Category Archives: Train

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 the Holy Sepulchre after the earthquake of 1927, and the extensive archives of the Rockefeller Museum. Most of the documents are in English (they will receive Hebrew annotation). http://iaa-archives.org.il/

Sifting Excavated Material from Temple Mount

I took clients, a father and 2 children, to the Temple Mount Sifting Project in Emek Tsurim, just below Mount Scopus and everyone really enjoyed it. For those not familiar with the project, it is under the direction of Prof. Gaby Barkai and since 2005 has been working on the massive amount of material (400 truck loads) that was removed from the Temple Mount illegally, after the unsupervised excavation of the entrance to the underground Marwani mosque, in the area of Solomon’s stables. The material was rescued from where it was dumped in the Kidron Valley. It is being steadily sorted and sifted by staff with the help of visitors. You start with an interesting presentation on the history of the Temple Mount, through the Israelite, Second Temple, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic and Crusader periods, followed by hands-on wet-sifting of buckets of raw material for artifacts which you sort into six categories: pottery, worked stone, metal, bone, glass and mosaic tesserae.

Excavations by Institute of Galilean Archaeology

An American-Israeli archeological team unearthed remains of the Jewish village of Sichin at the northern edge of the Tzippori National Park. The town was mentioned by Jewish historian, Josephus, as one of the first Jewish communities in the Galilee during the Second Temple period and later, in the time of the Talmud, as a village of Jewish potters near Tzippori. The excavations revealed the first evidence of the existence of a magnificent synagogue.

Dr. Mordehai Aviam from the Institute for Galilean Archeology, Kinneret College, said:

“It was a great surprise for us, the excavators, to discover seven stone molds for preparing decorated clay oil lamps. One of the lamp fragments manufactured at the site is decorated with a menorah (candelabra) with lulav (ceremonial palm fronds) next to it. According to the clay vessels finds, it seems that the settlement was abandoned in the fourth century CE, apparently after the earthquake which occurred in 363, or possibly as a result of the Gallus revolt which took place in 351, which was centered at Tzippori. The excavations will continue for the coming years, and will try to unearth the synagogue, manufacturing equipment and residential buildings.”

In other news, a joint Israeli-Japanese team uncovered, in the ruins of a Second Temple period Jewish farm-house being excavated in the Nahal Tabor nature reserve, a Canaanite cultic standing stone (like ones at Hazor or Gezer) in secondary usage as part of a door frame. The Canaanite temple, where this object would have originally stood, has not yet been found.

Nimrod Fortress

A second stone, with part of a relief of a lion, symbol of Mamluk Sultan Baybars was uncovered at Nimrod by the Parks Authority (INPA). This relief is approximately 1.1 meters long, 0.7 meters high and 0.6 meters wide (25% larger than the first lion discovered 15 years ago in an excavation by Hartal), with some parts of the lion still intact and visible, though lacking its head, mane and front legs.

Nimrod Lion 2

Photo: INPA

Baybar's Lion, Nimrod Fortress

First Station, at Jerusalem’s original railway station built in 1892, terminus of the Jaffa-Jerusalem Railway, is advertised as the meeting place of food and culture. What we can say is it’s bopping.

FirstStation

One starting point is the visitors center where you can get information, book a Segway or electric bicycle tour and buy souvenirs. There is a Re:bar, frozen yoghurt and shakes, a Vaniglia ice cream, kiosk selling draught beer and snacks and a market building with cheese, produce, wine, pizza, chocolates, etc. There are 4 restaurants, 2 kosher and 2 not, an interesting balance of religion and marketing. The Miznon and Fresh are dairy kosher cafe restaurants; Landwers café and Adom restaurant and wine bar, not kosher, open Shabbat. Events this month include an Eco Sukkah competition and Seventy Faces photography exhibit, part of the Jerusalem Biennale. Check it out. For complete listing see http://www.firststation.co.il/en/

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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

Israel Roundup

The Spring 2013 edition of ARTIFAXArtifax cover 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 sculpture by Israeli artist Jojo Ohayon, has been placed in the Sagarmatha National Park of Nepal, at the southern part of Mt. Everest. Israel is planning to erect a sculpture built out of rock from Mount Everest and place it near the Dead Sea next month.

