Category Archives: Technology

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

Photo credit: Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority/Vladimir Naykhin

Photo credit: Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority/Vladimir Naykhin

Found while sifting material from City of David, at #4 is a fiscal bulla, a clay seal impression with three lines of script, related to the taxing of shipments at the time of King Hezekiah, the earliest mention of Bethelehem. Found while sifting material from drainage channel near Robinson’s arch, at #5 a personal seal with the name Matanyahu inscribed on it dated to the end of the First Temple period, see https://israeltours.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/first-temple-period-seal/

Jewish National Fund (JNF) has published a map of Israel with 110 “great old” trees marked. One example, #91, a Common Oak, called the “Lone Tree” symbolizing the Gush Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem that has a height of 10 meters, trunk circumference of 3.5 meters and is estimated to be 500 years old. I do a tour that includes the moving audio-visual presentation on the history of the Gush at Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, gourmet lunch at Gavna in the forest with a view all the way to the Mediterranean and a tour of the Lone Tree microbrewery.

Lone Oak

Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey exhibit at the Israel Museum is an exceptional opportunity to encounter the material opus of Herod the Great – his architecture and aesthetics, and the work of his chief archaeologist, Professor Ehud Netzer. Evidence of Herod, the meaning, struggles, and accomplishments of his life beckon beyond the exhibit halls, to the sites where he fought, ruled, dreamed, and built – Herodium, Masada, CyprosSebasteCaesarea, Banias and Omrit

Herodium-4colourFor those who will be in Israel, I am leading in-depth full-day tours of Herodium and the Israel Museum’s Herod exhibit, for details see https://israeltours.wordpress.com/herod-the-great-tour

For those who will not be able to visit Israel, I posted a few articles with photos of the exhibit.
Here are the links to check for photos:

The Israel museum has published a 277 page hardcover catalog of the exhibit. You can order a copy by sending an email to shop at imj.org.il
ARIEL has released volume 201-200 Art and Architecture in Jerusalem and Israel in the Second Temple Period (in Hebrew) in memory of Prof. Ehud Netzer.

From the pantry at Herod’s palace-fortress at Masada, amphorae – large clay jars that held imported delicacies – attest to the luxury and sophistication of Herod’s palate: apples, honey, fine wine, and garum, a savory Roman fish sauce. One amphora bears an inscription of Herod’s name in Latin and Greek. For more about garum, https://israeltours.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/food-discoveries-masada-garum/

Film documentary: Volunteers with military experience, many from America, came to Israel around 1947 to help the fledgling Jewish state. Their acronym, Mahal (MH”L}, stands for מתנדבי חוץ לארץ. The 3 large Hebrew letters, מח’’לֹ, stand as a monument at Sha’ar Hagai, on the road to Jerusalem. Playmount Productions has released a sample from their upcoming documentary Above and Beyond: The Birth of the Israeli Air Force.

Emek Habacha project: Estimated at €250 million to install 50 130 meter tall (height of the Azrielli Towers in Tel Aviv) wind turbines able to produce 120 megawatts has received approval. These will replace the 10 wind turbines that produce 6 megawatts at Tel Asania. I blogged about the old wind turbines in May 2011 at https://israeltours.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/wind-turbines-on-golan-trail/

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Shmuel Browns

December 2, 2012

Hanukah, Christmas and Kwanza are celebrated  around the time of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. At this holiday season, I am pleased to announce the opening of my new online store, Designed in Israel, where you can buy products (like calendars and notecards) that include images of my photographs and artwork. As far as I know I am the only Israel guide that has an online store [update, as of 2017 the store no longer exists].

Shmuel Browns

September 12, 2012

In line with the tradition to contemplate what things can be improved and remake oneself for Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) I have decided to change the theme of my blog. I am writing this short post to alert you. When you next go to my website/blog, Israel Tour Guide | Israel Tours, you will see that it has a very different look, appropriately called Twenty Twelve (the current year in the Gregorian calendar). This theme is brand new and provides some powerful new capabilities which I will be able to take advantage of in the coming weeks. I like that it is a modern-looking, clean design. Leave a comment to let me know what you think and/or click Like (if you do).

Technology at Israel Museums

The Google Art Project spent months mapping the Israel Museum with cameras mounted atop bicycles and photographing 520 objects, artifacts and artwork from the Museum’s collection. The outcome is an online compilation of high-resolution images accessible over the Internet and a virtual tour of the museum using Google’s Street technology. The Israel Museum was among 151 museums in 40 countries taking part in the second phase of the project. Currently more than 30,000 high-resolution objects from museums around the world are available for viewing and items can be found by various keywords, location, artist, collections, etc.

Archaeological items included are the only dedicatory inscription mentioning Pontius Pilate, the procurator of Judea in the time of Jesus found at Caesarea, the oldest Biblical text, Priestly Blessing from Numbers 6:23 on silver amulet found in tomb at Ketef Hinnom in Jerusalem (you can read my blog post at https://israeltours.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/ketef-hinnom-silver-amulet/ ) and Theodotus synagogue inscription in Greek found near the Temple Mount. There is also artwork, for example, the triptych Gates of Jerusalem by Mordecai Ardon (you can read my blog post on the Ardon Windows at https://israeltours.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/ardon-windows-isaiah-vision-peace/).

