Category Archives: Guide

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. Photo of the Week – Solomon’s Pillars - In my most recent post about the exhibit at the Israel Museum I mentioned the Egyptian goddess Hathor which Canaanite worker-miners identified with their Ba’alat. Timna is a popular place north of Eilat for hiking. As your guide, I can show you a shrine to Hathor and an engraving of the Pharaoh Ramses III that was found, […]
  2. Pharaoh in Canaan Exhibit - The Israel Museum has put together a new exhibit (up until October 25th) about two lesser known stories: settlement of the Canaanites in the eastern part of the Egyptian Delta during the Middle Bronze Age (circa 1800–1550 BCE) and their development of the first consonantal alphabet from Egyptian hieroglyphics and consequently, Egyptian rule over Canaan for 350 […]
  3. Photo of the Week – Poppies in Emeq HaEla - In January it was kalaniot (red anemones) in bloom, now in April it’s poppies. I am always happy to take you exploring nature sites in Israel. This photo was taken in Emeq HaEla. The technical details – the photo was taken with a Nikon digital SLR camera in the afternoon (ISO 200, 35mm, F10 at 1/250 sec). Clicking on the image […]
  4. Photo of the Week – Sinkholes at Dead Sea - I was guiding yesterday at Masada and Ein Gedi and talked about the changes in the levels of the Dead Sea and the occurrence of sinkholes along the shoreline. We stopped to take a look at some sinkholes closeup and I took these two photographs of a blue sinkhole and a photo of salt patterns at […]
  5. Photo of the Week – Judean Desert - Among deserts, the Judean desert is considered relatively small, spanning only 1,500 square kilometers, but it includes many fascinating nature reserves, historic sites and monasteries that make it an interesting and unique place to visit. An area bordered by cliffs on both sides it is a desert with running water and in one place geothermal springs. If you are into photography its primeval panoramas make […]
  6. Jerusalem Park: Lifta - This week we went to Lifta, a ghost town that was an Arab village on the side of a steep hill at the western entrance to Jerusalem. The site has been populated since ancient times because of a natural spring located there. In the Bible, the village is mentioned as Nephtoah (נפתח), on the border between the Israelite tribes of Judah and Benjamin. In the […]
  7. Lupines at Tel Socho - To visit Israel enables experiencing where kings and prophets walked. Today just out of Jerusalem along highway <375> are the remains of towns in Judea mentioned in the Bible/Prophets: Lachish, Azeka, Shaarayim, Adullam, Socho. Today was a beautiful day as we drove to Tel Socho, a hill containing the buried remains of the city, covered by a spring carpet […]
  8. Photo of the Week – Meron synagogue - A less visited site on Meron than the well-known tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, are the ruins of a late 3rd century CE synagogue in the basilica style (a large rectangular room divided by two rows of columns) which survived an earthquake in 306 CE, but was severely damaged or destroyed by another earthquake in 409 CE. Only the façade is still standing with three […]
  9. Photographs from Nahal Og - Nahal Og is the northern-most stream bed that empties into the Dead Sea. It carries water 30 km from the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, draining a vast area of 112 sq km. It gets its name og from the Hebrew word for the sumac tree (Rhus Tripartite). The fruit of the sumac you find mixed with hyssop and […]
  10. Photo of the Week – Kalaniot in Negev - I am intrigued by the desert areas of Israel and find them fascinating places to photograph – I’d be happy to take you to explore and photograph. Rainy and cold all day yesterday in Jerusalem so I drove down to the western Negev to see the kalaniot (Anemone coronaria) in bloom one more time. The technical […]
  11. In the Large Makhtesh - 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 away by a stream bed. Here are three photos that were taken in the Large Makhtesh, in […]
  12. Great Makhtesh Photography Adventure -   Sunrise to sunset photography workshop and guided tour Professional photographer Yehoshua Halevi and licensed tour guide Shmuel Browns host this full day adventure tour of the remarkable Makhtesh HaGadol, the Large Crater, in Israel’s Negev Desert. Our journey begins before dawn in order to arrive at our first destination for sunrise and the golden hours of first light […]
  13. Experiencing Israel - People sometimes contact me about the experience of visiting Israel, what is it like? Is it safe? Here is a post by a friend of a friend that I saw on Facebook. Farhana Rahman, who came to visit Israel (this was her second trip) from New York City shared her feelings about her time here. […]
  14. Two Tuviae, botanist and soldier - In 1947 Tuvia Kushnir, a brilliant young man, was a student at the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus. He was studying and researching the plants of Palestine (under the British mandate, before the State of Israel was declared). Tuvia was one of the first iris researchers in Palestine and identified an iris that bears his […]
  15. Seeing Red: Kalaniot in Negev - To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die…   Ecclesiastes 3 In Israel the wildflowers follow a pattern. After the Jewish New Year, before the winter rains the squill and Sternbergia flower, then the Steven’s Meadow saffron, […]
  16. Emperor Hadrian returns to Jerusalem - The Roman emperor Publius Aelius Hadrianus returns to Jerusalem after almost 2000 years as the Israel Museum brings together for the first time the only three bronze images of Hadrian that have been found. These portraits are in the Rollockenfrisur style, popular in the Roman provinces and characterized by nine curls which evenly frame the face and are rolled […]
  17. Photo of the Week – Palmahim - Yesterday I drove to the beach at Palmahim before sunset to take photos. It’s not hard to get there but there is a big difference between going on your own and with me as your guide – you’ll hear and see a lot more. A small highway <4311> takes you there, passing Nahal Soreq, the drop zone, […]
