This post is to announce the completion in 2022 of the restoration work and building of a walkway and roof over the ruins of the hammam at Hisham’s palace in Jericho at an estimated cost of $11.4 million with financial support from Japan. Covered since 1930, the mosaic floor of the hammam or bathhouse is now displayed in all it’s glory. It is one of the largest mosaics discovered, measuring 827 square meters in 38 panels, in 21 colors with a total of 7 million tesserae. The mosaics are mostly complex geometric designs, here are some photographs of the newly uncovered mosaics.
The palace gets its name from one of the sons of Abd el-Malik who built the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Hisham (who ruled from 723-743) because of an inscription containing his name, in ink on a marble slab, found at the site by archaeologist Dmitry Baramki. Based on the artwork in mosaic and stucco including human figures that decorated the palace, Robert Hamilton who was Director of Antiquities at the time under the British argued that the palace was a residence of al-Walid b. al-Yazid (ruled 743-744), a nephew of Hisham who was well-known for his extravagant lifestyle.
With the uncovering of the incredible 7th century Ummayad mosaic floor, Hisham’s Palace has become a must-see site and I would be happy to take you there on your next visit. The stucco was mostly removed from the site under the British and can be viewed at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem.
Not every guide can take you “off the beaten track” and show you things that you couldn’t have any idea that you could find in Israel. But I can. Between Covid-19 lockdowns in Israel (and we had 3) I took the opportunity to travel the country, finding new sites, refreshing familiar sites and exploring off the beaten track (I mean really off the beaten track) so I’m even a better guide.
Tour #1 Hyrcania and Mar Saba monastery
We drove with Yeti off road in the Judean desert to the foot of a mountain fortress called Hyrcania and then we climbed to the top (~200 meters).
Built by John Hyrcanus (134 to 104 BCE) or his son Alexander Jannaeus it was inherited by Herod and notorious as a place where he imprisoned and killed his enemies, even his own son and heir Antipater. Josephus relates that, along with Machaerus (east of Dead Sea in present day Jordan across from Mitzpe Shalem) and Alexandrion/Dok (both on our bucket list!), Hyrcania was one of three fortresses that queen Salome Alexandra did not give up when she handed control of her strongholds over to the Pharisees.
The water system for the Hyrcania fortress is on the western side, a Herodian period upper aqueduct and a later Byzantine lower aqueduct bringing water to more than a dozen cisterns cut into the mountain. In building the fortress the area was quarried for stone and three large rectangular holes cut out of the bedrock were left, used as swimming pools and reservoirs! So Herod!
In the quiet of this desert some 500 year later in the Byzantine period Sabbas the Sanctified founded a cenobium called Castellion on the mountain top on which Hyrcania sat, part of the satellite community associated with the monastery at Mar Saba 4 km to the southwest.
I’m looking forward to your next visit. I hope I’ll see you soon – I’ll be ready.
The last time it snowed in Jerusalem was February 2015 and I wrote about it here.
Headed out early this morning to take photographs of the snow that had fallen overnight. Idea was to check whether Herodion was covered with snow but it quickly became apparent that there hadn’t been enough snow.
Across from Herodion is the Jewish settlement of Tekoa, home of the prophet Amos. The early morning sun lit up the houses and to the south in the distance were the Hebron Hills covered in snow.
Traveled on a road for the first time and discovered these hills covered with a dusting of snow. If you can pinpoint where these hills are I’ll buy you an ice-cream.
In total I drove a 100km looking for snow pictures. It was cold and wet out. This photo was the last one taken today, from Metzad, looking east toward the Dead Sea and Jordan.
Driving towards the Palestinian town of Si’ir I passed terraces with almond and olive trees. I almost didn’t make the effort to get out of car to get this shot but I’m glad I did.
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If you’re into photography I’d be happy to guide you to places throughout Israel and you’ll get some great photographs.
If you’re reading this then you made it through 2020, a year that probably didn’t turn out quite the way you thought it would. With the Covid-19 pandemic I didn’t travel out of Israel so photographs in 2020 were all taken here and quite a variety, showing that Israel is truly a great place to visit. And you probably weren’t able to come to Israel so I haven’t had any guiding for a year, since last February. To stay sane Alan Harkavy, a good friend and fellow guide and I used the time to explore Israel more deeply and become even better guides (and then 2 more guides Leontine Caen & Eva Grunhut joined us) and we look forward to sharing these new experiences with you when you come. I will share some of our adventures in another post.
I’ve reviewed the many photographs I took this last year and I’ve chosen a dozen or so favorites to show you here. These photos were taken with a Nikon D850 digital DSLR with the Nikkor 28-300mm lens. I also got a DJI Mavic Air 2 drone and will share a few of those photos in another post. If you like these photos on your computer screen you should see what they look like when they’re printed BIG (47x70cm image) in high-resolution, framed and hanging on the wall.
When you purchase one (or more) of these photographs for your home or office they will remind you of Israel. You can contact me here. Thank you for your support.
Just click on the thumbnail image you would like see at full size, clicking the arrows (< and >) will move you through the images.
If you didn’t find exactly the photograph you want, I have another set of photos here. You can contact me by clicking here.