The Google Art Project creates images larger than 1 billion pixels in size, the zoom-in feature allows viewers to get inside cracks in the parchment and other details that are not visible to the naked eye – a really fascinating collection of treasures worth exploring. Kudos to the Israel Museum for making these images available.

The project follows last year’s collaboration with Google to make the famed Dead Sea Scrolls accessible in high resolution on the Internet. When announced the site drew a million viewers within the first few days. Five of the Scrolls, including the Great Isaiah Scroll 1QIsaone of the original seven Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in Qumran in 1947 are viewable at http://dss.collections.imj.org.il/isaiah.

Google has also partnered with Israel’s Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, to make its photographs and documents searchable on the Internet.

“Mendel takes out his camera. No more flowers, clouds, natures, stills or landscapes. Amid the horror all around him he has found his destiny: to photograph and leave behind a testimony for all generations about the great tragedy unfolding before his eyes.”

Mendel Grossman’s photos constitute a small portion of the historical photos in Yad Vashem’s collection. The project will facilitate preservation of and access to the world’s largest historical collection on the Holocaust. Google implemented experimental optical character recognition (OCR) technology to carry out this project, making previously difficult to locate documents now searchable and discoverable online. As of today, 130,000 photos from Yad Vashem’s archive, the largest of its kind in the world, are viewable in full resolution online. The collections are visible at http://collections.yadvashem.org/photosarchive/en-us/photos.html. This is a first step towards bringing the vast Yad Vashem archive online over time.

Yad Vashem has also launched a YouTube channel to showcase a series of videos of Holocaust survivor testimonials. The YouTube channel is available at www.youtube.com/yadvashem. There is also a YouTube channel with more than 400 hours of original video footage from the landmark 1961 Jerusalem trial of Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann at http://www.youtube.com/user/EichmannTrialEN.

If you know of other technology projects that are being developed in Israel please share by leaving a comment about them. If you peruse the images leave a comment here of your impression.

Lights over Egypt, Israel and Jordan from Space

Nasa’s EarthObservatory site is a great website about our Earth. After posting the photos about the changes in the Dead Sea I remembered another image of this region, the Nile delta in Egypt and neighboring Israel and Jordan taken at night from Space. You can see clearly based on the lit up areas where the major populations are situated. Israel is pretty brightly lit up suggesting that a) we use a lot of electricity for lights and/or b) the northern part of our small country is relatively densely populated.

From the EarthObservatory website:

The Nile River and its delta look like a brilliant, long-stemmed flower in this astronaut photograph of the southeastern Mediterranean Sea, as seen from the International Space Station. The Cairo metropolitan area forms a particularly bright base of the flower. The smaller cities and towns within the Nile Delta tend to be hard to see amidst the dense agricultural vegetation during the day. However, these settled areas and the connecting roads between them become clearly visible at night. Likewise, urbanized regions and infrastructure along the Nile River becomes apparent.

Another brightly lit region is visible along the eastern coastline of the Mediterranean—the Tel-Aviv metropolitan area in Israel (image right). To the east of Tel-Aviv lies Amman, Jordan. The two major water bodies that define the western and eastern coastlines of the Sinai Peninsula—the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba—are outlined by lights along their coastlines (image lower right).

Scattered blue-grey clouds cover the Mediterranean Sea and the Sinai, while much of northeastern Africa is cloud-free. A thin yellow-brown band tracing the Earth’s curvature at image top is airglow, a faint band of light emission that results from the interaction of atmospheric atoms and molecules with solar radiation at approximately 100 kilometers (60 miles) altitude.

Astronaut photograph ISS025-E-9858 was acquired on October 28, 2010, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using a 16 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 25 crew.

Segway Tour

This morning I rode a Segway (Personal Transporter) along the promenade at Armon HaNatziv and I can report that it was really fun (as they say in Hebrew, היה כיף). The Segway is a two-wheeled, self-balancing electric vehicle that was invented by Dean Kamen in 2001. There are 5 gyroscopes that with the aid of computers and motors in the base keep the Segway upright and balanced. Users lean slightly forward to go forward, lean back to stop or go backward and turn using a handlebar that can be tilted left or right.

Currently I often start a tour of the Old City or Herodium with an overview from the promenade so I’m happy to be able to add a Segway tour as part of a day’s guiding. Another example, before visiting the Knesset or Israel museum, you can ride through the Valley of the Cross, past a Crusader fortress-like monastery that was one of the first buildings outside of the Old City walls but in fact, goes all they way back to Queen Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine. It’s also possible to arrange a tour along the Jaffa-Tel Aviv promenade along the Mediterranean coast as part of a guided tour of Jaffa and/or Tel Aviv.

A Segway tour adds 180 NIS (which comes to less than $50.) per person (minimum of 2-3 people) for about 2 hours, note that children must be 16 years or older. Helmets and knee and elbow pads are provided.