givat Oz, in Gush Etzion.

With this post today, I am inaugurating a new feature on the blog. I decided to begin writing a series of short posts that define terms and ideas that come up frequently while touring Israel. Some are unique to this country, others are universal. But I figured it would be a good reference. To see all of the entries in this “lexicon” in the future, you will be able to simply click on the category. I am going to be adding the category to a previous post that I think fits in nicely as well.

That being said, on to this post’s topic: cisterns!

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Tour: Beit Guvrin-Maresha

The Columbarium Cave at Maresha

There are many sites in Israel that I still need to visit. Numerous places I’ve still not yet been to, and plenty of others that I haven’t seen in many, many years. So I can’t yet say what my “favorite” site in this country is.

However, there is one site that I’ve been to twice in the past year (once on a private tour, and then a couple of weeks ago with my course) that has quickly become one of my favorite sites. Beit Guvrin-Maresha is a great site to visit for so many reasons.

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Tour: The Mysteries of Ein Gedi Archaeology

The beautiful Dead Sea oasis of Ein Gedi. (Seen from Nahal Arugot.)

(Catching up on writing about the siyurim/tours we’ve had so far, this one is from a little over a month ago.)

When most people think of Ein Gedi, they think of a beautiful oasis sandwiched between the cliffs at the end of the Judean Desert and the highly saline Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth at 422 meters (1385 feet) below sea level. Popular images that spring to mind related to this oasis include gorgeous waterfalls, colorful flowers and delicate ibex bounding along sharp cliffs. Others might think of the date crops that were so closely connected with this area.

But what is somewhat less prominent, but still highly significant, is the wealth of interesting (and at times perplexing) archaeological finds within the Ein Gedi area. I wanted to highlight a couple of the archaeological sites that you might want to see on your next trip to the Ein Gedi park.

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Walking Through First Temple-Era Jerusalem

A piece of the wall that surrounded Jerusalem in the time of King Hezekiah.

Our siyur (tour) this past Tuesday started in my backyard, almost literally. We met at the Tayelet / Haas Promenade, a mere 5-minute walk from my apartment in beautiful Arnona, Jerusalem. This scenic outlook offers an excellent spot to view the geography of ancient Jerusalem. From there, we went to a semi-hidden and little known spot called Ketef Hinnom (Shoulder of Hinnom, a valley in Jerusalem), then hiked through Gei Ben-Hinnom / the Hinnom Valley, and came out at the bottom of Ir David / City of David. We spent the rest of the day winding our way up, down and back up again inside this complex and interesting archaeological site.

I am not going to go into too much detail about Ir David, especially since I already discussed it a bit in this post here, but I did want to discuss a few interesting points from throughout the day. I also want to discuss two recent news stories that relate to things we learned about.

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What’s a Tell?

Tel Beit Shemesh

No, I’m not talking about a poker tell. I’m talking about the kinds of tells that you hear about whenever your travel to Israel (or other parts of the Middle East). Tel Arad, Tel Be’er Sheva or Tel Maresha, for example.

(By the way, you may have noticed the change in spelling from “tell” to “tel.” If so, 10 points for you. More on that distinction later!)

So, what is a tell, anyway?

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