Today we drove north (from Jerusalem) along highway 60, up the spine of the Shomron to the remains of the ancient city of Samaria-Sebaste.

Samaria was the site purchased by Omri for two talents of silver from Shemer and made the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (Kings I 16:24-28). Omri’s son Ahab married the Phoenician princess Jezebel and they built a temple to the pagan god Baal which was later destroyed by Jehu, who had Jezebel and 70 princes of Ahab’s family killed.

Sebaste, the Greek equivalent of the Latin Augusta, was Herod’s name for the city when the area was given to him by the Emperor Augustus. Herod rebuilt the city, in full Roman style, a kilometer long cardo of 600 columns, a forum, a Roman basilica, stadium, temple, hippodrome and theater surrounded by a wall and gates.

After we passed the road leading to Shavei Shomron highway 60 loops around the settlement, a tall concrete separation wall on the left and then heads north. A short drive and you take a right through a grove of olive trees to the gate of the city and then pass two rows of Roman columns marking the Cardo, one row standing along the road and others in a row among the trees.

Looking out from city gate
Columns along the Cardo

Continuing along the road we passed some excavated ruins and shortly reached the town square beside the Forum lined by rows of columns.

Area of Roman Forum in main square

The archaeological remains are strewn around the area. The road in front of the Samaria restaurant takes you to the Hellenistic tower and Roman theater.

Roman theater

From there we walked to the top of the hill, the acropolis where Herod built a temple to Augustus over the administrative buildings and parts of the palace of Omri from the 8th century BCE.

The monumental steps leading to the temple were redone with the rebuilding of the temple during the reign of Septimus Severus (193-211CE).
Remains of Omri’s palace

From there we walked to the ruins of a small 7th century Byzantine church with Crusader additions where according to one tradition the head of John the Baptist was kept. It’s then a short walk back to the main square.

We wanted to visit the small museum in Nabi Yahya Mosque, a former Crusader cathedral but when we went to check it was closed (probably due to the Corona pandemic). We did notice a sign for some Royal tombs which turned out to be a deep pit which contained about a half dozen sarcophagi.

Part of a great day trip that’s off the beaten path that I guide!

Synagogues on the Golan


Um el-Kanatir (Arabic for Mother of the Arches) is an impressive set of standing ruins of a Jewish village from the Byzantine era (5-8th C) with a synagogue built of local basalt stone. The town was destroyed by the earthquake of 749 CE and never rebuilt. Because of its remote location, out in the field a kilometer past Natur, all the stones of the synagogue were found in situ and over a period of a dozen years the synagogue has been rebuilt, stone by stone.

Last year while photographing & hiking on the Golan with Sumsum I went to visit the site of the ancient synagogue at Umm el-Kanatir, one of the most important Jewish historic sites on the Golan Heights.

Um El-Kanatir site

Today the synagogue stands with its Torah ark built of ornately carved basalt as it was some 1800 years ago. They did an amazing job, a must see!

Outside facade of synagogue
Inside of synagogue with Torah ark

Wildflowers on the shore of the Dead Sea

This winter there has been quite a lot of rain and so instead of the carmel colors of the mountains in the Judean desert above the Dead Sea, this year there is a lovely carpet of wildflowers in reds, yellows, purple and white along the shore of the Dead Sea. It’s definitely worth experiencing this exceptional sight. Since I’m also a photographer I’ve taken some pictures that I’ll share with you here.

Some of the wildflowers that have sprung up are Poppies, Daisys, Rainbow Toadflax, Faktorowsky’s Aaronsonia, Rumex pictus, White Mignonette,…

Favorite Photographs of the Year

Because it’s January 2020, a new year, I’ve been reviewing the photographs I took last year and I’ve chosen a dozen favorites to display here. Besides photographing in Israel I spent 16 days in Iceland and 11 days trekking in Nepal.  Clicking on one of the images will display the thumbnail at full size, clicking the arrows (< and >) will move you through the images.

Can you find the two photographs that have tiny images of people in them (Where’s Waldo?).

When you’re done viewing, I’d appreciate it if you let me know your favorite.

Photography Exhibit

I would like to share with you that I am exhibiting nine of my photographs in a large group show צוהר לנסתר–A Window to Wonder at Jerusalem’s Cinematheque from April 16-May 28, 2019. Opening reception and opportunity to meet the 12 photographers and view over 100 photos Sunday, April 28th, 2019 from 7:00pm-9:00pm. I’d be delighted if you would come.

Special for the show, photographic prints are priced at $250. (unframed).

En AvdatCinematheque Photos

Show is up! With good friend Bob Gottlieb.

SBB Show.jpg

Through the Lens, Dead Sea

Israel consists of a very broad range of geography: coast, desert, mountains, forests, in a very small area making it a great photo location for those interested in nature and landscape. The Dead Sea is an incredible and unique place to photograph, 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.

If you’re into photography and want to make that part of your Israel experience you need a guide who is also a photographer. I am delighted to announce that I am offering personalized photography tours of Israel (along with tours focussed on history, archaeology, religion and more), to enable you to get the photographs you’re looking for.

Here are some of my photographs from a photoshoot that I did with clients starting at sunrise at the Dead Sea.


Here’s what the clients said:

We got some amazing sunrise photos at the Dead Sea, we hiked through canyons and got lots of cool shots there, then Shmuel found some unique salt formations back at the Dead Sea. We captured some great photos of sinkholes.

To sum it up this was the highlight of our 17 day trip to Israel. Shmuel delivered beyond our greatest expectations.