A few years ago I made a similar connection with an exhibit of my photographs from the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, in Kathmandu, Nepal in the shadow of Mount Everest, the highest place on earth.  https://israeltours.wordpress.com/photography/photo-exhibit/

Petroglyphs

I just found out about an open colloquium, Mount Sinai: Mount Karkom, May 12-13, 2013 in Mizpe Ramon, honoring the pioneers of Israeli desert archeology and an off-road Jeep trip to Mount Karkom – sounds incredible. Unfortunately, when I went to register, registration was full.

I’ve posted some photos from a hike I did near Mount Arkov in the Negev where we saw a lot of petroglyphs similar to those at Mount Karkom. https://israeltours.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/photo-of-the-week-tumulus-negev/

Jerusalem Botanical Gardens has developed an online course, Flora of the Holy Land, that features more than 100 plants, providing information, stunning photographs, video clips, maps and more. The course tells the fascinating role played by plants in the Bible, about the environmental wisdom of the ancient texts and the contribution that plants of the area have made to human settlement and civilization. http://www.en.botanic.co.il/Pages/Show/122

Work is continuing on First Station, Jerusalem’s new meeting place for food and culture, at the original railway station built in 1892, terminus of the Jaffa-Jerusalem Railway. It is scheduled to open May 14. As of today the visitors center where you can get information, book a Segway or electric bicycle tour and buy souvenirs and the Re:bar concession are open.

In a July 2012 article in Ha’aretz, Yaakov Kahlon, Senior Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem shares his vision about the future of Jerusalem.

... hot-air balloon, so you can go up and see the city from above. The Ottoman-era train station, along with a large multiplex cinema that is under construction in nearby Abu Tor, are meant to provide an entertainment nexus that will be open on Shabbat. It will include a Ferris wheel and a skate park, and from there a promenade with a bicycle lane that will connect directly to the Jerusalem Theater.

So far, all we’ve seen is First Station.  http://www.firststation.co.il/en/

Talking about ferris wheels, here is a double photo of Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock with ferris wheel in the background for use with stereoscopic 3D glasses – check out other photos (mostly from the Library of Congress, American Colony Eric Matson collection) at http://www.israeldailypicture.com.

Ferris Wheel Jerusalem

In his book, God’s Sacred Tongue: Hebrew & the American Imagination, author Shalom Goldman explains:

At the 1904 World’s Fair, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, there was a massive model of Jerusalem’s Old City. It sprawled over 10 acres of the fairgrounds and included grand models of the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  As Israeli scholar Rechav Rubin remarked: ‘the most astonishing fact about the enterprise is that several hundred people, Moslems, Jews, and Christians, were brought from Jerusalem to St. Louis.  There they lived and worked within the model, dressed in their colorful costumes… and had to entertain and guide the visitors through its streets and sites.’

 

From the Golan Heights

Yesterday I was up on the southern Golan Heights near Kibbutz Meitsar, less than 2 km from the border with Syria and looking east at the point where Israel, Syria and Jordan touch.

Golan map

The Rokad river valley separates Israel from Syria – the ridge in the middle of the photograph below is in Syria and the Yarmuk river valley behind the ridge is the border between Syria and Jordan. You can see the new border fence that Israel is building, given the fighting in Syria – in fact, we saw some plumes of smoke to the north, billowing upwards in the distance. Across from where we were standing, near UN post OP55, one of seven observation posts in Israel, is a UN post, one of seven in Syria that monitor the demilitarized zone between Syria and Israel.

Golan Heights

Down below in the valley is Ein Aya, a natural spring that fills a pool, great for a dip on a hot day. Golan view

Across the border in Jordan is a two-story stone building with a red tile roof, one of the German railway stations along with the stations at Beit Shean, Tzemach and Al-Hamma (Hammat Gader) for the Jezreel Valley (Rakevet HaEmeq) line that connected Haifa with Daraa (Syria) in 1905.This is the third branch of the ambitious 4000 km Berlin-Baghdad rail project started by Oppenheimer and Meissner after Kaiser Wilhelm II’s 1898 visit to the Holy Land. The Haifa station today houses the Israel Railway Museum that provides an historical overview of railways in the Holy Land and their part in the development of the country – worth a visit.

Golan train station

Coming up the Jordan valley after Beit Shean you can see the remains of the German rail line and some of the bridges that supported the tracks. At Gesher, next to the station, is the Mujami Bridge, destroyed on May 14, 1948 by the Israelis to impede the advance of Iraqi and Jordanian troops, the lowest rail bridge in the world at 257.5 meters below sea level.  The Naharayim station, in Bauhaus style, was constructed near the hydroelectric power plant built in 1927 by Russian-Jewish engineer Pinhas Rutenberg. The site was chosen because it is where the Yarmuk river flows into the Jordan river.