  18. Photo of the Week – Nahal Katlav - This morning on an overcast, rainy day I went back to Nahal Katlav and took these photos. I love the colors and contortions of the strawberry trees. Some technical details – the photos were taken with a Nikon 5300 digital SLR camera and Nikon 18-200mm lens. Clicking on the image will display it larger. Please share this post with your […]
  19. 2015 Year in Review - As the year 2015 ends it is instructive to review what was accomplished this year. Not an easy year as we accompanied Bonna through chemotherapy, surgery, more chemo, good times, hard times, which ended when Bonna passed away in June. The light in my life, Bonna’s light is missed by many, so I have taken up photography with more […]
  20. Photographs at Dead Sea -   August 2008 when traveling to Kathmandu with my family was the first time I ever exhibited my photographs, in a show I called “From the Lowest Place on Earth”. At 420 meters below sea level, the Dead Sea lies in a deep crack in the earth, between Israel and Jordan, part of the Great African […]
  21. Photo of the Week – Nahal Soreq - Early this morning we drove out of Jerusalem past Ein Karem and Sataf and followed the Soreq valley, the historical route of the train that joined Jaffa to Jerusalem. Suddenly the gauge on the car signaled that the temperature outside was 4ºC. As we looked to the right the valley was filled with mist. We […]
  22. Yam l’yam – Hiking Sea to Sea (3 days) - During the heat wave of July I walked yam l’yam from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee twice in 2 consecutive weeks so I have been initiated. We did it as a 3 day hike, walking about 20+ km per day, 1) Achziv to Maalot Tarshiha, 2) to Meron and 3) to Karei Deshe. Those who have heard […]
  23. Nahal Og - Decided to go for a photo shoot, so early in the morning I headed out of Jerusalem to drive down to the Dead Sea. After a half hour I arrived at the overlook above Nahal Og, pulled off the road just in time to see the sun breaking through the cloud cover above the horizon. I was […]
  24. 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 […]
  25. 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 […]
  26. 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 […]
  27. 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 […]
  28. 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 […]
  29. 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 […]
  30. 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 […]
  31. 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 […]
  32. 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 […]
  33. 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 […]
  34. 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 […]
  35. 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 […]
  36. 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. […]
  37. 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 […]
  38. 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, […]
  39. 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 […]
  40. 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 […]
  41. 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 […]
  42. 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 […]
  43. 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 […]
  44. 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 […]
  45. 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 […]
  46. 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 […]
  47. 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 […]
  48. 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 […]
  49. 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, […]
  50. 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 […]
  51. 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 […]
  52. 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 […]
  53. 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 […]
  54. 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 […]
  55. 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 […]
  56. 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 […]
  57. 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 […]
  58. 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 […]
  59. 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 […]
  60. 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 […]
  61. 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 […]
  62. 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 […]
  63. 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 […]
  64. 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 […]
  65. 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 […]
  66. 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 […]
  67. 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 […]
  68. 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 […]
  69. 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 […]
  70. 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, […]
  71. 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 […]
  72. 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 […]
  73. 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 […]
  74. 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 […]
  75. 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 […]
  76. 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. […]
  77. 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% […]
  78. 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 […]
  79. 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 […]
  80. 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 […]
  81. 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 […]
  82. 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 […]
  83. 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 […]
  84. 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 […]
  85. 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 […]
  86. 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 […]
  87. 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 […]
  88. 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 […]
  89. 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 […]
  90. 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 […]
  91. 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 […]
  92. 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 […]
  93. 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 […]
  94. 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 […]

