Israel Sites and Places
Here you will find basic background information on over 20 sites and cities in Israel you may wish to visit or learn about.
The Talmud asks, “Why is she (the city) called Tzippori? Because she sits on top of the mountain, like a bird (tsippor)” (Talmud Megillah 6a).
Tzippori – Sepphoris in Greek – is located in the heart of the Lower Galilee about 6.5 KM. northwest of Nazareth, on a hill 285 meters above sea level. Excavations uncovered a rich legacy from the Judean, Roman and Byzantine periods; about 40 mosaics were found from very different character, some in a remarkable stage of preservation. To Full Post
Wandering through the lanes and alleyways of Tsfat today, you may be struck by the simple beauty of the place. It is this beauty which inspires the many artists who have settled here during the last decades and have turned Tsfat into a center of Israeli art. In every corner and on all sides you can see the galleries of the Tsfat artists. It is not hard to understand what draws them here. Beyond its beauty, the city holds a long and fascinating history, encompassing a wide variety of human activity. To Full Post
The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is a large inland lake 76 KM long, up to 18 KM wide and it is 400 meters deep at the deepest point. The name “Dead Sea” for the Hebrew “Yam Hamelach” (Salt Sea) was attributed by Christian Monks, astonished by the apparent absence of any form of life in the sea water. Recent scientific research however, discovered 11 types of bacteria in the water; but in wells sometimes only one meter from the Dead Sea shore – for example in Ein Zuqim (Ein Faskha) in the north Dead Sea area, live unique, indigenous small fish. This species evolved from big carp common in Lake Tiberias; these small fish have adapted to survival in these hard conditions. To Full Post
Tel Aviv – Independence Hall
Here in this hall, the members of the National Council, representatives of the Jewish settlements and the Zionist movement, gathered on Friday, 5th of Iyar 5708, 14th of May 1948 in the afternoon, to sign the Scroll of Independence. Behind the table, David Ben Gurion, the Chairman of the Zionist Movement, proclaimed the establishment of the Jewish State, Israel.
Independence Hall is located in the Rothschild Blvd. 16 in Tel Aviv, formerly the house of Zinna and Meir Dizengoff, Tel Aviv’s founding father and first mayor, who bequeathed his home to the city as an Art Exhibition.
With the declaration of the Jewish State, 52 years after publication of Theodor Herzl’s”Der Judenstat” (The Jewish State), the Jewish dream of about two thousand years became a reality. However, the people in Israel still had to fight for their independence, defending themselves against Arab irregulars and the regular armies of the Arab league that launched attacks on the young state from all sides within the next few days.
Israel’s Declaration of Independence was not a foregone conclusion.
Two days before the declaration, the situation for the National Council was very complex: the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Road was blockaded by Arab bands, and two members of the National Council were unable to arrive in Tel Aviv for the historical decision. Golda Meirson (Meir) reported the results of a secret night time meeting on 11th of May 1948 with Abdullah; King of Jordan, the King had decided to withdraw from former agreements for political arrangements to recognize the Jewish state, joining the Arabic league preparations to invade Palestine directly after termination of the British Mandate. Somber strategic estimates were provided by Israel Galili, the head of the Haganah; Yigal Sukenik (Yadin), head of the Haganah’s Operations Department, depicted the dangerous situation, such as weapon shortage and the very critical circumstances in Gush Ezion, which finally fell into the hands of Arab bands between 12-14 of May 1948. Moshe Shertok (Sharett), the future Minister for Foreign Affairs, gave a detailed report about American State Department policy, on the one hand, pressuring the Zionist Organization to postpone a declaration of independence, in order to prevent an Arab invasion, and on the pro Arab position of Great Britain. On the other hand, he reported the warm sympathy he found from Andre Gromyko,the Russian representative at the United Nation, who took a contrary position and opposed American policy, after the Russian frustration in negotiations for oil concessions in Moslem states, to such an extent, that USA officials were afraid that the Jewish state would be become a bridgehead for Russian influence in the Middle East.
After serious appraisal of the dangers in days of lengthy meetings before the Declaration, on the 12th of May the Jewish National Council finally decided to take advantage from the maybe unique opportunity provided by the termination of the English Mandate to establish the State of Israel. From now on, the State of Israel could set its own foreign policy and import weapons to defend its independence as a sovereign state. No borders of the state were mentioned in the declaration. When queried on this point, Ben Gurion asked, “When the United States declared independence, did it define its borders?”.
In the US, President Truman did not agree with the policy proposed by the State Department officials and his Secretary of State Marshall, who did not support independence. He sent his adviser, Clark Clifford secretly to Eliyahu Eilat, the Jewish Agency representative in the USA, to prepare a request for recognition of the Jewish State when declared, and Clifford even gave him the text requested by President Truman. A interesting fact is, that when Eliyahu Eilat presented the request for approval, he did not yet know name of the future Jewish State. On the 15th of May USA recognized Israel, Guatemala followed, and on the 17th of May Russia gave its official recognition.
