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August 28, 2011August 28, 2011  0 comments  Geography

Another Holy Land site, Wadi Rum, was added to UNESC's World Heritage List this summer. The majestic site is situated in mountainous desert terrain in souther Jordan near the border with Saudi Arabia and encompasses over 275 square miles of majestic, mountainous desert including spectacular sand dunes, sheer-sided mountains and dramatic cliffs. The Red Rose Nabatean City of Petra is located close to the Wadi Rum Nature Reserve.

The area is considered part of the ancient Nabatean trade route which leads across southern Jordan west through Israel and into Egypt. The landscape is marked by sandstone and granite mountains, wide valleys and narrow and deep canyons. Most remarkably, jidden within the canyons are numerous ancient rock drawings and inscriptions dating to the Nabataans who controlled the major trade route. In selecting Wadi Rum, the UNESCO website states that:

"Petroglyphs, inscriptions and archaeological remains in the site testify to 12,000 years of human occupation and interaction with the natural environment. The combination of 25,000 rock carvings with 20,000 inscriptions trace the evolution of human thought and the early development of the alphabet. The site illustrates the evolution of pastoral, agricultural and urban activity in the region."


Biblical and classical sources refer to "aram". The book of Job also mentions the land of Uz, which many believe refers to the area as well.

Traveling through Wadi Rum, one still encounters Bedouin tribes that still live in their goat-hair tents and in fact, many of the local bedouins are licensed tour guides. The protected area is one of Jordan's top tourist attractions including sites dating from the prehistoric periods to the Islamic era. Particularly prominent are inscriptions and carvings dating to the time of the Nabataean kingdom of Petra,* which controlled the trade routes that passed through the region more than 2,000 years ago. Rum is referred to, both in the Bible and classical sources, as Aram or Iram, while it may also be the land of Uz mentioned in the book of Job (1:1).

For more information on 3 and 2 day tours to Jordan and Wadi Rum-Petra, click here.


For additional information on UNESCO World Heritage sites, click here.



Tags: wadi rum unesco jordan petra 

July 6, 2015July 6, 2015  0 comments  Biblical Archaeology

Beit Shearim was one of 19 sites worldwide that was added to the UNESCO World Heritage site list early this week. The site, located in the lower Galilee, about 20 miles southeast of Haifa (one hour north of Tel Aviv), was the ancient burial ground for the Sanhedrin. The site contains a necropolis filled with a series 2nd century CE period catacombs. Archaeologists believe that the site was the primary burial place outside of Jerusalem and rose to prominence after the destruction of the second Temple and the Jewish revolt against the Romans. Within the catacombs there are numerous artworks and insriptions in Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew. Its quite striking to notice the strong Roman influence that presided during the period following the revolt.


Menorah inscription inside Beit Shearim caves; Photo IAA


Menorah inscription inside cave. Photo courtesy: Israel Antiquities Authority


Israel now has nine sites inscribed on the World Heritage List. Other sites include Masada; the Old City of Acre; the White City of Tel Aviv; the biblical tels of Megiddo, Hatzor, and Beersheba; the Spice Route in the Negev ,; Baha'i holy places in Haifa and the Western Galilee; the Nahal Me'arot caves in the Carmel; and Beit Guvrin National Park.


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

People can learn, share and plan their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah

Tags: beit shearim unesco 

July 29, 2009July 29, 2009  0 comments  Historical Sites

The city of Acre (Acco in hebrew) was the first Israeli site recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.  With a history dating back to the Bronze Age (2500 years BC), it's no wonder that this Israeli port city was bestowed with this honor.  From the time of the tribe of Asher's unsuccessful attempt to grab this rocky coastal plateau from the Philistines (Judges 1:31), its value as the main door to the Holy Land has been appreciated by the various conquerors who have ruled this part of the world.

