2013 Year in Review

First day of the new year, a good time to take a few moments to review the year. It also marks 6 years that I have been guiding and blogging. This year I became authorized to guide tourists in areas of the Palestinian Authority, specifically Bethlehem and Jericho. I added 94 new blog posts (55 the previous year) for a total of 281, that’s a lot of information and photographs (over 1000 images).

There were 85,310 page views this year (77,379 page views last year), up 10.3%. There are currently 258 people who have subscribed to my blog (140 last year) and I use WordPress Publicize to automatically push every new post to 262 people on Facebook. I have a Facebook page, Israel Tours. I tweet when there’s something I want to share that doesn’t warrant a full post; the most recent tweets appear on the homepage.

I was quoted in the New York Times article about the Herod the Great exhibit. I was invited to write an article for a UK travel magazine as an Israel expert. I guided a team from the BBC who were doing a tour of the Holy Land in the footsteps of Edward Prince of Wales and his official photographer Francis Bedford.

Here are the links to this year’s posts in case you missed some:

  1. Negev - I’m thinking about the Negev. The Negev covers some 13,000 km² (4,700 sq mi) and makes up more than 55% of Israel’s land area. Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister and statesman, saw the Negev as the key to a viable Israel. He joined Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev in 1970, lived the last 3 years […]
  2. Photo of the Week – Wadi Qelt - There are deserts in Israel and exploring them with a guide is a special experience. If you’re interested in photography, you will get some great photo opportunities. In the Negev I’d recommend the Large Makhtesh and the Small Makhtesh, unique geological forms and farther south the mountains around Eilat. For an area close to Jerusalem the area […]
  3. Photo of the Week – Flowers in Judean Desert - The Dead Sea and Judean desert are just a half hour drive down the hill from Jerusalem making it very accessible. It is the lowest place on earth, 409 meters below sea level, an area bordered by mountains on both sides in a desert with running water and in one area geothermal springs. I drove down this week […]
  4. Jerusalem under Snow - Some tourists may be surprised to have woken up this morning to Jerusalem covered in a blanket of snow and unprepared for the colder temperatures of a Jerusalem winter. A local guide can ensure that you are prepared, keep warm and find places to go no matter what the weather. This morning was bright and sunny […]
  5. The Enigma that is Herodium - Today I was at Herodium with clients. As we descended into the bowl of the upper fortress/palace I noticed a group of workers sitting eating lunch in front of the wooden doors to the excavations taking place in the staircase. I immediately recognized Roi Porat and Yakov Kalman who had been in charge of the […]
  6. Through My Lens, Dead Sea - The Dead Sea is located at the lowest point on earth, part of the Great African Rift valley, in the crack in the earth’s crust created when Asia and Africa were torn apart five million years ago. Yesterday we drove down to the Dead Sea from Jerusalem for a relaxing day. We chose Mineral Beach […]
  7. Photo of the Week – Sunset at Large Makhtesh - In Israel’s Negev desert are three examples of a geological formation unique to this area, the makhtesh. You can go off-road and explore it by jeep or hike in the makhtesh but a paved road gives easy access to travelers. Highway <228> from Yeruham crosses the Large Makhtesh and highway <40> a scenic route drops 250 meters and traverses Makhtesh Ramon […]
  8. A Glimpse of the Tomb of Moses - 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 […]
  9. 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 […]
  10. 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 […]
  11. 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 […]
  12. Rosh Hashana 2014 - This 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 […]
  13. 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. […]
  14. 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). 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. The Jewish Roman  historian describes the plant “which fruits have a color […]
  15. Tiberias from 1st Century to Ottoman Conquest - The city of Tiberias is on the western side of the Sea of Galilee. it was Herod Antipas, one of the sons of Herod the Great, who inherited the areas of Galilee and Perea and ruled as tetrarch. The boys took after their father, Antipas built the city of Tiberias as his capital in 18 CE on an existing settlement, […]