Today, Dizengoff House serves as a Biblical Museum with rare editions, printings and illustration, where another section of the building serves as Museum of Zionism. Independence Hall, where the State of Israel was declared, is preserved as it was on that day.
Text and picture by: Pinhas Baraq z”l.
References: Jehoshua Ben Aryeh, The History of Eretz Israel, the War of Independence, Jerusalem 1983, (Hebrew).
Ben Zion Dinur (chief editor), History of The Haganah, Tel Aviv 1972 (Hebrew).
Zev Vilnay, The Guide to Israel, Jerusalem 1978.
Dave Winter, Fotoprint Israel Handbook, Bath 1999.
“From sand dunes to the biggest city in Israel in less than four decades” aptly describes the unparalleled development of Tel Aviv-Jaffa.
Tel Aviv itself, the “first all-Jewish city in modern times,” was founded in 1909; built on the sand dunes that stretched northward from the Arab city of Jaffa, it has developed since then into a kind of “megalopolis” (complex of cities) extending from Herzliya in the north to Rehovot in the south, and merging in the east with such towns as Givatayim, Ramat Gan, Bene Berak and Petah Tikvah.
In 1995 Tel Aviv-Jaffa contained close to 355,200 inhabitants and ever since the establishment of the State of Israel, has served as the finance, entertainment, press and publication center of the country. Like most large cities, Tel Aviv-Jaffa is a city of contrasts. In its southern districts, it embodies some of Israel’s worst slums, while in the north and east there are attractive suburbs such as Ramat Aviv, the location of Tel Aviv’s rapidly-expanding university.
These residential sections have a somewhat “Americanized” character. Tel Aviv’s commercial center is Dizengoff Street and the city’s bohemian center is Sheinkin Street. At the heart of the southern end of the city rises Migdal Shalom, the highest skyscraper in Israel, and along the coast, a whole chain of hotels has been built, most with their own beaches which serve as recreation and entertainment spots for tourists and residents alike.
Tel Aviv’s beginnings actually date back to the early 19th century, when a Jewish community was reestablished in the all-Arab city of Jaffa. Throughout the Middle Ages, Jaffa’s port had served as the “gateway to Zion” for Jewish pilgrims coming to Erez Israel, but no Jewish residents had been allowed to settle there. In 1820, however, a Jewish traveler from Constantinople named Yeshaya Adjima, bought a house there (it was called Dar al-Yahud, the house of the Jew, by the local Arabs) and laid the foundations for a revived Jewish community. Merchants and artisans from North Africa followed him as settlers in Jaffa, and in the latter part of the century European Jews began to arrive as well.
The First Aliyah swelled Jaffa’s Jewish population and in 1887 the building of Jaffa’s first Jewish quarter, Neveh Zedek, was initiated. This set the pattern for later Jewish settlements structured in tightly-knit, fraternal quarters within the midst of the Arab population. In the 1990s, Neve Zedek is experiencing a bit of an architectural revival as young and old Israeli artists of all types are renovating its turn of the century buildings and recapturing some of its lost magic.
The Second Aliyah further enlarged Jaffa’s Jewish population, increasing it to 8,000 out of a total population of 17,000 in 1906. In 1909 it was decided to create a new suburb outside of Jaffa’s boundaries which would constitute the “first all-Jewish city.” The result was the city of Tel Aviv, whose foundations were then laid.
Tel Aviv grew steadily until World War I when the Jews were expelled from both Jaffa and Tel Aviv by the Turks. When the British took over, the Jews returned and Tel Aviv continued to expand. On May 12, 1934, Tel Aviv was officially given municipal status. In the same year, the Philharmonic Orchestra was founded, the Tel Aviv Museum was opened in the home of the city’s long-time mayor, Meir Dizengoff, and the cornerstone was laid for the Habimah Theater building. After World War II, the city played a prominent role and suffered much in the struggle with the British authorities, for the Haganah and the Irgun had their headquarters there, and during the War of Independence, Tel Aviv was incessantly shelled from Jaffa’s Arab quarters. On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was proclaimed in Tel Aviv’s museum building.
On April 24, 1949, Tel Aviv and Jaffa were united and the city’s official name became Tel Aviv-Jaffa; one of the world’s youngest cities had thus incorporated one of the oldest.
Tel Aviv Centenary Resources (100 תל אביב)
Reproduced with permission from “Junior Judaica, Encyclopedia Judaica for Youth” CD-ROM
(C) C.D.I. Systems 1992 (LTD) and Keter.
