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February 23, 2009February 23, 2009  0 comments  Geography

With spring in full bloom in Israel, a leisurely stroll through Tzippori, nicknamed by Josephus as "the ornament of the Galilee" is a must see visit for all travelers this time of year. Located in the heart of the Galilee, Tzippori is situated on a hill in the western part of the region, situated between the Tzippori stream to the south (Nahal Tzippori - also happens to be a wonderful place for a hike) and the Beit Netofa Valley to the north. The site is one of Israel's National Parks and is extremely well maintained. A modern visitor center sits at the entrance of the park and English speaking tour guides who work for the park service are available for hire in advance for approximately $150 for an hour and a half tour.


Tzippori received its name because of its location on the top of a mountain "like a bird" as written in the Talmud. Visiting today, one can view the remains of a magnificent city with streets, buildings, bathhouse, complete with very well preserved mosaic floors as well as an ancient synagague. A large theatre was also uncovered as well as an ancient water reservoir. For over two thousand years, Tzippori has enjoyed a very colorful history.


During the Crusader period, Tzippori was known as La Saphorie, and it also seems to have been populated during both the first and second temple periods. The city rose to prominence during the period of 47BCE, when Herod the Great was the governor of the Galilee. He captured the city from the governor of Syria by force and after Herod's death in 4 BCE, the Jews revolted against the Romans and captured Tzippori only to lose it to the Roman army which successfully countered the rebellion. Later in 66 CE, the revolt against the Jews began and the local population made an agreement with the Romans, successfully portecting their city from being destroyed. Later during the 3rd centurty, the city was very prominent and Rabbi Judah Hanasi moved to the city bringing with him the highest institution of Jewish law, known as the Sanhedrin. It was in Tzippori that Hanasi began working on the Mishnah.


A church was built in Tzippori during the Byzantine period and the Christian community grew, though the Jewish population remained a majority. The Arab period that followed the decline of the Byzantine period brought with it an Arab population which remained through 1948, when the local cvillage, known as Saffuriyyeh, that had been established in the 18th century, The current Moshav Tzippori was established just after the War of Independence, adjacent to the village of Saffuriyyeh.

July 17, 2012July 17, 2012  0 comments  History

The 2,300-year-old harbor of Hellenistic Ptolemais - today known as Acre or Akko in Hebrew - was uncovered recently by Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) marine archaeologists.


The IAA said in a press release Tuesday that in its excavations at the foot of Acre's southern seawall, installations were exposed that belong to a harbor that was already operating in the city in the Hellenistic period (third-second centuries BCE) and was the most important port in Israel at that time.


Among the finds at the harbor are large mooring stones (photos 2 and 3 below) that were incorporated in the quay, which were used to secure sailing vessels. This was probably a military harbor. The finds were discovered during excavations that are part of the seawall conservation project undertaken by the Old Akko Development Company and underwritten by the Israel Lands Administration.


acre harbor

Floor of the ancient quay discovered in Acre. Photo courtesy: Kobi Sharvit, Israel Antiquities Authority


The first evidence indicating the possible existence of this quay was in 2009 when a section of pavement was discovered comprised of large kurkar flagstones dressed in a technique reminiscent of the Phoenician style that is characteristic of installations found in a marine environment. Discovered underwater, this pavement raised many questions amongst archaeologists. Besides the theory that this is a quay, some suggested this was the floor of a large building.


"Among the finds we've discovered now are large mooring stones that were incorporated in the quay and were used to secure sailing vessels that anchored in the harbor about 2,300 years ago. This unique and important find finally provides an unequivocal answer to the question of whether we are dealing with port installations or the floor of a building," said Kobi Sharvit, director of the IAA's Marine Archaeology Unit.


The dig also discovered a large mound of collapsed large dressed stones that apparently belonged to large buildings or installations, which was spread over a distance of dozens of meters. "What emerges from these finds is a clear picture of systematic and deliberate destruction of the port facilities that occurred in antiquity," noted Sharvit.