  16. Hiking the Makhtesh - Even from space Makhtesh Ramon appears as a masterpiece of the spirit of the earth. (from Space Shuttle Columbia monument) This week I did a very nice 13 km hike in the Har HaNegev reserve to Har Ramon, the highest mountain in the Negev at 1037 meters above sea level. After the winter rains we saw many plants […]
  17. Magdala on Sea of Galilee - Magdala Nunayya (Magdala of the fishes) was an important Jewish city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee established during the Hasmonean period, centuries before neighboring Tiberias. In Christian tradition, it is the birthplace of Mary Magdalene and where Jesus went after he fed the five thousand (Mark 8:10). Q: What do you […]
  18. Gustav Bauernfeind and Orientalism - Orientalism refers to the depiction or imitation of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers and artists, and can also imply a sympathetic stance towards the region. Since the 1979 publication of Edward Said‘s book Orientalism, the term has arguably taken on a pejorative meaning, becoming shorthand for prejudiced views towards cultures of the East. Said […]
  19. Photo of the Negev - The Negev is one of the quintessential areas of Israel. When visiting you should plan some time in the Negev, which makes up 60% of Israel’s land area. Ben Gurion was the visionary that realized the importance of the Negev to Israel’s future. Near Sde Boker, the final resting place of David Ben Gurion, is Ein […]
  20. Sunset in the Desert - The makhtesh, the Hebrew word for mortar, is the geographic term for an erosion cirque. Unique to the Negev and Sinai deserts, a makhtesh has steep walls of resistant rock (limestone and dolomite) surrounding a deep closed valley that was created when the core of softer rock (in this case colored sandstone)  was eroded and carried […]
  21. Trees, Almond and Tu Bish’vat - With the advent of Tu Bish’vat, the new year of trees next Thursday, I am happy to present this excerpt from The Natural Bible by Baruch Sienna about trees and the almond tree that is the harbinger of spring in Israel. Introduction to Trees From the very first trees planted at creation and the Garden […]
  22. Silver shekel coins - The silver shekel and half shekel are significant coins for both Jews and Christians as they are mentioned in the Bible. The Hebrew word shekel refers to weight (a shekel is 11 grams or .35 troy ounces) or currency, in fact, it has the same root as the Hebrew to weigh, שקל. In practice, the […]
  23. 2013 Year in Review - First day of the new year, a good time to take a few moments to review the year. It also marks 6 years that I have been guiding and blogging. This year I became authorized to guide tourists in areas of the Palestinian Authority, specifically Bethlehem and Jericho. I added 94 new blog posts (55 the […]
  24. Roman Amphitheaters in Israel - An amphitheater is an open-air venue, oval or circular in shape, used for entertainment, performances, and sports (think sports stadium today, not to be confused with a Roman theater which is semicircular). The term derives from the ancient Greek ἀμφιθέατρον (amphitheatron), from ἀμφί (amphi), meaning “on both sides” or “around” and θέατρον (théātron), meaning “place for viewing”. Originally built from the Imperial […]
  25. Reflection on Ein Avdat - Busy guiding. Today one of the places we visited was Ein Avdat. I’m always interested in capturing reflections of a landscape and the pool at Ein Avdat is a classic, you can see some photos here. This is a reflection at another place in the canyon. Photo was taken with my iPhone 4. This is […]
  26. Nahal Prat or Wadi Qelt - Nahal Prat (nahal: נחל=stream bed) or Wadi Qelt (wadi: وادي‎=valley) flows from west to east across the northern Judean Desert, from near Jerusalem to Jericho, a distance of 28 km, from 770 meters above sea level to where it flows into the Jordan River at 395 m below sea level. Hiking trails follow the stream bed, […]
  27. Guiding in the Snow - Thursday it started snowing in Jerusalem and I went for a run on a trail behind the Jerusalem Biblical zoo. Took these two photos that I’ve entitled “Green and red in the Snow”. Friday it snowed most of the day and I guided a group of university students from California in the Old City. Most […]
  28. Golan Heights Tour - The Golan Heights, Israel’s mountainous north-eastern region, is one of the most beautiful areas of the country. In the Golan, rather than desert, we have streams and waterfalls. There are also numerous archeological sites and ancient synagogues dating back to the Roman and Byzantine periods, evidence of flourishing Jewish communities in the area going back 2000 […]
  29. Cranes at the Hula - The months of November-December are when thousands of Common Cranes stop over at the Hula Lake in northern Israel on their migratory path from Europe and Asia (the heart of the breeding population for the species is in Russia) to its wintering sites in northern Africa, the river valleys of Sudan, Ethiopia, Tunisia and Eritrea. The best place to see and photograph them in Israel is […]
