A Tour of Wineries in Eretz Binyamin / Samaria

Tanya Winery vinyeards. Ofra. Fun Joel Israel Tour Guide.

The vineyards of Tanya Winery in Ofra

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting five different wineries with some other tour guides and friends. The wineries were all located in the region of Eretz Binyamin — the area that was designated in the Bible for the tribe of Benjamin. Today it is part of the region known as Samaria, and there are at least 7 or 8 wineries in this small part of the hill country, a mere 25 miles or so apart. But before I get into the wineries themselves, I want to talk briefly about Israeli wines overall.

I love the story of the wine industry in Israel. Clearly one of the oldest and most famous industries in the land, winemaking was always an important identifying feature of Israel. Images, for example, of the spies sent by Moses to explore the land of Canaan, and their reports of giant grape clusters spring to mind. In fact, that very image is the logo of both Israel’s Ministry of Tourism and the largest wine producer in the country — Carmel Wineries.

However, with the arrival of Muslim rule, which lasted for about 1100 of the 1300 years prior to the 20th Century, Israeli wines virtually disappeared. Since Muslims are prohibited from drinking wine, virtually all Israeli wine production ceased, with perhaps a minor resurgence during the 200-year period of Crusader rule in the land (1099-1291, with periods of Muslim rule inside that time frame as well).

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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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