"Recently a find was uncovered that suggests we are excavating part of the military port of Akko. We are talking about an impressive section of stone pavement about 8 meters long by 5 meters wide that was partially exposed. The floor is delimited on both sides by two impressive stone walls that are also built in the Phoenician manner. It seems that the floor between the walls slopes slightly toward the south, and there was a small amount of stone collapse in its center. Presumably this is a slipway, an installation that was used for lifting boats onto the shore, probably warships in this case. Only further archaeological excavations will corroborate or invalidate this theory," said Sharvit.


mooring stone acre

Mooring stone discovered with a hole where the anchoring rope was inserted; Photo courtesy Kobi Sharvit, Israel Antiquities Authority


The bottom of the ancient harbor was exposed at the foot of the installations. There the mooring stones were found as well as thousands of fragments of pottery vessels, among which are dozens of intact vessels and metallic objects. The preliminary identification of the pottery vessels indicates that many of them come from islands in the Aegean Sea, including Knidos, Rhodes, Kos and others, as well as other port cities located along the Mediterranean coast.


These finds constitute solid archaeological evidence regarding the location of the Hellenistic harbor and perhaps the military port. According to Sharvit, "It should be understood that until these excavations the location of this important harbor was not clear. Remains of it were found at the base of the Tower of Flies and in the region of the new marina in excavations conducted in the early 1980s by the late Dr. Elisha Linder and the late Professor Avner Raban. But now, for the first time, parts of the harbor are being discovered that are adjacent to the ancient shoreline and the Hellenistic city. Unfortunately, parts of the quay continue beneath the Ottoman city wall - parts that we will probably not be able to excavate in the future.

Excavation will continue in those sections of the harbor that extend in the direction of the sea and the modern harbor, in an attempt to learn about the extent of the ancient harbor, and to try and clarify if there is a connection between the destruction in the harbor and the destruction wrought by Ptolemy in 312 BCE, the destruction caused by the Hasmonean uprising in 167 BCE, or by some other event


Touring Akko


Akko is located approximately two hours north of Tel Aviv, and approximately 1 hour north of Haifa and is accessible by bus or train. Visitors can tour the ancient city on day tours offered weekly on Sunday, Tuesday and Friday from $85 per person from Tel Aviv and $102 from Jerusalem. , The tours include visits to Caesarea, Akko and Rosh Hanikra, as well as entrance fees, bus transportation and expert guiding.


To learn more about this tours or to reserve a space click on the link below.


book now

Source: Israel Antiquities Authority


Elisa L. Moed is the Founder and CEO of Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land.


August 5, 2013August 5, 2013  0 comments  History

An incredible discovery dating to the Crusader period (1099-1291 CE) was revealed today in Jerusalem in an excavation being done by the Israel Antiquities Authority in cooperation with the Grand BAzaar Company of East Jerusalem. An enormous part of a busy hospital was discovered in a building owned by the Islamic Waqfsituated in the heart of the Christian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. The area is known as "Muristan" (a corruption of the Persian word for hospital), and is located near David Street, the main road in the Old City.

For the last decade the building had been sitting empty but in light of Grand Bazaar Company's plans to renovate the market and redevelop it as a restaurant, the Israel Antiquities Authority began to excavate the site. A small part was exposed but apparently covers an area of almost fifteen dunams and consists of huge pillars, ribbed vaults and stands over six meters high.

Excavation directors Renee Forestany and Amit Re'em, "We've learned about the hospital from contemporary historical documents, most of which are written in Latin. These mention a sophisticated hospital that is as large and as organized as a modern hospital. The hospital was established and constructed by a Christian military order named the "Order of St. John of the Hospital in Jerusalem" and known by its Latin name the Hospitallers (from the word hospital). These righteous warriors took an oath to care for and watch over pilgrims, and when necessary they joined the ranks of the fighters as an elite unit."

Similar to a modern hospital the ancient facility consisted of a number of different wings each for a different department. According to documents the hospitallers treated sick men and women of different religions and documents also indicate that the Crusaders ensured that their Jewish patients received kosher food. Apparently the local Muslim Arab population was instrumental in assisting the Crusaders in establishing the hospital and teaching them medicine.

An orphanage also functioned within the hospital as well. Contemporary documents provide much insight into the size of the hospital as well as the management.

The Crusader ruler Saladin lived near the facility. He renovated the building and also allowed ten Crusader monks to continue to reside there and serve the needs of the population of Jerusalem.

An earthquake struck in 1457 CE and the hospital was buried until the Ottoman period.
Plans for restaurant will incorporate the historical site, which will be integrated into the design of the restaurant, expected to open later in 2013.


Source: Israel Antiquities Authority; photo credit Yoli Schwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority

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