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, Kind regards, Petra Frank, Clayton, Australia.

It’s always nice to hear from someone who is engaging with my site. It’s an opportunity to delve a little deeper into the neighborhood where I live and know very well. So I did some research and found some old photographs in architect David Kroyanker’s excellent book “Jerusalem – the German Colony and Emeq Refaim Street” (the book has only been published in Hebrew). I also went out and took some of my own photos of the German Colony today and the Templer cemetery. I learned that there were two Matthaus Franks, father and son and that the son wrote about his life in Jerusalem. For those into genealogy there is enough information in the cemetery to start a family tree.

Matthaus Frank

Matthaus Frank (1846-1923)

The German Colony in Jerusalem was founded when a small group of German Templers arrived in 1868. At first, they rented housing in the Old City and in Mishkenot Sha’ananim, the first Jewish neighborhood built outside the walls a few years earlier. From 1867 it became possible for foreigners to purchase land, on condition that their European government had signed an agreement with the Ottoman Turkish authorities which Prussia, representing Germany, did in 1869. Consequently, in 1872 young Matthaus Frank (1846-1923) purchased a large plot of land suitable for farming from the Arabs of Beit Safafa for his father-in-law, Nikolai Schmidt. Schmidt travelled to the Holy Land in 1874 with a group including his wife Katharina but died on his way to Jerusalem. The German Templers bought the land from Frank and divided it into 1 dunam building lots – bounded by Emek Refaim Street and Derekh Bet Lehem. This became Jerusalem’s German Colony and in 1878 the spiritual center of the movement with a school, sport club and  Gemeindehaus, the community center and church on Sunday. Two historic events took place shortly thereafter, the completion of the railway that joined Jerusalem to the port at Jaffa in 1892 – today the station has been renovated and is a popular meeting place of food and culture and the German Kaiser Wilhelm II and Augusta Victoria’s official visit in 1898 – the three churches that were initiated then stand to this day as part of Jerusalem’s skyline.

This aquarelle painting by Gustav Bauernfeind (born Germany 1848 – died in Jerusalem, 1904 and buried in the Templer cemetery) and the photograph from about 1890 (train station is already built) document what the German Colony looked like. The painting was presented to the Kaiser on his visit. Bauernfeind was a German painter, illustrator and architect of Jewish origin, considered to be one of the most notable German Orientalist painters.

German Colony, aquarelle by Gustav Bauernfeind

German Colony, aquarelle by Gustav Bauernfeind

German Colony, photo from 1890

German Colony, photo from 1890

Frank entrance Frank kept 5 dunams for himself and on it he built his house in April 1873. It was the first building to be completed, the home of the miller Matthaus and Gertrude Frank, today #6 Emek Refaim Street. You can see the date on the keystone of the arch above the door and the name EBEN EZER carved in the stone lintel, mentioned in Samuel 7: 11 when God helped the Israelites against the Philistines.

