JERUSALEM-the 50 sites you may overlook

In a historic and religious city like Jerusalem there is so much to see no matter how much you tour. When time is a limiting factor, even the most efficient tour guides have to compromise while deciding what to incorporate in the itinerary. Although it depends on the interest of the individual visitor as well, there is still a huge must-see-list in Jerusalem that cannot be avoided. At every stop so much information is thrown on a visitor that sometimes s/he tends to forget the details after leaving the place.

I remember when I first visited the Church of Holy Sepulcher, it appeared to me more like a small museum than a church. I was virtually clueless inside a dark and dull overcrowded massive complex of more than 25 chapels with several curious artifacts and antiques scattered under some dusky arches and dingy columns. It took me at least three visits with a proper map in hand to understand the Church complex. A normal visitor for instance would be satisfied with Golgotha, the ‘Stone of Unction’ and the ‘Holy Sepulcher’, but the oldest part of the complex, viz. the first century tombs inside the Syrian Orthodox Chapel could be easily missed.

In the upcoming posts I plan to upload 50 such sites from Jerusalem that I believe can be easily overlooked or go unnoticed by an average visitor. I am incorporating the following sites from my previous visits, again with no specific order of importance. I am sure that a serious traveler who loves history, traditions and the Bible has noticed or been to most of them.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

'Horns of Hittim or Hattin' ("Karnei Khittin", or the "Horns of the Wheat")-the hill has two peaks that looks like bull's horns. It is here the crucial 'Battle at the Horns of Hattin' happened on the 4th of July 1187, between the Muslim forces of Saladin and the Christian army of the Crusaders. The Muslim victory ended the reign of Crusaders in the Holy Land.

For some it is the venue where Jesus had his famous 'Sermon on the Mountain'  (Mount of Beatitudes'-Mathew 5:1-2, Luke 6:17-21; 7:1). The site has also been identified with various biblical cities like Madon (Joshua 11:1), Adamah (Joshua 19:32-36) and the 'Waters of Merom' (Joshua 11:5-9). For the Druze community, at the base of the hill is the traditional tomb of their revered prophet Jethro (Nebi Shuaib), and the father-in-law of Moses (Exodus 3:1).







Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Ancient Synagogue of Arbel (4th Cent. AD?). Was probably destroyed by an earthquake in the 8th Century. The synagogue faced Jerusalem and was made of limestone without mortar; whereas the homes of the ancient Arbel was made of commonly available black basalt rocks of the region.

The synagogue (18.6M X 18.2M) was first discovered in 1852 by the explorer and scholar Edward Robinson. It consists of a hall with three rows of columns which  supported a second-story gallery. One of the doorway of the synagogue was hewn out of a single rock, of which one very impressive pillar still  remains visible. Other parts of the doorway, adorned with vegetal patterns, are still scattered around. The synagogue was refurbished on 6th century AD and remained in use for another two centuries.

 This monolithic monumental door was carved out of a single rock. Its the eastern entrance of the synagogue.

 The heart shaped eastern columns.




 The niche represents the place for the Holy Ark and its faces Jerusalem.


 You can look for the bases of the stone benches used in the synagogue at the right corner beneath the standing stones. They were arranged in 4 rows.









Friday, June 3, 2011

REVISITING BEIT GUVRIN NATIONAL PARK (18th APRIL, 2010)-The biblical city of Mareshah.

HISTORY
Mareshah is mentioned 8 times in Bible (Joshua 15:44; I Chronicles 2:42, 4:21; II Chronicles 11:8, 14:9, 10, 20:37; Micha 1:15). The city was conquered by Joshua and later fortified by the King Rehoboam of Judah (932-915 BC). It was destroyed by the Assyrian King Sennacherib in 701 B.C. and eventually became the capital city of the Idumeans (6th-1st Cent BC). During this period the city also had Greek and Hasmonean influence. After it was destroyed by Parthians in 40 BC, the city was known as 'Beit Guvrin'. Two centuries later, the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus (200 AD) turned it into a major city and renamed it as Eleutheropolis (“City of the Free”). Maresha also appears in the writings of Jewish historian Josephus (1st cent. AD) and the 4th century Church historian Eusebius. Later Crusaders (12th century) and Arabs had their share of history in Beit Guvrin. Arabs changed its name to Sandahanna (derived from the Saint Anne church built by Crusaders on the site).

More details later...

Entering the Beit Guvrin National Park. The flowers are from the adjacent gas station.









The 2nd Century (AD) Roman Amphitheatre (71 X 56 M) of Bet Guvrin. The 11-rowed complex once accomodated 5000 spectators. All the ancient stone seats have been robbed out. The amphitheatre remained functional for 200 years and after the major earthquake in Beit Guvrin in 363 AD it became a market place.













The tunnels beneath the amphitheater arena probably served as cages for the wild animals used to fight against gladiators. Eight openings closed by trap doors led to the complex.


 The rooms beneath the amphitheater through which the gladiators entered the complex to hunt the wild beasts.