Nebi Musa

Driving from Jerusalem to Jericho or the Dead Sea there is a road sign with the words “Nebi Musa”, the prophet Moses. As the landscape flashes by outside your window you may be able to make out a low stone building with white domes that appears fleetingly between the hills. To explore further, take the exit and follow the curving road past a Muslim cemetery on the slope in the desert, an interesting location to photograph in black and white or color.

Nebi musa

Nebi Musa cemetery B&W

Nebi Musa cemetery 2 B&W

From this point you can look across the Jordan Valley and see Mount Nebo where according to the last chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses ascended the mountain to view the land of Israel, that he would never enter. According to Jewish tradition Moses died and was buried in an unknown valley in Moab; according to Christian tradition and some Muslim traditions, Moses was buried on the mountain. 

The Nebi Musa site off the Jerusalem-Jericho road goes back to 1269 when the Mamluk sultan Baybars built a small shrine setting a precedent for others. Over the late medieval period (between 1470 and 1480), accommodation for travelers was added next to the shrine. Gradually, the lookout point for Moses’ distant gravesite beyond the Jordan was confused with Moses’ tomb itself, laying the groundwork for the cultic importance of Nebi Musa to Muslims. Around 1820 the Ottoman Turks restored the buildings which had over the previous centuries fallen into a state of dilapidated disrepair.

The Turks promoted a festive pilgrimage to the shrine that goes back to the time of Saladin that coincides on the calendar with the Christian celebration of Easter. This ‘invention of tradition’, as such imaginative constructs are called, made the pageantry of the Nebi Musa pilgrimage a potent symbol of religious as well as political and national identity among Muslims from the outset of the modern period.

Nebi Musa 2

Nebi Musa Judean desert

Nebi Musa

Through My Lens, Textures

For a change, rather than taking photographs of objects, try textures. Here are some close-up photographs that I took focussing on the textures that you can find occurring in nature. Try to guess what the object is in the photograph and where it might have been taken – I’d be interested in your comments. All photos were taken in Israel with a Nikon DSLR with a 18-200mm lens.

Wavy texturePeratzim wavesThis is Nahal Peratzim, at the southern end of the Dead Sea, a great place for a moonlit hike.

Brush texturePeratzim bushAlso Nahal Peratzim, a dry bush at the entrance to the canyon forms the texture and color of an interesting photo.

Dead Sea textureDead SeaThe salt and pebbles firm these textures in the Dead Sea at Ein Boqeq. The dark line of land delineates the sea and the sky.

I also have some colorful photos from the Makhtesh HaKatan, Israel’s smallest erosion crater. For more photographs check out the PHOTOGRAPHY tab on the menu.

Wadi Qelt by Jericho

As you drive from Jerusalem down to the Dead Sea you pass close by Wadi Qelt at various points. To access it you can go to the nature reserve below Anatot, St. George Monastery or Herod’s Third Palace at Jericho. The palace was built on both sides of Wadi Qelt which during the winter rains flooded and made the palace appear to be floating on the water. Although Jericho is in AREA A, under the control of the Palestinian Authority and out-of-bounds to most Israelis by Israeli law as a tour guide licensed by Israel’s Ministry of Tourism I am authorized to guide there.

This photo was taken of Wadi Qelt from near the archaeological remains of the palace, looking east as it flows to the Dead Sea. The technical details, shot with a Nikon DSLR camera, ISO 1000, 18mm, F13 at 1/1250 sec.

Aside: I’ve also just published my latest blog post on Times of Israel. Check it out at http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/visit-palestine-with-a-guide/ and please share with your friends.

Wadi Qelt below Herod's 3rd palace

 

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Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in purchasing one of my photos or using one of my photos for your own project please contact me.

View from Herodium

Not more than a half hour drive from Jerusalem and you find yourself in an arid, biblical landscape with a view all the way to the Dead Sea. Looking back you can see the ridge of the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem with 3 landmark towers jutting above the horizon, the steeple of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Ascension, the bell tower of Augusta Victoria and the tower on the Hebrew University campus. You can read my first blog post in the Times of Israel about Jerusalem landmarks at http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/jerusalem-landmarks-montefiore-to-calatrava/.

Herodium is one of my favorite archaeological sites and when I guide we focus on the palace/fortress complex built by King Herod in about 20 BCE. But that is not to say that it’s not worth looking up and taking in the incredible view, a great place for taking photographs.

View from Herodium

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The technical details, shot with a Nikon DSLR camera, ISO 200, 31mm, F10 at 1/400 sec.

Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in purchasing one of my photos or using one of my photos for your own project please contact me.

Rosh Hashana 2014

Bowl of almondsThis week is Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. The upcoming year is special because it is a shmita year, a sabbatical year, the seventh year of the agricultural cycle where according to the Bible the land in Israel is to be left fallow. So in the next few days we are taking time to work in the small garden beside our house in Jerusalem, pruning the grape-vine and fruit trees, clearing the vegetable bed, harvesting, planting. At other times we can sit under our vine and fig tree as recounted in Micah 4:4.  We discovered and harvested the almonds on our almond tree. Our pomegranates are ripe in time for the holiday.

Maya Pomegranate Sumsum

It wasn’t the easiest year. The fighting between Israel and Hamas caused a sharp drop in tourism, I had some cancellations and only one day of guiding over the summer. We had two sons who were in Gaza with their army units. But now tourists are coming back and I’m guiding.

We wish you dear friends, subscribers, readers of my blog, would-be clients, travelers to Israel, pilgrims, a Shana Tova, a very good year. May your year be as full as a pomegranate with blessings, health and happiness.

Photo of the Week – Zavitan on Golan

Because Israel is a small country (the size of New Jersey) the relatively large expanse of the Golan makes it one of my favorite areas and it is a great place for hiking. One of my favorite hikes was Nahal Yehudia but that trail was closed and only a shorter section of it recently reopened. So when clients were looking for a place to hike I chose Nahal Zavitan, also a great place for photographs. This is a photo taken just past the hexagonal columns on the trail where it opens onto a small pool.

Nahal Zavitan on Golan

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The technical details, shot with a Lumix point and shoot camera, ISO 80, 4.1mm, F4 at 1/320 sec.

Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in purchasing one of my photos or using one of my photos for your own project please contact me.

Sodom Apple

If you do a tour with me in the area of the Judean desert I can show you an interesting flowering plant called the Sodom Apple (Calotropis procera).

Sodom Apple flowers

The plant occurs throughout the tropical belt and is native to North Africa, Western and South Asia, and as far as Indochina and the West Indies.

Sodom AppleThe Jewish Roman  historian describes the plant “which fruits have a color as if they were fit to be eaten, but if you pluck them with your hands, they dissolve into smoke and ashes.” The “apple”, a green soft globe, is filled mostly with air and some fine fibers and seeds. The plant is also mentioned in the Mishna but though the fibers can be used as wicks, they are not permissible for use on the Sabbath. The flesh contains a toxic milky sap that is extremely bitter and contains a complex mix of chemicals, some of which are steroidal heart poisons known as “cardiac aglycones”.