  30. Autumn on Mount Hermon - Last week, on a crisp autumn day up on the Golan, I had the opportunity to visit the Hermon and take these photos. Mount Hermon is actually a cluster of mountains extending for about 150 km in a northeast-southwest direction with three distinct summits that straddle the border between Syria and Lebanon. The southern slopes of Mount Hermon extend to the Golan Heights and […]
  31. A Look into Loggia at Herodium - At the Herod exhibit at the Israel museum there is a room that is a reconstruction of the loggia, the VIP box from the Herodium theater with its colorful panels on the lower part of the wall and above on light-colored plaster, unique paintings in secco, trompe de l’oeil views through an open window. Secco is a technique that requires less artisan […]
  32. Sinkholes at Dead Sea - Sinkholes have appeared on the Israeli and Jordanian shoreline of the Dead Sea as the water level recedes. The first sinkholes appeared in 1980, there were 40 in 1990 and there are more than 5500 today. Fresh water from runoff dissolves the salt in the newly uncovered salt-laden earth creating an empty cavern. When the […]
  33. Photographing Wildlife at Ein Gedi - These two wildlife photos were taken on a hike in Nahal Arugot in the Ein Gedi Nature reserve. Nahal David is the more popular, family oriented part of the reserve which makes Arugot great for a more off the beaten track outing, less crowded and great for photographers. If you follow the stream bed to […]
  34. Passion Flower - There are about 500 species of Passiflora. The Passiflora plant is widespread – nine species are native to the USA, species are found in South America, Eastern and Southern Asia, New Guinea, four or more species in Australia and a single endemic species in New Zealand – it is not native to Israel but grows happily here. This one, Passiflora edulis, is a vine with exotic looking purple and […]
  35. Israel Roundup - Israel Antiquities Authority Archives Digitized The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) is working on publishing a database of their archives, many of whose documents are suffering from disintegration because of poor paper quality and poor storage facilities in the past. The documents include 19th century letters on excavations at the City of David, plans for the restoration of the Church of […]
  36. Gedaliah at Mizpa - Today is the Jewish Fast of Gedaliah in which we remember the assassination in the town of Mizpa, in about 582 BCE, of the Babylonian appointed Jewish governor of Judah. Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shafan and many of his followers were murdered by ten men led by Ishmael son of Nethaniah of the Davidic line […]
  37. Pomegranate for Rosh Hashana - This evening is Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. One of the things that I love about living in Israel is that the Jewish holidays fit the seasons and the country. The pomegranates are ripening on the trees in our garden just in time for the holiday. So to all, subscribers, readers of my blog, would-be […]
  38. Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea - Although Israel is a small country it has about 200 km of Mediterranean coastline. There are many places along the coast where you can stand and look out to sea. In this post I’ve included 5 photographs of the sea, along the coast, from Ashkelon, Ashdod, Caesarea, HaBonim and Atlit – same sea but different geological […]
  39. Jerusalem Landmarks, Montefiore to Calatrava - A landmark is an object or feature of a landscape or place that is easily seen and recognized at a distance, especially one that enables someone to establish their location. As a photographer one of the things that I often do is look at a scene and choose a feature that is interesting, that stands […]
  40. Through My Lens at Israel Museum - Here is this week’s series of photos, week #3, of different views of Israel Through my Lens. These photos were taken at the Israel museum, Israel’s leading cultural institution and one of the leading encyclopedic museums of the world. The museum has nearly 500,000 objects of fine art, archaeology, Judaica and Jewish ethnography, representing the history […]
  41. Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways - I read photographer Jeff Sinon’s post Photography 101: Finding the Best Shot in which he discusses whether to shoot a scene in landscape (horizontally) or portrait (vertically). I tend to use many of my photographs of sites in Israel on my website and I find that horizontal photos fit better on my web page. But […]