Frank installed the first steam-driven flour mill and ran a bakery. Up until then there were only windmills for grinding wheat. Two exist to this day, Montefiore’s windmill built in 1867 beside Mishkenot Sha’ananim and a Greek owned windmill on Ramban Street, later the office of Erich Mendelsohn who fled Nazi Germany in 1934 and split his time as a successful architect between London and Jerusalem.

A fellow German Templer, Theodore Faust, describes the Frank house in his handwritten memoirs.

A large garden with fruit trees, vegetables and flowers, and the  ‘proud’ two-storey house, like a fortress or castle, that’s what we thought as children, with a steam-driven mill, stable for donkeys and other buildings, with the spacious living quarters above, there was the kindergarten of the Colony for many years. Behind the house was a large vineyard, and the property was six times as large as a regular property. In addition to the usual underground  water cisterns there were two open pools, one large and one small where sometimes the children were allowed to swim and so perhaps this was the first private swimming pool in Jerusalem… In later years, the Frank house was a popular meeting place.

Mattheus Frank house

In 1910, Mattheus Frank the son (1877-1927) decided to rent the house to a Templer family, the Kirchners, who lived there until 1917. Frank and his wife Luise moved the family to a new property (Neue Mühle) on Derekh Bet Lehem where they lived and ran the bakery (Franks Bäckerei). Only the two large arches of the ground floor façade exist today, as the entrance to underground parking for a housing development.

early 20th century photo of courtyard of Frank Bakery behind the family residence, Arab wagoners and carts that delivered bread

Courtyard of Frank Bakery behind the family residence, Arab wagoners and carts that delivered bread

Matthaus and Luise Frank house

Matthaus and Luise Frank house

The Templer cemetery is the final resting place for these pioneers and this is where our tour of the German Colony ends.

Templer cemetery

Mattheus & Luise Frank

What to see in Jerusalem

What to see in Jerusalem and Not Hire a Guide

I’m often asked by people who are planning a trip to Israel what they should do if they have a couple of days to see and experience Jerusalem. Of course, there are many answers, it really depends on what you are interested in. Assuming that this is your first visit, you’ll probably want to start in the Old City so here are my recommendations – note some sites charge an entrance fee.

First, drop by the Tourist Information Center at Jaffa Gate, in the Old City and get a free map and a list of sites to see; say hi to Jennifer, she’ll help by marking sites on the map for you and answering your questions. Then walk around, exploring the 4 Quarters, Armenian, Jewish, Muslim and Christian.

Another possibility is to take the Ramparts Walk starting at Jaffa Gate where you actually walk on the walls built in 1537 by the Ottoman Turkish sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent – looking in gives you a birds-eye view of the Old City, looking out gives you a view of the new city.

In terms of churches, I would visit the Church of the Agony/All Nations and the Garden of Gethsemane outside of the city walls, re-enter the Old City at Lions Gate, visit the Church of Santa Anna, a Crusader church with incredible acoustics (try singing Amazing Grace or other liturgical melody). Continue and you will come to Station I of the Via Dolorosa, follow the Via Dolorosa counting 8 stations to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the holiest site to Christianity, where Jesus was crucified and buried and according to Christian tradition rose again, stations IX to XIV are at the Church.

Walk through the Arab shuq and take a right at the Cardo to get to the Jewish Quarter. Visit the Wohl archaeological museum to get a feeling for Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period, in the time of Herod and Jesus. If you are interested in more archaeology, then visit the southern wall excavations at the Davidson Center; there is also a movie that describes life at that time.

Visit the Western Wall, the holiest site to Judaism, write your prayer on a paper and tuck it into a crack in the stones of the wall. Try to reserve a Western Wall Tunnel tour in advance, either on their website (if you know some Hebrew) at or you can call them at (02) 627-1333 between 8:30-17:00.

It’s worth taking a guided group tour of the City of David – exit the Old City through Dung gate, take a left and then right and the entrance is on your left. If you have “water” shoes and aren’t claustrophobic, you can even walk 45 minutes through Hezekiah’s Tunnel with water up to your knees (you’ll need a flashlight which you can buy at the site or use your cell phone), which is quite an experience.

