Tag Archives: Jerusalem

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.

Lifta

In the last official land and population survey In 1945 Lifta’s population was 2,250, all Arabs, and the total land area was 8,743 dunams. The farmers of Lifta marketed their produce in Jerusalem’s markets. The population was driven out/fled during the Arab-Jewish hostilities of 1947/48 during the efforts by the Haganah to relieve the siege of Jerusalem. Today 55 of the original (more than 400) stone houses are still standing but the village has never been repopulated.

 

Lifta 2

Lifta is on the edge of the newly developed Jerusalem Park, made up of 4 parks, a greenbelt that extends over some 1,500 hectares (3700 acres), surrounding Jerusalem to the north, west, and south. This is a great place for visitors and Jerusalem residents to explore, with walking trails and bicycle paths. You can get a map of the park at Emeq HaArazim, just below Lifta at http://www.jerusalempark.org.il/download/files/park-arazim-hires.pdf.

 

The plan is to maintain existing woods and forests including ancient cedar, arazim for which the park is named, and olive groves and to restore and plant orchards and indigenous broad-leafed tree species.

Anemones at Lifta

Further inside the park at Einot Telem, the ancient terrace agriculture typical of the area with its irrigation system will be recreated at the site of a small Jewish settlement – Bet Talma. The land (60 acres, 23 hectares) was purchased in 1906 and a two-story building intended for a soap and oil factory was planned (but not completed). In 1922 five Jewish families settled at Einot Telem, naming their settlement Emek HaArazim (the Valley of the Cedars). The site was abandoned during the 1929 Arab Riots and further settlement attempts were unsuccessful.

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.

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/

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 their churches: Annunciation, Nativity and Holy Sepulcher. Click links for more information. I will be sharing more details on Nazareth and Bethlehem in upcoming blog posts.

Day 1 pickup at the airport and drive to Nazareth

Day 2  Nazareth

  • Mary’s Well and Greek Orthodox church
  • Synagogue church
  • Church of the Annunciation
  • St Joseph’s Church
  • Mary of Nazareth International Center
  • Mount Precipice
  • Transfiguration on Mount Tabor
  • dinner in Tiberias overlooking Sea of Galilee

Day 3  Around Sea of Galilee

  • Korazim
  • Jordan river
  • Tabgha: Church of Multiplication; Peter’s Primacy
  • lunch: St. Peter’s fish
  • Capernaum
  • Domus Galilaeae
  • Jesus boat
  • dinner in Rosh Pina with a view

Day 4 Galilee

drive to Jerusalem; Shabbat dinner with my family

Day 5  Bethlehem

Day 6  Jerusalem Old City

  • Mount Zion
    • Dormition Abbey
    • Room of Last Supper
  • Peter in Gallicantu – model of Jerusalem in Byzantine period
  • Gethsemane
  • Church of Agony
  • Tomb of Mary

Day 7

Day 8  Judean desert

Day 9

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.’

 

Expert Travel Recommendations Israel

I was contacted for an article in a UK magazine on travel to Israel. This is what they say about Israel:

Get the insiders’ guide to Israel from those who know it best. There’s nothing like first-hand experience. But if you can’t get it, then the second best thing is to borrow someone else’s. And when it comes to knowing Israel, you won’t find experts with more expertise than ours – take a look at why they love Israel. With its long history, melting pot of cultures, religious heritage and cosmopolitan cities, Israel is an unforgettable destination.

They asked a series of questions and wanted my recommendations.

Favorite place to stay, a city/rural town or village rather than a specific hotel?
The two favourite places to stay while in Israel are Tel Aviv and Jerusalem but I would suggest something different. Since the Negev desert in the south makes up 60% of Israel’s land area, I think you should stay a few nights there and what could be more appropriate than the new hotel in Mitzpe Ramon on the edge of the large Ramon crater, a geological formation unique to this area. To explore, take a jeep tour into the crater and at night, away from the lights of the big cities, gaze  up at the stars and learn to identify the constellations with a guide.

Favorite place to eat, a restaurant and what you would recommend from the menu?
For a special experience I would recommend Uri Buri, a homey seafood restaurant in Acre, near the lighthouse, facing the Mediterranean Sea. What makes Uri Buri stand out are his unique dishes, based on interesting combinations of ingredients, for example, sashimi with carmelized beets and wasabi sorbet. The best way to go is to make a reservation, invite some friends and share the tasting menu (ask the waiter/waitress for local Israeli wine recommendations).

Best view?
To get an overview of the Old City of Jerusalem, within the 16th century Ottoman Turkish walls, you need to get high and the best view is by climbing 177 steps to the top of the bell tower (height about 40 meters) on the Church of the Redeemer with its 360 degree view of the city. While you’re there visit to the excavations under the church and the small museum.
Recommended excursion for visitors to Israel?
A day trip to the Dead Sea and Judean desert where you can combine history and nature. Visit Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered or Masada, KIng Herod’s fortified palaces on the top of a mountain. Take a hike in the Ein Gedi nature reserve, one of two natural springs in the Judean desert and enjoy a dip in freshwater pools under the cascade of a waterfall. Hopefully you will see ibex, a kind of mountain goat, native to the area. End the day at one of the spa/beaches for a float in the therapeutic waters of the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth.