During the first Israelite kingdom, Acre was ruled by a governor appointed by King Solomon.  Later, Alexander the Great conquered the city in 333 BC. and it was eventually named Ptolemais in honor of Alexander's long time friend and trusted general who later ruled Egypt.  This was the name that St Paul knew it by when he visited the city on his final journey to Jerusalem almost 2,000 years ago. You can still see some of the artifacts of the Hellenistic and Roman periods. But the Old City of Acco, approximately 600 square meters occupying Israel's Mediterranean coastline, boasts some of the best preserved Crusader structures in the world.

The Crusaders' Lasting Mark on Acco

The Crusaders left Europe almost 1000 years ago in 1096 C.E. and arrived in the Holy Land in 1099.  Except for one brief interruption, they ruled the Holy Land for almost two centuries until they were driven out by the Mamaluks of Egypt in 1291. Archaeologists estimate that, at the height of the Crusades, over 1,000 pilgrims arrived on the Holy Land shores daily. What was it like for them after the weeks-long treacherous journey? 

A visit to the Hospitalier's extensive defensive complex reveals the immense sophistication and planning employed by the Crusaders.  As you tour underground through tunnels and massive halls, you'll see evidence of an elaborate fresh water collection system, sewage system and large supply rooms which held the inventory of beds, linens and other supplies necessary to care for the daily influx of pilgrims. Continue your walk along the five-meter-wide street that once led to the Church of Saint John, the main church of the Hospitaliers.

The Templars were another knightly order of the Crusades who left their mark on this city of never-ending marvels. Their fortress, once the strongest structure in the city, exemplifies the architectural evolution from Roman to Gothic arches.  You can walk under enormous vaulted ceilings and then navigate your way along the same 350 meter tunnels employed by Richard the Lionhearted and his men when they recaptured the city after the four year rule of Salah al-Din (Saladin) in 1291.

As you marvel at the grandeur and sophistication of the architecture before you,  listen as tour guides describe the excitement of finding old European ampoules filled with Holy Land water and soil. The pilgrims had to return home, but if they couldn't be in the place where Jesus walked, they could wear a memento of their pilgrimage around their necks and close to their hearts.

The Crusaders held onto Acre for another hundred years but were finally driven out by the Egyptian Mamaluks. They ruled the Holy Land for almost three hundred years before succumbing to Ottoman military prowess in 1517. Conqueror after conqueror built on the ruins below, so that today, we can look up in an underground storage room and see one thousand years of hewn history before our eyes.

Acco remained dormant for almost three hundred years, but in the mid-eighteenth century, the Ottomans began to rebuild. When you visit, look carefully at the walls around you.  You'll observe that the large rectangular stones stop three-quarters of the way up the wall and give way to smaller ones.  The Ottomans had their own building style that was supported by the Crusader foundation hidden below. You'll witness a magnificent stone layer cake where the "new" Ottoman city was supported by the almost impenetrable Crusader fortress and tunnels hidden below.

Ottoman Treasures

The industrious but ruthless Ottoman governor, Jazzar (The Butcher) Pasha, transformed what had become a small fishing village into the prosperous city of late eighteenth century Acco. He staved off Napoleon's attempt to capture the city in 1779 and built massive walls to protect his beloved city from further invasion. Once adequately protected, he knew that his flourishing port needed fine cultural and social amenities to insure that the wealthy merchants doing business there madekktheir home.  The time had come to build a Hammam (Turkish Bathhouse).

You can visit the restored bathhouse and enjoy a multimedia experience as you watch fictional bathhouse attendants come to life to tell the tales of empire building, lost loves and neighborhood gossip that all poured out as attendants massaged, slapped and batted their wealthy clients during their twice-weekly visits. Admire the tiled walls, restored to their original beauty as the film transports you to a bride and her entourage celebrating in the steam-filled room before her big day. That's right; the Hammam was not just for men!

