All through the year in Israel you may find flocks of graduate students, professional researchers, and laypeople visiting the Holy country. Many believers from one or the other denomination want to visit those special places which are mentioned in the Book of books. And they have good reason to do so.
The land has still many hidden treasures and as such several sites can be very worthwhile to not only visit but also to support to research them more.
Many places can appeal to many and many are worth a visit: Ashkelon, Beersheba, Caesarea Maritima, Capernaum, Hazor, Jericho, Jerusalem, Lachish, Mount Ebal, Qumran, Sepphoris, Shiloh, Tel Dan, Tel-Miqune and Tel Shimron.
Thirty-three miles east of the Mediterranean Sea on a limestone plateau in the Judaean Hills rests one of the oldest cities in the world, which for many people seem to be the middle point of their places of faith: Jerusalem. No wonder when one knows that city is not only mentioned 660 times in the Old Testament and 141 in the New Testament —more if you count all its synonyms like Zion, city of God, and Salem – but is importantly mentioned as the capital of a future better world.
In the secular writings, no city has been written and sung about as much as Jerusalem. It has always been an object for conquering. Persians, Romans, Ottoman Turks, and the British Empire got to rule it and had their say in what would happen in that city. More than 100 battles have been fought for control of Jerusalem.
Even its name, which means “foundation of peace,” elicits an emotional response (though historically it’s been anything but a “city of peace”). Constantly in that city and its surroundings are fightings going on. Hardly a day passes by without some new uproar.
Mount Moriah (on the Eastern hill) known today as the Temple Mount, has brought many conflicts in these modern times. All those quarrels between religious groups do not hold archaeologist back to examine the city’s history. An area called Ir David or the City of David — thought to be Jerusalem’s oldest settlement — is currently being excavated.
The City of David excavations have meticulously preserved Christian and Muslim Arab antiquities. It laid bare an Herodian street leading from the Pool of Shiloah (Siloam/Silwan) to the Temple Mount. The street lies below the present-day street level. Here, we can see an ancient manhole, at the entrance to the street, which is at present in a tunnel, still being excavated. This is thought to have been part of the ancient water system.
For now there are some who believe it could well be that the seat of King David was unveiled, thought others archaeologists contest this.
Problem with the different religious groups is that some blame others for destroying important evidence. As such the Muslim Waqf, which has been illegally digging under the Temple Mount mosques is being accused of deliberately destroying evidence of the Jewish presence on the site in pre-Muslim times.
Next to Jerusalem people may now best Jericho, the Palestinian city in the West Bank, 12 km north of the Dead Sea at the foot of the western escarpment of the Jordan valley, as one of Israel’s most famous sites.
Dates to about 10,000 BCE, Mesolithic hunters were attracted to the area in the ninth millennium BCE by the abundant perennial spring of Ein es–Sultan. By about 8000 BCE a permanent settlement of some two thousand people had been established just beside it.
The city of Jericho was occupied, destroyed, and reoccupied many times, producing multiple layers of archaeological evidence. The layer called “City IV” is important for dating the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt and their settlement in Canaan. Sadly, the site is heavily eroded, hindering any future excavation.
The People of God live by the many oaths made. The well of an oath or the seventh well is then also an interesting place to visit. Linked with Israel’s patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the urban development of Beersheba is a case study in the growth of Judean culture during Iron Age II (roughly 1000–586 BC).
Tel Be’er Sheva or Tel Sheva in Arabic Tell es-Seba, lies east of the modern city of Beersheba and west of the new Bedouin town of Tel Sheva/Tell as-Sabi. It is mentioned 33 times in the biblical text. It is often used when describing a border, such as “from Dan to Beer-sheba” (Judges 20:1; 1 Sam. 3:20; 2 Sam. 3:10, 17:11, 24:2, 24:15; 1 Kings 4:25; 2 Kings 23:8)
From 1969 to 1976 the site got first excavated and were renewed by Prof Ze’ev Herzog between 1993 and 1995 in order to complete the uncovering of the town’s water system.
The focus of several excavations, which have both illuminated and been illuminated by its frequent mention in written and pictorial sources has been Judah’s second-most important city (after Jerusalem): Lachish. It was one of the most important Canaanite cities in the Land of Israel during the Middle and Late Bronze Ages; its people controlled large parts of the Judean lowlands. It was featured prominently in accounts of the conquest, and as Sennacherib’s headquarters for his campaign against Judah in 701 BCE; its capture by the Assyrian king is depicted in detail in reliefs from Nineveh.
Built around 1800 BCE it got destroyed by the Egyptians around 1550 BCE and got rebuilt and destroyed twice more, succumbing for good around 1150 BCE.
In a study published last month in Levant, Professor Yosef Garfinkel from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology and Professor Michael Hasel from the Southern Adventist University in Tennessee and his co-authors revealed, for the first time ever, extensive ruins of a Canaanite temple dating to the 12th century BCE that they uncovered in National Park Tel Lachish, a large Bronze Age-era settlement near the present-day Israeli city of Kiryat Gat.
For Professor Yosef Garfinkel
“This excavation has been breath-taking,”
“Only once every 30 or 40 years do we get the chance to excavate a Canaanite temple in Israel. What we found sheds new light on ancient life in the region. It would be hard to overstate the importance of these findings.”
The layout of the temple is similar to other Canaanite temples in northern Israel, among them Shechem [Nablus], Megiddo and Hazor. The front of the compound is marked by two columns and two towers leading to a large hall. The inner sanctum has four supporting columns and several unhewn “standing stones” that may have served as representations of temple deities. The Lachish temple is more square in shape and has several side rooms, typical of later temples including Solomon’s Temple.
In addition to these archaeological ruins, the team unearthed a trove of artifacts including, bronze cauldrons, Hathor-inspired jewellery, daggers and axe-heads adorned with bird images, scarabs, and a gold-plated bottle inscribed with the name Ramses II, one of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs. Near the temple’s holy of holies, the team found two bronze figurines. Unlike the winged cherubs in Solomon’s Temple, the Lachish figurines were armed “smiting gods”.
Of particular interest was a pottery sherd engraved with ancient Canaanite script. There, the letter “samek” appears, marked by an elongated vertical line crossed by three perpendicular shorter lines. This makes it the oldest known example of the letter and a unique specimen for the study of ancient alphabets.
A frequent enemy of the Israelites were the Philistines, one of the Sea Peoples who ravaged the eastern Mediterranean world subsequent to the collapse of Mycenean civilization at the end of the Late Bronze Age.
Ashkelon or Askelon, [Eshkalon] means “weight; balance; fire of infamy”, and today still may be considered a city in Southern Israel regularly under fire, this time by rockets from Gaza. With Tel Miqne, Ashdod, Khirbet al-Ra’i and Gath, which most people identify with the Philistines, those cities can uncover lots of mysteries about those creators of fine pottery and grand architecture, clever urban planners and cosmopolitan devotees of the grape.
Archeologists from Harvard University came upon revealing remains of the Philistine city as it was on the day of its destruction by King Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army in 604 BCE. They found inscribed pottery, stone altars, buildings and rooms of handsome design and advanced construction techniques and a wine press that belies the lingering image of the Philistines as a loutish, beer-drinking people.