Gunter Hartnagel has posted a wonderful set of his photographs of the railroad built by the Germans on Flickr.

From Israel – what to call this?

This week I’m trying something new, a post of some of the interesting things I’ve discovered as a guide this week. If anyone has a good idea what to call this post, leave a comment.

Hansen “Leper” Hospital  The old Hansen “Leper” hospital built by Conrad Schick in 1887 has an interesting exhibit “Behind the Walls” of the history of the place. Plans are underway to turn the hospital into a municipal cultural center, a meeting place for the arts, media and technology.

Jerusalem Train Station  Work continues on the 19th-century abandoned Jerusalem train station to be transformed into a cultural and culinary complex, which developers promise will be open on Shabbat and will serve non-kosher food. “There is something a little kitschy when you try to reconstruct the feeling of the past,” says architect David Kroyanker, but he adds, “The fact is that it attracts people.” from Haaretz

Archaeology Tour  Popular Archaeology is organizing an extraordinary archaeological tour of Israel in April. I’m the guide! Among the highlights will be a visit to the new exhibit at the Israel museum, Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey.
Additional incentive, if you enjoy taking photographs, submit your best ones to win up to $1000. – plenty of photogenic opportunities, for example, the ruins of a Roman temple on night of a full moon and partial eclipse.
More details at http://popular-archaeology.com/page/archaeological-travel-tours

Shroud of Turin  Fascinating exhibit on the Shroud of Turin at Notre Dame across from New Gate. Also an incredible view of the Old City from their wine and cheese bar on the roof.

Almonds BlossomsCherry Blossoms 桜花見  Just past Tu Bishvat, the New Year of Trees and the almond trees are blossoming. Jerusalem Botanical gardens reports that the Japanese cherry trees behind the visitors center are in bloom. While you’re there check out the newly renovated Bonsai section.

Dead Sea Scrolls  Israel Antiquities Authority and Google announced that 5,000 Dead Sea Scroll fragments found in Cave 4 at Qumran have been digitized at high-resolution and are now available on the Internet. These include fragments containing the Ten Commandments and sections of Genesis, that recount the first three days of creation. I learned that there are more than 100 fragments of documents in Greek as well. Check out the excellent website at http://www.deadseascrolls.org.il/

Scrollery room at Rockefeller museumAmazing since for years these fragments were at the Rockefeller museum, only accessible to a few scholars and now they are viewable from the comfort of your home.

Christ Church Exhibit  Not everyone knows about the exhibit at Christ Church that includes some Conrad Schick models, one of Haram al-Sharif (~1:125) and photographs and mementos of Jerusalem’s Old City from the turn of the century. Look closely at this photo to make out part of the sign of VESTER & CO.

In 1904 Bertha Spafford married Frederick Vester, whose father’s curio shop in Jerusalem had recently been bought by the American Colony. Renamed “Fr. Vester & Co., The American Colony Store,” the business greatly expanded its clientele and range of offerings to include photographs and collections of antiquities.

Jerusalem Old City ~1900

Jerusalem Old City ~1900

Rosh HaNikra – Cliffs and Grottos

Geography

The chalk cliffs of Rosh HaNikra (Head of the Grottos: 33°5′35.24″N 35°6′17.16″E) along the Mediterranean coast mark the border between Israel and Lebanon. The cliffs are a unique geological formation in Israel, made of soft chalk, they descend from the ridge into the sea without an intervening section of beach, consequently they block and hinder movement along the coast.

The cliff consists of 3 layers of rock from the Cenoman period 100 million years ago:

  1. the bottom layer is hard limestone, most of which is under the sea,
  2. the middle layer reaching a height of 70 meters is soft chalk with dark flint and fossils embedded in it,
  3. the top layer is hard chalk and dolomite, similar to limestone.

The grottos are cavernous tunnels started by geological and biological  processes: cracks in the rock formed when seeping rainwater made small caves; duckweeds and other microorganisms on the soft chalk cause it to crumble. Crashing waves took over (with an estimated power of 250 tons per square meter during winter storms) and over thousands of years eroded the soft chalk to form the grottos.

