Category Archives: Guiding

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 an area that used to be called “Petrified Trees” but has been updated to the more scientific description “Quartz Arenite” rocks. Each photo was taken at the same time of year (in January), two on the same day. Photography is about capturing light – what I find so interesting is that the three scenes look so different and express such different moods.

Petrified tree, Large Makhtesh

The technical details – the photo was taken 10 years ago with a Nikon E4300 point and shoot camera in January (ISO 100, 8mm, F7.6 at 1/219 sec).

This month I did a photoshoot in the makhtesh with friend and photographer, Yehoshua HaLevi. We went to the same site and took photos. We had such a great time that we’re offering to take a small number of photographers there on a makhtesh workshop and tour.

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This time a Nikon 5300 DSLR, ISO 400, 20mm, F11, 1/320 sec.

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ISO 400, 28mm, F10 at 1/250 sec.

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

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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 to the left.

Hadrianx3 photo by Eli Posner

Hadrian in bronze, photo by Eli Posner

The head on the left is from the Louvre, provenance unknown. The second head on loan from the British museum was found in 1834 in the River Thames below a bridge. The third on the right is from the Israel museum collection, actually a head and torso found at Tel Shalem, the camp of the Sixth Roman legion in the Bet Shean valley. Also check out the 6 fragments of a three-line inscription in Latin  (11 meters wide) also found at Tel Shalem on display in the Archaeology wing, presumably part of a monumental triumphal arch commemorating the suppression of the Bar Kochba Revolt.

Hadrian Torso

Approximately 160 portraits of Hadrian have survived, mostly in marble and you can find images on the Internet or see a good selection of them (73) at the Following Hadrian site.

So having met Hadrian, what can we understand about the man?
According to some “with his abundant energy, keen intellect, and wide-ranging interests, Hadrian is considered one of the Roman Empire’s more enlightened rulers.” When Jewish sources mention Hadrian it is always with the epitaph “may his bones be crushed” (שחיק עצמות or שחיק טמיא, the Aramaic equivalent), an expression never used even about Vespasian or Titus who destroyed the Second Temple.

There is a difference of opinion among scholars about the cause of the Bar Kochba Revolt and the exhibit leaves the debate undecided. Hadrian visited Jerusalem in 130 CE and found the city in need of rebuilding from its destruction in the Roman Jewish War (66-73 CE). One narrative suggests that at first Hadrian was sympathetic to the Jews and set out to rebuild the city and even the Jewish Temple. It is not clear whether building a foreign, Roman city with a pagan temple to Jupiter on the Temple Mount, the holiest site to Judaism, was the cause of the Bar Kochba Revolt or whether the Revolt pushed Hadrian to obliterate Jerusalem, in place and name, and build Aelia Capitolina.

Hadrian built temples to various Roman gods, a temple to Venus at the traditional site of Jesus’ burial, the holiest site to Christianity. He built a temple to the Hellenistic god Zeus Hypsistos on Mount Gerizim, the site holy to the Samaritans.

Whatever your politics, the exhibit reverberated for me as a commentary on contemporary Israel and the Palestinians.

Hadrian’s built a wall to protect empire Israel built a security/separation wall
Keys of Jews who fled their homes to desert , never to return Keys taken by Arab refugees who fled their homes in 1948
Jews revolt against Roman authority Arab intifada against Israeli authority
Bar Kochba writes that Jews of Tekoa who don’t follow his directives will have their homes destroyed Destruction of homes of Arab terrorists
Although a military man Hadrian actually withdrew from territory for peace Israel should withdraw from territories for peace

So once you have met Hadrian at the museum, in the flesh so to speak, what sites are there associated with Hadrian? As your guide, I can take you to these sites and explain the connection:

  • Roman gate under Damascus gate, Bab el Amud
  • Roman square with column and statue of emperor
  • Cardo and secondary cardo from Aelia Capitolina
  • aesclepion expanded into a large temple to Asclepius and Serapis
  • Ecce Homo arch, actually Roman gate to forum
  • Two vaults over Struthion pool to lay street
  • Lithostratus, Roman street
  • Holy Sepulcher site, Roman temple to Venus built by Hadrian
  • LEGIO X FRETENSIS stone outside Jaffa gate
  • quarry in Ir David excavated by Weill that was used for stones to build Aelia Capitolina
  • Caesarea, city and port rebuilt by Hadrian; second aqueduct from Taninim spring
  • Temple on Mount Gerizim

2015 Year in Review

BDHiMAs 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 passion, to capture and share the light that is so fleeting in this world.

This marks 8 years that I have been guiding and blogging. I only added 11 blog posts this year bringing the total to 309 which includes over 1200 photographs. I posted more to my Facebook page, Israel Tours.