You might want to walk up onto the Haram el Sharif to see the Dome of the Rock and al Aqsa mosque (the third holiest site to Islam) close up (the Muslim Waqf won’t allowed you to enter them unfortunately) but if so you’ll have to do it in the morning and it takes between 1/2 and 1 hour to pass through security at the entrance to the Western Wall Plaza. Make sure you have no religious articles, prayer books or Bibles and no Swiss Army knife, etc. with you – they will be confiscated.

The new Israel Museum is open after extensive renovations and it is now much easier to find your way (for more information check out my blog entry) – the Archaeology wing has been completely redone, the Ethnography section has been expanded and called Jewish Life and the Art gallery includes a new section on Israeli art. The museum includes the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls and other artifacts from Qumran are on display. From the same period, the Holyland model of Jerusalem is now housed on the museum campus. If the weather is cooperative, walk around and enjoy the sculpture garden. If you’re interested in archaeology, you can also visit the Rockefeller museum (on the same admission, there’s even a shuttle bus) which will get you back to the Old City.

For an overview of Jerusalem, there’s a red double-decker bus that takes you for a 2 hour audio tour (explanations in 8 languages) of the whole city:

The Arab shuq/market and the Mahane Yehuda market are great places to get a feel for Jerusalem. There’s the Ben Yehuda Street pedestrian mall, called the Midrahov, and at the bottom Zion Square and the pubs, restaurants and boutique galleries in Nahalat Shiva. There’s live music at the Yellow Submarine in Talpiot.

Explore the German Colony: for a local movie theater from the British Mandate period with restaurant/pub check out the Smadar; for artistic films, check Cinemateque. For music, dance and theater try the Mabada. There are plenty of places to eat in this neighborhood (including my house 8-))

All this without hiring a guide, but to be fair how about reading my post, Why hire a guide?


If you want to meet up with a friend in Jaffa all you have to say is “Meet you at the clock tower”. The clock tower in Jaffa is one of seven built by the Ottoman Turks in 1908 on the occasion of the silver jubilee of the reign of the Sultan abd al-Hamid II. From there you can explore the Flea market and shops and restaurants. There’s a funky restaurant called Pua on 3 Rabbi Yohanan Street. For what some people swear is the best humus go to Abu Hassan’s. For a truly middle eastern taste try the stuffed breads at Abulafiya’s.

There is something else that Jaffa is known for and that is the shamouti orange which is known throughout the world as the Jaffa orange. The shamouti was a new variety developed by Arab farmers after first emerging in mid-19th century Palestine as a mutation on a tree of the Beladi variety near the city of Jaffa. Orange exports grew from 200,000 oranges in 1845 to 38 million oranges by 1870. Today the orchards described by a European traveller in 1872  “Surrounding Jaffa are the orange gardens for which it is justly extolled…” have disappeared in the face of urban development. But walking through the alleyways of Jaffa you can find an incredible sculpture by the environmental Israeli artist, Ran Morin, called Orange Suspendu that reminds us of the connection between the city of Jaffa, the earth and the orange tree and its fruit. Morin has 2 other tree sculptures that are worth seeing in Jerusalem, one at the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus and one in the Olive park near Kibbutz Ramat Rahel.

From Jaffa, walk north along the promenade to Neve Tzedek, the first Jewish neighborhood that was established outside the walls of Jaffa in 1887 and that some 20 years later grew into the new city of Tel Aviv. Along the way drop in to the old Jaffa train station, that is being renovated and developed into a cultural, artistic and commercial area. For a guided tour of Tel Aviv-Jaffa please contact me. It’s possible to incorporate riding a Segway along the whole length of the promenade as part of your tour.

Bar/Bat mitzva in Israel

We celebrated our daughter Tiferet becoming a bat mitzva with family and friends in the archaeological park along the southern wall of the Temple Mount early in the morning – that was back in August 1996 and I still remember how hot it was by mid morning and how our younger son Amitai who was 6 years old at the time foraged for figs that grew on the trees nearby.