  42. Hisham’s Palace in Jericho - The Umayyads ruled from Damascus but built a number of palace complexes in this area – we have found ruins of their palaces in Jerusalem, at the southern corner of the Western wall and at Khirbet al-Minya, on the Sea of Galilee beside Karei Deshe. One of the most impressive sites from the Umayyad period […]
  43. Flora of Israel – Broomrape - Broomrape (Cistanche tubulosa) is a flowering plant that grows in arid areas in Israel – I’ve seen them in the Large Makhtesh, Judean desert and while hiking the Israel trail north of Eilat. They are recognizable by a 30cm spike of densely packed yellow flowers. When they are not flowering, no part of the plant is […]
  44. A Different Stretch of Beach - Last year I focused mostly on landscapes of Israel, this year the photos will show different aspects of Israel, captured Through my Lens. These photos were taken on a hike from Caesarea along the coast northwards to Dor near Jisr al-Zarqa, an Israeli Arab town. You don’t find a scene like this, a horse pulling […]
  45. Photo of the Week – Mediterranean Sky - Israel is a very small country (about the size of the state of New Jersey) but has access to the Red Sea at Eilat and about 200 km of Mediterranean coastline with some great beaches. This photo was taken at the beach at Ashdod. This photo is number 52, one for each week of the […]
  46. Photo of the Week – Dead Sea Colors - The area of the Dead Sea, less than a two-hour drive from Jerusalem, has a lot of photo opportunities – mountains, dry waterfalls, pools with waterfalls, sinkholes. This photo is an image of the Dead Sea taken standing at the shore facing Jordan at the end of a day of guiding. Israeli photographer, David Rubinger (it’s […]
  47. Matthaus Frank and German Colony - Just recently I received an email from Australia commenting on my German Colony tour. I am a descendant of Matthaus Frank, he is my great-grandfather, and I was hoping you could send me, via email, information on him as I have very little knowledge about him to pass on to my daughters. Thank you in advance, […]
  48. Photo of the Week – Nahal Peratzim - A popular day trip from Jerusalem is to do Masada and Ein Gedi and then end the day with a float in the Dead Sea. I guided a family on this route last week. In thinking about it I want to suggest a different Judean desert trip. Visit the pools and waterfalls at Ein Gedi […]
  49. Photo of the Week – Red Canyon Colors and Textures - When driving down to Eilat you can turn off of highway <90> and drive along highway <12> that runs along the border with Egypt. There’s a great family hike on the way, watch for Wadi Shani and hike the Red Canyon. This photo was taken at the entrance to the canyon. Clicking on the image […]
  50. Flora of Israel – Mandrake - There are two places I have found clumps of mandrake (Mandragora autumnalis) or dudaim in bloom, Neot Kedumim, the Biblical Landscape Reserve and Khirbet Midras; they can also be found at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens in the Mediterranean section, blooming in December/January. Mandrakes are mentioned in two places in the Bible, in Genesis and Song of Songs, suggesting that it is […]
  51. Photo of the Week – Gamla - Situated in the southern part of the Golan, Gamla was built on a mountain shaped like a camel’s hump, from which it derives its name. The steep ravines precluded the need to build a wall except along the town’s eastern edge, as seen in this photo. The technical details – the photo was taken with a […]
  52. Photo of the Week – Tel Arad - Tel Arad is an Iron Age city in the Negev desert. This week’s photo is of the ruins of a major fortress built on the top of the hill to protect Israel’s southeast border and the Negev trade routes. In the northwestern corner of the citadel, an Israelite temple with three rooms was discovered, made up […]
  53. Flora of Israel – Caper - Whether growing in the cracks of the Western Wall or in the Judean desert, in places like Ein Gedi, people are surprised when I point out this bush and they learn that it is a caper bush (Capparis spinosa) and that the flower buds are the capers that they’ve eaten pickled in salads or with salmon. […]
  54. Bethlehem - Bethlehem is a city in the Palestinian Authority with a population of 21,947 and another about 25,000 in the neighboring towns of Beit Sahour and Beit Jalla. The majority (72%) in the district are Muslim today. Christians in Bethlehem constitute less than 15% of the population (Fifty years ago, Christians made up more than 70% […]
  55. Photo of the Week – Nitzana - Nitzana is an ancient Nabataean city in the southwest Negev desert in Israel close to the Egyptian border. It may have been a camel caravansary on the eastern branch of the ancient Spice Route, serving pilgrims and merchants travelling to Sinai. This week’s photo shows the remains of the German-Turkish hospital (1906-1917) built on ruins of a Byzantine fort at Nitzana. The technical details – the photo […]