History

Alexander the Great in 323 BCE passed this way, then the Selucids and Ptolemies and later the Arabs, then the Crusaders. The British army cut a road for vehicles during WWI; in 1943 they blasted three tunnels through the cliff joined by a bridge over the grottos so trains could carry soldiers and supplies between Cairo and Istanbul. On the nights of June 16 and 17, 1946, under cover of darkness and cloudy weather, the Carmel unit of the Haganah blew up the bridge during the operation Night of the Bridges. In one night the Haganah destroyed eleven bridges linking Palestine to the neighboring countries Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, immobilizing transportation and a blow to British prestige. Twelve days after the attack the British authorities retaliated by imposing a curfew on Jewish communities and launching a security operation known as Operation Agatha or Black Saturday. With the involvement of 100,000 British troops they arrested 2,700 Jews, including many in senior leadership positions. In addition the British confiscated important papers about the Jewish underground which were taken to military headquarters at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. On July 22, 1946, the Irgun in consultation with the Haganah bombed the King David Hotel. When the telephone warnings went unheeded and the hotel was not evacuated, 92 people were killed and the southern wing of the hotel destroyed.

Rosh Hanikra was the site where in 1949 Israeli and Lebanese officials signed an armistice agreement ending the War of Independence.

In the past, the only access to the grottos was from the sea and experienced divers were the only ones capable of visiting. In 1968, a tunnel was hewn into the cliff to give access to the grottos and then a cable car, “the steepest in the world” was installed to take visitors up and down. If you like cable cars, try to ride the other 3 in Israel, at Masada, Menara cliffs and from Bat Galim up to Stella Maris – all have great views (so don’t forget your camera)!

There is also a promenade along the shore that follow the British railroad tracks, through the Rosh HaNikra nature reserve to the Betzet beach, where every year giant sea turtles lay their eggs. Along the way, you can see some pools that the Phoenicians quarried and used to evaporate seawater to get salt,  grow snails for the blue techelet and purple dyes and as wine vats.

Jaffa railway station

The Jaffa railway station, in Hebrew התחנה, was one end of the 86 km rail line that joined Jaffa and its port to Jerusalem. The Tel Aviv municipality in partnership with private investors have invested approximately $1 million to renovate the complex, an area of 20 hectares (49 acres) which includes 22 buildings of 3 types, station, Arab and Templer buildings. The buildings were restored by a team of professional architects (Jaffa-based architects Eyal Ziv and Amnon Bar Or were responsible for the lengthy and meticulous restoration process), engineers and contractors, experts in their fields, in order to maintain its historical and architectural integrity and give visitors an authentic sense of the place. Having visited I can say enthusiastically that they’ve done a superb job.

If only someone would do the same for the Jerusalem railway station at the other end of the line.

It is easy to combine a visit with a guided tour of Jaffa or the original neighborhoods of Ahuzat Bayit and Neve Zedek that became Tel Aviv; another possibility is to take a guided tour of the White City of Tel Aviv – all tours that I would be happy to lead.

This station, located between the sea shore and the Neveh Zedek neighborhood, operated from 1892 to 1948. From the beginning, even though pilgrims, tourists and locals alike flocked to ride the train the railroad ran at a deficit and the trip took between 3 1/2 to 6 hours, allowing only one return trip a day. In A Practical Guide to Jerusalem and its Environs, a guidebook written around that time, the author wrote: “It requires only an ordinary amount of activity to jump out and pick the flowers along the line, and rejoin the train as it laboriously pants up the steep ascent — a feat I myself have occasionally performed.” Besides passengers, the train transported freight, by 1913, 43,000 tons annually passed through Jaffa station but only one way.

The idea to build a railroad was first proposed in the 1830’s by British financier, banker and philanthropist Moses Montefiore, who was interested in developing modern industry in Israel, but ran into difficulties in relation to the transport of machinery and raw materials. It took more than 50 years until 1888 and a long process of entrepreneurship, vision and international politics, for the Turkish Sultan Abed el-Hamid to grant the concession to Joseph Navon from Jerusalem and Joseph Amzalak of Jaffa, backed by the Protestant banker Johannes Frutiger and the Greek Lebanese engineer George Franjieh. Unable to raise sufficient capital in Europe, Navon sold the license to a group of Catholic businessmen in Paris, who established the Société du Chemin de Fer Ottoman de Jaffa à Jérusalem et Prolongements.  When in October 1890 the first locomotive a Baldwin 2-6-0 was tested on a short length of track at Jaffa, some 10,000 onlookers, half the population of Jaffa turned up to witness the event, such was the novelty. It took another two years to execute the immense railway construction project, laying narrow gauge track through the Judean mountains taking advantage of the deep, winding river bed of Soreq valley to mimize the steep grade and its completion heralded the beginning of the age of modern transportation in Israel.