Hidden gem?
Not far from Eilat is the Red Canyon, a colorful gem of a hike for the whole family where you slide down chutes and climb down ladders of a narrow canyon with purple, orange and pink sandstone sculpted walls.

Best way to spend a day in Israel?
Drive the Jordan valley, part of the Great African Rift, visit the archaeological site at Bet Shean, have lunch of St Peter’s fish overlooking the Sea of Galillee, visit Capernaum, with a 4th century synagogue and the house where Peter lived and Jesus preached, later a church. From there drive to the Mediterranean coastal town of Jaffa. At dinner time choose a restaurant on the boardwalk overlooking the sea and watch the sunset.

To see all this and more it’s worth using an expert guide, you’ll enjoy yourself more.

Crusader Jerusalem

A reader asked me to post something about the Crusaders in Jerusalem. I am happy to and also to lead tours focussing on the Crusader period.

Raymond of Aguilers, who wrote a chronicle of the First Crusade (1096–1099), relates that on the morning of June 7, 1099, the Crusaders reached the summit of Nebi Samuel, from which they saw Jerusalem for the first time. The elated Crusaders fell to the ground and wept with joy, calling it Mons Gaudi, mount of joy. The same day they reached the walls of Jerusalem.

Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph as Crusader

With insufficient troops and supplies and rumor of a Fatimid advance, the Crusaders could not besiege the city for long but had to organize a direct assault.  After about a month they were able to get skilled builders and wood by cannibalizing Genoan ships that had arrived at Jaffa port for siege towers. This enabled the Crusaders to breach the walls in 3 places on July 15th. The Crusaders massacred most of the Muslims and Jews and evicted the remainder leaving Jerusalem almost uninhabited until Christians could be encouraged to settle there. On 22 July, a council was held in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher that chose Godfrey as the princeps for the newly created Kingdom of Jerusalem which became an important Christian center.

Crusader sites in Jerusalem

In 1160 the Crusaders added a glacis to the tower at the Citadel and dug a moat around it.

The Roman Cardo was subdivided into 3 covered markets: Vegetable or Spice market, Market of Malcuisinat and Covered market – this property was donated to the convent at Santa Anna. Nearby along David St. today, was the poultry market selling eggs, milk, cheese.

The Crusaders built a church in Kidron valley that contained the Tomb to the VIrgin Mary  and Queen Melisende was buried there. Beside it was Gethsemane and a Barluzzi church in 1920s was built on earlier Byzantine and Crusader ruins.

The remains of the Church of Mary of Latina can be seen in part of the German Lutheran Church of Redeemer that was dedicated in 1898 during the German Kaiser’s visit.

Capitals outside German Lutheran churchClose by is the Church of Holy Sepulcher, rebuilt by the Crusaders and dedicated in 1149. The sculpted marble panels on lintels over the two main doors, in Romanesque style, are now in the Rockefeller museum.

Ascension of Jesus Crusader mosaicOn the ceiling of the Catholic Chapel of the Nailing to the Cross (11th station) is a 12th-century medallion of the Ascension of Jesus — the only surviving Crusader mosaic in the building. Small geometric-shaped pieces of marble inlaid in the floor is a style known as Cosmati or Cosmatesque a traditional technique from the Crusader period though it was done when the chapel was renovated in 1937 by Barluzzi.

There are Hospitaler sites in the Muristan and German knights in the Jewish quarter, remains of a hospice, hospital and church, St. Mary of Germans.

Up on the Haram el-Sharif, the Knights Templar, used the Al Dome of AscensionAqsa mosque, called Templum Solomonis by the Crusaders, and the underground arches of Solomon’s stables. The Dome of the Rock functioned as a church, Templum Domini. A short distance to the northwest, is the Dome of the Ascension, which served as its baptistery. The Dome of the Chain to the east was a Christian chapel to St. James.

If you have the chance, visit the Temple Mount Sifting Project to try some hands-on archaeology and take the opportunity to see artifacts like arrowheads, coins and relics from the Crusader period.

At Bethesda Pools is the ruins of a Crusader chapel, Mary of Bethesda, built on the ruins of a much larger Byzantine church from the 5th century named for St. Mary (Church of the Probatica) and the Church of Santa Anna, one of the most exquisite examples of Crusader architecture in the country.

Santa AnnaOn Mount Zion, the German Dormition Abbey was built on the ruins of the Crusader church of St Mary of Mount Zion which includes an upstairs room which can be visited today, the Coenaculum or Room of the Last Supper.

The Crusaders built many buildings which affected the city’s image, adding a Christian flavor to the 450 year old Muslim city and many of these changes can still be seen in the Old City today.