  56. Israel Roundup - Rockefeller Museum Although few visit, the historic Rockefeller museum in Jerusalem is definitely worth a visit. A blend of western and local eastern architecture, combining historic architecture with modern innovations, the museum was built in 1938, during the Mandate period by the British architect St. Barbe Harrison. In the main hall is a model of […]
  57. Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth - The Church of the Annunciation has a long history. In the middle of the 4th century, a shrine with altar was built in the cave in which Mary had lived. Emperor Constantine commissioned a larger structure when his mother, Helena, visited the Holy Land to discover the locations of and commemorate important events in Jesus’ life. The Church of the […]
  58. Nazareth - Nazareth is the largest Arab city in Israel with a population of about 75,000 of whom 69% are Muslim and 30.9% are Christian, mostly Orthodox, but including Maronites, Roman Catholic, Melkite Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Evangelicals and Copts. In the New Testament, the city is described as the childhood home of Jesus, and hence is a center of Christian pilgrimage, with many shrines commemorating […]
  59. Photo of the Week – Judean Desert - Solitude in the Judean desert – for visitors today as for monks and prophets. This image reminds me of Genesis chapter 1 where God made the firmament that He called heaven on the second day and then God said “… let the dry land appear and it was so. And God called the dry land […]
  60. Prince of Wales Pine Tree - I was visiting with friend and fellow tour guide, Tom Powers, in Bethlehem and we were talking about our interest in photography and what you can learn by comparing photographs taken 100 years ago or more with the same scene today. I mentioned Francis Bedford’s photographs from Edward, Prince of Wales visit to this area […]
  61. Christian Pilgrim Itinerary (9 days) - If you are interested in experiencing the Holy Land as a Christian pilgrim I am happy to work with you to create a personalized tour. Here is a sample 9 day itinerary with visits to religious and archaeological sites with time for prayer and reflection. We will visit the trinity of cities: Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem and […]
  62. Photo of the Week – Ibex - When hiking in the Ein Gedi nature reserve keep your eyes open for hyrax, Tristram grackle and ibex. As I was coming out of the reserve a group of some forty ibex went by. Their color blends into the cliff side but I caught this one as it climbed over the hill. The technical details […]
  63. Photo of the Week – Heron at Kinneret - I’ve been guiding in the north, around the Sea of Galilee and caught this heron on the lake in the morning. The technical details – the photo was taken with a Nikon DSLR camera (ISO 1000, 200mm, F13 at 1/1000 sec). Please share this post with your friends by clicking on the icons at the […]
  64. Photo of the Week – View from Herodium - I guided a group today on my Herod the Great Tour visiting Herodium and then the monumental Herod exhibit at the Israel museum. This photo is one I took from the top of the man-made mountain at Herodium looking east towards Jordan. It’s quite amazing that on a clear day you can see as far […]
  65. Mosaics at Bet Qama - Israel Antiquities Authority reported on excavations it is carrying out prior to construction of the extension of highway 6 north of Beersheva. Remains of a settlement that extends across more than six dunams were uncovered in the excavation being conducted in the fields of Kibbutz Bet Qama. The site seems to have consisted of a […]
  66. Visit Palestine with Shmuel - Walking through the Arab shuq you might notice graphic posters displayed in a number of shops. Perhaps one of the most striking says VISIT PALESTINE with a graphic of the Haram el-Sharif. Two of the most popular places to visit in Palestine are Bethlehem and Jericho. I am now authorized to guide there so you […]
  67. Photo of the Week – Dancing Clouds - This photo was taken at the end of the first day of hiking the Israel trail from Eilat. It is one of those less common landscapes because it was shot vertically to get more sky in the image. The technical details – the photo was taken with a Lumix point and shoot camera on February […]
  68. Israel Roundup - The Spring 2013 edition of ARTIFAX magazine is available – my photo graces the cover and the lead article, Herod’s Magnificent Obsessions, is my description of the Herod exhibit at the Israel Museum, with my photographs. Dead Sea and Mount Everest Two pieces of stone from the area of Israel’s Dead Sea, formed into a two-foot […]
