ONLY in Israel – Top 5

View Across the Dead Sea. Fun Joel Haber. Israel Tour Guide.

A View Over the Dead Sea from Mount Sodom

Frequently, you hear people comment “Only in Israel,” in response to various things they overhear or see here. Often, it is meant to try to capture some of the unique aspects of the character of the Israeli people. But as we all know, these things don’t only happen in Israel, even if they are somewhat demonstrative and capture the spirit of the country.

For that reason, however, I wanted to write a post about the things that you truly can only see in Israel. Nowhere else in the world. Tour guides typically speak in hyperbolic extremes. I know that I am certainly “guilty” of this at times. We’ll tell you how a spot is the highest, largest, newest or furthest south of its kind. But while those extremes may be interesting, and can be mildly significant, they rarely are very important. They are typically little more than gimmicks to maintain interest.

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Israel Mystery Photo #10

Another Israel Mystery Photo. Picture. Tourism. Tourguide. Tour Guide. Joel Haber. Fun Joel.

Look familiar? Many of you have seen this before! Guess where it is!

That time again… Another Israel Mystery Photo. This one is one that I think many of you have probably seen but perhaps didn’t look that closely at. So I look forward to seeing how many of you can recognize it, and also to telling you about it in the next Israel Mystery Photo post!

But what about last week’s mystery photo? Well, many fewer guesses, possibly due to how late I posted it. Benny, however, was correct — it was indeed the covering of Abraham’s tomb in Ma’arat HaMachpelah / The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. I bet Aaron is kicking himself for not recognizing that one; you were so close, dude, and yet didn’t quite get it!

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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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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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A Short History of the Land of Israel

A piece of Edomite glass (C 2100 years old) that I found on a dig in Beit Guvrin.

Last week’s and this week’s classes have both dealt with general overviews to the land of Israel, dealing with such things as roads, borders, broad history, and the like. I’ll break down some of the other information in a future post, but I thought it might be helpful for me to give you a brief history of the different periods of history that we encounter here. This way, if I later refer to something as taking place in a certain period, I can refer you back to this brief overview!

Some of these are broad eras that apply to all of civilization, and others are specific to this location. The latter is the case the more modern we get. Also, in some cases, the period may start at different times in different parts of the world. (For example, Muslim period begins at different times in different parts of this area, depending on when the Muslims conquered various lands.)

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