There were 78,735 page views by 42,885 visitors this year, close to the number last year (I feel that the number of people who are interested in my blog about tours and sites in Israel has reached a limit, about 100 people viewing about 200 pages a day). Slowly I am inching my way up to a half a million page views. The total number of people who interact with my website/blog is increasing, there are currently 325 people who have subscribed to my blog directly and another 430 people on Facebook who are notified when I post a new article. 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 guided a writer for the New York Times travel section on a 3 day Herod the Great tour of archaeological sites connected to the great builder, you can read the article at NYTimes website. I again guided a group of University of Chicago students studying for a semester in Jerusalem, this time to the mystical city of Tzfat, Meron and Tiberias. The Bridges for Peace organization contacted me and used my photos in their annual pictorial calendar, this year about the Israel Trail. In July I walked Yam l’yam, a 3 day hike from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee, twice in consecutive weeks. In the last while I have been focusing on my photography and now offer a number of Photography Tours, here’s one example.

I’ve chosen 8 photographs from those I posted this year on my website. You can view them full size by clicking on them. This is your opportunity to vote for Photo of the year!


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

  1. 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. 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 […]
  2. 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, […]
  3. Photo of the Week – Along the Allon Road - On my way back from a photoshoot at Agamon HaHula on Friday I decided to take the scenic Allon Road instead of the more traveled highway 90 in the Jordan valley back to Jerusalem. It was a beautiful day and I stopped to take photographs along the route. We’ve had some rain and the hills […]
  4. Photo of the Week – Kokhav HaShahar - As a guide and photographer I’m always looking for new places to visit that would also be interesting to photograph. Last week I woke early and while it was still dark drove the Allon Road again, an 87km long and winding road in the Jordan valley. Just before sunrise I pulled off the highway, drove […]
  5. Masada and Herodium - One of the exciting things about visiting historical, archaeological sites with a knowledgeable guide is that there is always something new. Two of the sites that I like to take visitors to are Masada and Herodium both which show King Herod’s genius as a builder and life 2000 years ago under Roman rule. When visiting […]
  6. Super Moon over Dead Sea, Israel - Yesterday I drove from Jerusalem down to Masada so as to be at the Dead Sea in the evening to see the supermoon rise over the Biblical mountains of Edom in Jordan. As a tour guide and photographer I can take you to places like this.   The technical details – the photo above was […]
  7. One shot, two ways - When you’re taking photographs and looking for the best shot you have a choice of whether to shoot the scene in landscape (horizontally) or portrait (vertically). When looking at landscape photographs you usually expect the scene to be horizontal. Sometimes a vertical shot gives a very different view. I was driving down to the Dead Sea […]
  8. Photo of the Week – Samaria - This week rather than driving up the Jordan valley on highway 90 I drove the Allon Road, an 87km long and winding road on my way to Bet Shean. This is the name given by Israel to routes 458, 508, and 578 in the West Bank, running roughly south-north along the eastern watershed of the Samarian […]
  9. Photo of the Week – Reflection on Sinkholes -   These photographs are of reflections of the landscape by the shore of the Dead Sea that I saw by looking into a sinkhole that was filled with water. I am attracted to exploring the photographic possibilities of this strange and alien landscape. Because the water in a sinkhole is colored by the salts and minerals […]
  10. Philip Evangelist at Ein Henya Spring - Today I bicycled about 6 km each way, from the German Colony (where I live) along the old train tracks to Ein Henya, a spring in the valley of Nahal Refaim, south of Jerusalem. Ein Henya is being developed as part of the new Jerusalem Park, 4 parks that form a greenbelt that extends over some […]
  11. Naharayim – Two Rivers - Driving along the Jordan valley between Jerusalem and the Sea of Galilee you pass a kibbutz called Gesher (Hebrew for bridge) because on the site of the original kibbutz was a bridge that crossed the Jordan river joining Israel and Jordan. Actually there are the remains of 3 bridges, one a Roman bridge built of […]

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”.

Pine in snow Red leaves in snow

Friday it snowed most of the day and I guided a group of university students from California in the Old City. Most of the sites in the city were closed. This is a photograph I took from Yemin Moshe of Mount Zion on my way to meet the group at Jaffa gate.

Mount Zion in Snow

Today we returned to the Old City in the morning hoping to visit the Haram el-Sharif but it was closed. Instead we were able to do a tour of the Western Wall Tunnels. Afterwards although the White Fathers compound was closed we did find four churches on our way to the rooftop view at the Austrian Hospice, only to find it closed too.

Then off to Bethlehem in the afternoon. Even with all the snow we had a great couple of days.

Pepperdine University students

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Like this guide. Having grown up in Canada I know snow.

This inscription can be found on the front of the James Farley Post Office in Manhattan, NYC at 8th Avenue and 33rd Street. The inscription was chosen by William Mitchell Kendall of the firm of McKim, Mead & White, the architects who designed the building in 1912. The sentence appears in the works of Herodotus (in Greek) and describes the expedition of the Greeks against the Persians under Cyrus, about 500 BCE. The Persians operated a system of mounted postal couriers, and the sentence describes the fidelity with which their work was done.

The Central Post Office on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem is a Mandatory style building built between 1934 and 1938 to the design of the main architect of the public works department of the British Mandate, Austen St. Barbe Harrison and government architect Percy Harold Winter. Harrison also designed the Rockefeller Museum and the British High Commissioner’s residence in Armon HaNatziv.

I have photos of Jerusalem in the snow from last January here.