  69. Bethesda Pool and Church of Santa Anna - Near Lion’s Gate is a large wooden door that gives access to the White Fathers’ compound and one of my favorite sites in Jerusalem’s Old City – Bethesda pools and the Church of Santa Anna. Mary (mother of Jesus) was born to Anna and Joachim who lived near the Bethesda pools.  Because Jerusalem is on […]
  70. Photo of the Week – Banias Stream - Last week I was guiding on the Golan, the weather was glorious and we hiked to the Banias waterfall in the Mount Hermon (Banias) nature reserve. If you haven’t been there for a while, the parks authority has installed a wooden walkway where you walk just above the Banias stream. FYI, the same admission fee […]
  71. Tzfat Synagogues - Visitors who are impressed with the architecture and style of the churches in the Holy Land often ask to see similar synagogues. When in Tzfat it’s worth visiting some of the synagogues. The Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue The synagogue was built in the sixteenth century on the northern edge of the Sephardic neighborhood by Spanish exiles […]
  72. Expert Travel Recommendations Israel - I was contacted for an article in a UK magazine on travel to Israel. This is what they say about Israel: Get the insiders’ guide to Israel from those who know it best. There’s nothing like first-hand experience. But if you can’t get it, then the second best thing is to borrow someone else’s. And when it […]
  73. Photo of the Week – Poleg beach - Israel has a Mediterranean coastline of 187 kilometres from Rosh HaNikra, the border with Lebanon in the north to Gaza in the south,  with some very nice beaches. Israeli photographer, David Rubinger, says that when you want to take a photo the best camera is the one you have with you. This photo is from the […]
  74. Crusader Jerusalem - A reader asked me to post something about the Crusaders in Jerusalem. I am happy to and also to lead tours focussing on the Crusader period. Raymond of Aguilers, who wrote a chronicle of the First Crusade (1096–1099), relates that on the morning of June 7, 1099, the Crusaders reached the summit of Nebi Samuel, […]
  75. Photo of the Week – Negev Brigade Monument - On a hill to the east of the city of Beersheba in the Negev desert is a monument in concrete by Israeli sculptor, Dani Karavan. The memorial is to the soldiers of the Palmach’s Negev Brigade who died in the 1948 Arab Israeli war. This photo is a closeup of one of the 18 sculptural parts that […]
  76. Yom HaZikaron to Yom HaAtzmaut - Today is Yom HaAtzmaut, when we celebrate Israel’s independence and Ben Gurion’s declaration establishing the state of Israel. Yom HaZikaron, where we remember our fallen soldiers, is the day before Yom HaAtzmaut. Israel is the only country I know that puts these two days together. In Israel’s wars, 23,085 soldiers have died and there isn’t […]
  77. Photo of the Week – Golan - You begin to experience the Golan hikes as soon as you begin climbing the serpentine highway from the Sea of Galilee (212 meters below sea level) to the basaltic plateau at an average height of 1000 meters above sea level created by volcanic eruption 4 million years ago. There is a nice overlook above Hamat […]
  78. Photo of the Week – Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) - The Sea of Galilee, called the Kinneret in Hebrew, is the lowest freshwater lake in the world at an elevation of 212 meters below sea level, part of the Great African Rift. It is 21 km by 13 km with a circumference of 53km – I’d be happy to take you on a tour around the lake by bicycle. This […]
  79. From the Golan Heights - Yesterday I was up on the southern Golan Heights near Kibbutz Meitsar, less than 2 km from the border with Syria and looking east at the point where Israel, Syria and Jordan touch. The Rokad river valley separates Israel from Syria – the ridge in the middle of the photograph below is in Syria and the […]
  80. Photo of the Week – Makhtesh - The Makhtesh HaKatan (Small Makhtesh) is the smallest (about 5km x 7km) of 3 makhteshim, a geological land formation in the Negev desert, known also as an erosion cirque. This photo was taken from the rim, looking down into the makhtesh. You can click on the image for a larger view (which may take some time to […]
  81. Photo of the Week – Dead Sea Works Moonrise - Highway <90> is a scenic road that runs along the western shore of the Dead Sea to Eilat. If you are driving at night the Dead Sea Works (DSW) appears like a mirage in the desert, like some alien space station of lights and structures. Because the Dead Sea is incredibly rich in minerals, sodium, potassium, calcium, bromine, […]