In the northeast corner of Akko's Old City, you can enjoy a taste of late nineteenth century and early twentieth century Galilee life with a visit to the Museum of Ethnography. The original arched halls of the Ottoman garrison now hold a wonderful collection that depicts daily life of the era.  Wander past the old hat store and the pharmacy which even includes the doctor's medical license which he gained in China!  There's a recreated leather shop and even a toy store filled with games and toys popular over a century ago.

The Old City in Modern Times


The British replaced the Ottomans as Holy Land rulers after World War I.  The impenetrable Crusader and Ottoman Fortress became the site of a British jail where hundreds of Jews were imprisoned for Zionist activities. Beginning in 1942, twelve men were hanged there by the British.  You can still see their jail cells and gallows today.  Before you leave, read about the heroic attack on the jail which allowed twenty Jewish prisoners to escape in the quest for independence for the Jewish state.


The magic of Acre, with its modern day Arab shopkeepers, boasts new life and offers a treasure trove of sites for every traveler.  You can wander along the shouk (market) and buy freshly-squeezed orange juice or treat yourself to freshly baked pita.  Different stalls line the stone paths with vendors hawking their wares; everything from authentic brass tea sets to elaborately decorated crosses and crucifixes to brightly colored dresses.  Enjoy the aromatic treat of the local spice merchant, selling cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks and a vast array of local spices guaranteed to tempt you into his stall. Sit and sip freshly brewed coffee while you admire the church spires and listen to the muezzin call the faithful to afternoon prayers.

Finish off a day of touring with an overnight stay at the Akkotel. Totally renovated, this old style intimate hotel offers every modern amenity in an old world setting. Owned by Greek Catholic brothers who were intimately involved in the restoration, the charming lodging offers the kind of warm, professional service only found in the Middle East.

And if you're looking for a special, romantic evening, wait for the grand opening of the Effendi's Palace, expected to open in early 2010.  Effendi is a term of respect used by the Ottomans, and this place will live up to its name.  Each guest will feel special and respected as they escape the noise of twenty-first century life for the more refined calm of Middle East nobility. The wine cellar will be housed in a small, Crusader-era hall and some of the twelve guestrooms will be decorated with original, Ottoman-era ceiling paintings. Owner Uri Bouri, explains that the old world elegance will offer adults an unparalleled evening of luxury.  Each room opens to a dijwan (parlor) so that couples can enjoy some quiet conversation before retiring to their room for the evening.

Acre has been the port of entry that has challenged and inspired everyone from Saint Paul to Marco Polo; from Napoleon to the one million annual visitors who now put Acre on their "must see" list of places they need to experience.


Touring Acre is easy and can be purchased along with a tour to Caesarea, Rosh Hanikra, situated nearby.

book now



Written by: Onnie Schiffmiller


February 24, 2013February 24, 2013  0 comments  Tourism

The unexpected beauty of the Negev offers a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a 2-day getaway. Promising a myriad of biblical archaeological sites, hiking trails, Bedouin hospitality and even some delightful boutique wineries, the Negev desert is the perfect place to get away from it all and enjoy it all!

Tel Beersheba

And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of the well of water, which Abimelech's servants had violently taken away. (Genesis 21:25) …Wherefore that place was called Beer-sheba; because there they swore  both of them (Genesis 21:31)

How did Abraham achieve greatness? As the Bible tells us, he knew where to dig wells. He could access water, even in the desert! Drive just a few minutes east of the modern city of Beersheba, named for the oath sworn by Abraham and Abimelech 3,000 years ago, and you’ll see how the search for fresh water has shaped Negev life for thousands of years.  Man could only settle in places where he could find water for himself and his flocks. Tel Beersheba was such a place. With remains dating back to the Chalcolithic era, you can see how successive civilizations settled there, where the Hebron and Beersheba Streams merge. Climb down a 200-foot-deep ancient cistern that dates back to the time of King Hezekiah in the 8th century BCE.  It’s the largest one ever found in the Negev!  Don’t miss the hewn-stone alter.  Its design, in violation of the Lord’s commandment that altars be built of undressed stone, proved that King Hezekiah faced great challenges when he embarked on a course of religious reforms. When you visit the remains of the residential settlement, marvel that some of these homes were built almost a 1,000 years before King Hezekiah ruled!  This has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and as you survey the remains from the lookout tower, it’s easy to understand why.