Today the popular place is on the Herodian street that runs along the Western Wall, among the massive stones that were pushed from the wall by the Romans almost 2000 years ago, a silent reminder to the destruction of the Second Temple and the downfall of Jerusalem.

We celebrated our son Uriel becoming a bar mitzva by organizing a trip to Peru with close friends, hiking for 4 days along the Cuzco trail to the sacred Inca site of Machu Pichu. We carried a Sefer Torah with us which we read on Monday and Thursday on the trail, on Rosh Hodesh (the new month) at Machu Pichu and on Shabbat back in Cuzco.

Some families decide to celebrate with family and friends in Israel and have climbed the Snake Path to the top of Masada at sunrise, as a sort of physical rite of passage and celebrated a bat mitzva in the ancient synagogue or one of the rooms in the casement wall used by the Zealots. You might like to celebrate a bar or bat mitzva within the ruins of one of the ancient synagogues, for example at Baram or Korazim in the Galilee or at Herodium.

Besides it being meaningful to experience Israel as part of becoming a bar or bat mitzva, friends and family can explore and enjoy the sites and nature of Israel and feel the connection between the Torah reading and the land. As Reb Shlomo Carlebach used to say, “The Torah is a commentary on the world and the world is a commentary on the Torah“.

Not every guide is able to make all the arrangements necessary for a bar or bat mitzva celebration in Israel – provide a Sefer Torah, take professional photographs, arrange the prayer service, do the guiding that makes Israel part of the experience. I handle the logistics and you get to experience a memorable time. I would be happy to help you arrange your bar or bat mitzva in Israel, just contact me.

Here are some of the photos that I took at Rachel’s bat mitzva in the summer.


Jerusalem Restaurant Recommendations

As a guide, I’m often asked for restaurant recommendations so here are some suggestions for restaurants to try in Jerusalem. There are many websites with lists of restaurants, reviews, etc. – my idea is to recommend a few (I’ve listed about 30) that I feel are special in some way (ethnicity, atmosphere, cuisine, location, view, food) and that are likely to be close to where you are. Those marked [NK] are not kosher, usually means that they are also open on Shabbat.

If you’re at the Mabada theater check out the restaurants in the mitkham rakevet, the old train yards: HaSadna (NK), Hahatzer (meat/fish), Guta (French) actually close by on Derekh Bet Lehem. Try Terasa at the Begin Heritage Center or Lavan [NK] (same owners as Adom) a stylish bistro at Cinemateque that have a lovely view of the walls of the Old City.

Nearby on Emeq Refaim Street are all the restaurants and cafes of the German Colony: Luciana (Italian), Joy (meat/fish), Olive (meat/fish), Taiku (Asian), Ryu (Asian), Caffit (dairy), Masaryk (dairy), Coffee Mill and the list goes on and on and changes often – it’s hard to go wrong.

In town, off Jaffa Road at number 31 enter Feingold Court through an arched passageway and find a bunch of restaurants: Dagim B’Hatzer (fish), Eldad V’zehu, Sakura (Japanese) [NK], Barood [NK], Adom [NK].

In the Nahalat Shiva neighborhood there is Tmol Shilshom (dairy/fish) in the courtyard and others along the street; at the bottom on Hillel Street there is Spaghettim [NK] with more than 50 sauces.

Farther up Jaffa Road on the right take HaRav Kook Street and you can find Anna Ticho House, Darna (Morroccan); Moshe Basson’s restaurant Eucalyptus (Israeli fusion) has moved to Hutzot HaYozer below Jaffa Gate.

In the Mahane Yehuda area and along Agrippas Street down to Gan Sacher there are a wide selection of restaurants Topolino (Italian), Ichikidana (Indian vegetarian), Mizrachi, Azura, Rachmo, MahaneYuda (NK), Ima (Kurdish). To help you find your way around Mahane Yehuda check out my map.