  82. Wildflowers in Judean Desert - After the winter rainy season is a great time to get out and tour the land of Israel. The Judean desert is a half hour from Jerusalem, in fact, it is sometimes called the Jerusalem desert, because the city is on the edge of the desert. A great way to explore the Judean desert is […]
  83. Mar Saba and Judean Desert Revisited - I received an email a few weeks ago from Kevin with the BBC in England that he gave me permission to share here. Dear Shmuel, I’m producing  a BBC radio series, presented by the British broadcaster John McCarthy. We have been commissioned by BBC Radio 4 to make a series of ten 15 minute programmes […]
  84. Photo of the Week – Dor Habonim beaches - This photo is at sunset at one of my favorite Israeli, Mediterranean coast beaches. Just south of Haifa called Hof Habonim, it is part of a coastal nature reserve under the Israel Parks Authority. There are two natural lagoons protected by natural rock jetties, picturesque and calm. The technical details – the photo was taken […]
  85. Camels in the Bible - The image displayed below “Ploughing with Camel and Cow” is a scanned copy of a small gelatine silver print (probably from the mid-1920s) of an American Colony photograph taken between 1898 and 1911 and published by Fr. Vester & Co. whose shop was in Jerusalem, just inside Jaffa Gate. The photograph shows a ploughing scene […]
  86. Photo of the Week – Tumulus in Negev - In a hike in the Negev, in the area of Mount Arkov (across the road from Avdat) to see the rock drawings and tulips in bloom, I took this photo of a tumulus, a mound of stones raised over a grave. The tumulus and rock drawings or petroglyphs may be from early hunter-gatherers, dated to […]
  87. Nebi Samuel - Overlooking the ancient route from Beit Horon to Jerusalem (today highway <436>) is a tree-covered, limestone mountain (885 meters high) that gets its name from the Hebrew prophet Samuel who according to Judaism, Christianity and Islam is buried there. Another tradition, supported by archaeological evidence, is that this site is Mizpeh, where Samuel anointed Saul, […]
  88. Photo of the Week – Geomorphology - Geomorphology is the is the scientific study of landforms and the processes that shape them. My teacher, Menahem Marcus called it פיסול הנוף, the sculpting of the landscape by surface processes that comprise the action of water, wind, ice, fire, and living things on the surface of the Earth. This photo of a natural pool in Wadi Qelt, itself a stream bed […]
  89. Photo of the Week – Look over Jordan - The Great Rift valley is a unique geographical formation, a crack in the earth’s crust that runs approximately 6000 km from Mozambique to northern Syria. The section from the Dead Sea to the Sea of Galilee is called the Jordan Rift valley and separates Israel from Jordan. This photo was shot in the late afternoon, looking east towards […]
  90. Israel Roundup - ARTIFAX magazine and The Book & The Spade radio program have published the Top Ten Discoveries in Biblical Archaeology in 2012. At #3 is a First Temple period cistern with a 250 cubic meter capacity that was discovered by chance during the ongoing clearing of the drainage channel near Robinson’s arch. Press release at http://www.antiquities.org.il/article_Item_eng.asp?sec_id=25&subj_id=240&id=1958&module_id=#as Found while sifting material from City […]
  91. Euthemius, Judean Desert Monastery - The history of the third monastery of Euthemius, which bears his name, illustrates the history of Christian monasticism in the Judean desert. Young monks were drawn to the holy Euthemius and the monastery became the most important and central among the Byzantine monasteries in the 5th century CE. Euthemius came to the Holy Land as […]
  92. Photo of the Week – Kurkar on Beach - Running parallel to the Mediterranean coastline of Israel are three underwater sandstone ridges (and two on land). These were created about a million years ago when sea sand dunes fossilized, creating eolianite rock, called kurkar. You can click on the image for a larger view (which may take some time to load depending on your […]
  93. Herod – Design and Realpolitik - The New York Times article reporting on the Herod exhibit at the Israel Museum concludes with my comments. Shmuel Browns, a tour guide and expert on Herodium who helped Netzer excavate the site as a volunteer, said he was awed by the meticulous reconstruction, particularly of a large basin adorned with several heads that was […]
  94. Herodium, Netzer, King Herod and the Israel Museum - Each day we rose before dawn and the unrelenting desert heat to continue digging east of the monumental staircase. In the summer of 2007, after Professor Netzer had discovered the base of the mausoleum, I volunteered at the archaeological site at Herodium. Among seas of pottery shards, we dug up baseball-sized stones hurled by a Roman […]
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