Tel Beersheva Travelujah 

Tel Beersheva, photo courtesy Travelujah- Holy Land tours

Once you’re back in your car, follow the signs to Route 40 south. As you head south, notice the impressive chalk plateaus as well as the tamarisk trees that dot the landscape. These are just like the tamarisk trees that Abraham planted in Beersheba when he made the oath to Abimelech promising that he would deal honestly with him.

In less than an hour, you will find yourself at Kibbutz Sde Boker, home to Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion.  Just past the kibbutz is the Ben Gurion Institute.  Follow the palm tree-lined access road into the institute where you’ll find a cafeteria that offers a variety of food at moderate prices.

Take a moment and visit Ben Gurion’s grave. As you near the end of the short walk from the parking area to his final resting place, you will be overwhelmed as you look out over the expansive breaks in the rock that form the Zin Valley. The majestic view, striking in its stark beauty, was a constant source of inspiration to the country’s first prime minister who worked the earth with his own hands to make the desert bloom.

Tel Beersheva Travelujah     Tel Beersheva Travelujah

Tel Beersheva, photo courtesy Travelujah-Holy Land tours

Would you believe grapevines grow in the Negev? See for yourself at the Sde Boker Winery located in Kibbutz Sde Boker. Zvi Remak was born in the U.S. and he is delighted to introduce visitors to desert wine.  He’ll be thrilled to pour you a glass!  Why not buy a bottle so that your designated driver can enjoy a glass at the end of the day! Imagine opening a bottle while you watch the mountains reflect the purple and pink hews of the setting sun!

For nature lovers, a short drive south from Sde Boker is the Ein Avdat National Park , where you’ll have the unique opportunity of walking in a desert canyon. The path winds its way along a spring-fed stream through magnificent chalk cliffs. Look out and see ibex grazing as they gracefully navigate the rocky cliffs.  If you’re lucky, you may be able to see eagles nesting on the cliffs. While there is a path that is designed for experienced hikes which involves ascending a large set of stone steps, there is an equally breathtaking circular route for novice hikes that is relatively flat and can be complete in an hour. If ancient culture is what you are after, don’t miss the striking ancient Nabatean fortress of Avdat, a UNESCO world heritage site situated along the ancient Nabatean spice route.

And now for a night like no other! A trip to the Negev would not be complete without unparalleled Bedouin hospitality. A few minutes from Ein Avdat you’ll find Khan Chan Hashayarot offers five Bedouin tents of various sizes to provide you with an idyllic Bedouin experience.  Whether you are traveling on your own and looking to meet other lone travelers, or with your family, you’ll find a tent that is perfect for you. The tents, decorated with colorful mats, are made of goat wool and provide warmth during the cool desert nights.  Step outside the tent and view a sky blanketed with stars. Far from city lights, you’ll be able to easily spot Orion, Ursa Major along with a host of other stars and constellations you had only read about. If you want to spend a night in the desert but aren’t ready for the tent experience, Chan Hashayarot has furnished cabins as well.


Kfar Anokdim meal

After a deliciously restful night, wake up to a full Bedouin breakfast including Bedouin coffee served with array of homemade breads, cheese and puddings colorfully displayed on a balcony overlooking the desert.

The Khan will arrange special camel tours and other outdoor adventures for you if you wish.

Day 2

Drive south on Route 40 to Mitzpeh Ramon, home of Israel’s largest crater, or machtesh. This machtesh was not created from a meteor collision but from an unusual geological process where erosion caused the collapse of heavy limestone that covered the softer sandstone underneath. There are only six in the world and three of them are here in Israel.  As you stand at the Machtesh Ramon Lookout you’ll have a chance to view the length and breadth of Israel’s largest machtesh!  It’s 25 miles long, between 1 and 10 miles wide and over 1,600 feet deep!  Situated on the machtesh’s northern edge, it’s the perfect spot for viewing the various geological features.  Look out at the nearby Givat Gaash (Volcanic Hill), a basalt-covered hill resulting from a pre-historic volcanic eruption.  Look south to the tabletop mountains of Mount Ardon and Mount Arpek.  Don’t be surprised if some ibex wander past you as you explore! The new Ilan Ramon visitor center overlooking the crater is a must see as well.

Mitzpe Ramon Travelujah Mitzpe Ramon Visitor Center

But, for a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, either hike down into the machtesh itself or enjoy a jeep ride to the crater’s bottom, or get a local private biking guide, rent bikes and ride inside the crater.  The hike is 4-5 hours so this is only appropriate for very experienced hikers.  Bring lots of water with you as the trail is not shaded.  If you choose the jeep option, you’ll all enjoy all of the natural beauty without breaking a sweat.  Drive to the middle and see the “carpentry” shop.  These “wooden” planks are actually ancient geological prisms.  Or drive along the northern wall and see the ammonite fossils; large snail remains that indicate that this desert was once covered by water.  But even if you decide to just enjoy the vast beauty from the observation point, enjoying the yellow and pinks of the surrounding sandstone mountains, you will enjoy an unforgettable morning!

For some manmade fun! Drive five minutes from the Machtesh Ramon Lookout to Desert Archery World and giggle your way through a desert archery course designed for the whole family.  The rubber-tipped arrows are safe and the various sizes of bows mean that even children as young as nine can join in the fun!  Traveling with younger children? Visit the nearby Alpaca Farm where you and your children can hand feed the alpacas and 400 llamas. You can even try weaving in the wool house and learn about the process of shearing the animals.

Grab fast food in the town of Mitzpeh Ramon  and head back on Route 40, past Sde Boker and turn left a Mashavim Junction onto Route 222. You’ll arrive at Khirbet Halutza a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was part of the ancient Nabatean Spice Route and served as a way station for Nabatean traders traveling between Gaza and Jordan.  The Nabateans were a nomadic people who came to Israel almost 400 years before Jesus and existed here until the 7th century. These expert desert farmers ultimately converted to Christianity not long after Constantine made it the official religion of the Roman Empire and, eventually, this became the most important city in the Negev.  You can see remains of the Byzantine church basilica as well as remains of the only known Roman style theater in the Negev.

Continue on route 222 and then turn left onto route 232.  If you’re traveling during the winter months, look for the beautiful red anemones and purple irises that can be found along the way. Follow signs to the town of Talmei Yosef for the final stop on your two-day Negev getaway.

Learn how Israel has made the desert bloom and join agronomist Uri Alon at the Salad Farm for a tour where you’ll not only learn about desert agriculture, you also have a chance to eat fruit right off of the vine.  From strawberries to peppers to tomatoes, you’ll learn about the latest advances in greenhouse technology, while enjoying some of the most mouthwatering fruits and vegetables imaginable.  Savor the taste of pita baked before your eyes and then served with fresh olive oil and hyssop while you watch homing pigeons carry out their jobs.  Then see if you can navigate your way through a passion fruit maze. Eating your fruits and vegetables was never this much fun!

After a few hours at the Salad Farm, it will be time to leave your Negev getaway, but don’t despair. As you traverse the Negev landscape, you’ll be able to enjoy the magnificent colors as the setting sun reflects its brilliant color off the Negev’s sandstone mountain.

If you go:


Onnie Schiffmiller is a licensed tour guide and contributes regularly to Travelujah-Holy Land Tours.


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