In 1966, a team led by Prof. Avraham Biran began to excavate Tel Dan (A tel is an ancient mound composed of the remains of successive settlements.) The impressive findings included sections of imposing walls and gates, as well as a ritual site which dates to the time of dramatic events recounted in the Bible. The earliest findings from a settlement on the tel belong to the Ceramical Neolithic Age (beginning of the fifth century B.C.E.). A city was first built there during the early Canaanite period. It was populated between 2700 and 2400 B.C.E. In the eighteenth century B.C.E., during the middle Canaanite period, a tremendous earth dike surrounded the city, protecting it for centuries. This is the city of Laish, which members of the tribe Dan captured for their homeland. Important remains were discovered in a Mycenaean grave from the late Canaanite period. The tribe of Dan found it difficult to deal with the pressures brought by the Philistines, and therefore decided to go North: “they proceeded to Laish, a people tranquil and unsuspecting, and they put them to the sword and burned down the town. There was none to come to the rescue, for it was distant from Sidon… They rebuilt the town and settled there, and they named the town Dan, after their ancestor Dan who was Israel’s son. Originally, however, the name of the town was Laish” (Judges 18:27-29).
One of the fascinating finds from Tel Dan is a piece of a fossilized tablet from the second half of the ninth century B.C.E. Carved onto it is an inscription of Hazael, King of Damascus, boasting of his victory over the King of Israel of the House of David. This is the first time that the name “House of David” was discovered outside of the Bible. Unfortunately, archaeologists have yet to find the inscription in its entirety. Dan was settled continuously until the Roman period, when the tel was abandoned and the center of settlement moved to Banias.
Tel Dan Nature Reserve
Entering the Tel Dan Reserve is like stepping into a wonderland: scores of bubbling brooks feed into a running river; tall treetops reach for the sky, completely blocking it from view; the ground is always shaded and refreshingly cool, even at noon on a hot summer day. It is no wonder that some 7,000 years ago people chose the small hill above the spring as the spot to make their homes. Of the three sources of the Jordan River, the Dan River is the largest and most important. Its springs provide up to 238 million cubic meters of water annually, equivalent to the water flowing from the Hermon (Banias) and Snir rivers combined. Some 7.5 cubic meters of water flow through Ein Dan every second, almost 365 days a year. The natural drainage basin of the Dan River is very small, which means that the springs are the source of all of the water which flows there. This is the reason for the water’s low stable temperature (about 14.5 centigrade) and high quality (only 10 milligrams of chlorine per liter) The springs are fed by the snow and rain which fall on Mount Hermon. The water seeps into the mountain, diving into hundreds of springs by the time it reaches the foot. Together, these springs form the largest karstic spring in the Middle East. Until the 1967 Six Day War, the Dan River was the only source of the Jordan in Israeli hands. The shortage of water in Israel and the use of the Dan to meet the needs of the population almost meant the end of the reserve. The need to use the Dan River water was not a matter of dispute; the question was only from where the water should be taken. In 1966, Israel’s water planners decided that it would be best to siphon the water from the source and use the force of gravity to carry it to the Hulah Valley. Nature lovers in Israel believed that the reserve should not be harmed and that the water should be taken from a lower level. This debate went on for three years, but in 1969 the conservation lobby won out and the Tel Dan Reserve became a reality.
The tiny Tel Dan Reserve covers only about 120 acres. Nonetheless, thanks to its location and unique environmental conditions, the Reserve contains plants and animals from a variety of worlds. The Cairo spiny mouse, a desert rodent, “climbed” along the Syrian-African Rift. The amphibious fire salamander is commonly found in Europe. Adult specimens have elongated black bodies with yellow or orange splotches. During the rainy season, the salamanders gather in the pools of water to spawn their offspring, and the rivulets of the reserve are teeming with them. Broad toothed mouse is a nocturnal Mediterranean rodent which feeds primarily on acorns. Tristram jird, a representative of the central Asian steppe, is a rodent which lives in burrows and eats seeds and foliage. The flora in the reserve are also endemic to a wide variety of places. Syrian ash, which grows between the rivulets, and Jerusalem thorn, a large, thorny, and thicket-like plant, are Euro-Siberian in origin. The very large Atlantic pistachio and the lotus jujube, with its crooked branches, are typical of steppe regions. Laurel and alaternus, generally found in the damp parts of the reserve, are Mediterranean trees, and jujube, whose fruit resembles tiny apples, is typically seen in East Africa. The water in the rivulets contains a world in itself. The islands in the river are home to marsh fern, a northern fern which disappeared from the Hulah Valley and can only be found in Israel along the Dan River. This is the southernmost distribution of the marsh fern in the world. Another rare plant is the St. John’s wort, which can be up to four meters tall. Typical riverbank vegetation can be seen close to the water, such as holy bramble, loosestrife, common hemp agrimony, galingale, bedstraw, cynanchum, and willow herb.
Many invertebrates live in the water flowing through the Tel Dan Reserve: melanopsis, a black-shelled snail, whose diet is primarily composed of algae it scrapes from rocks; amphipode, a delicate crab; and hydrometrid, a common water bug which can be up to 12 millimeters long. It lives in standing or slowly moving water and eats mainly mosquito larvae. The quiet waters typical of the part of the reserve dubbed the “Garden of Eden” contain a whole host of marine animals. The Reserve is also home to several species of fish. The Damascus barbel adapted to life in quickly flowing water,and can climb up meter-and-half-high waterfalls. The Levantine sicker, which can grow up to 14 centimeters long, is equipped with a special surface which enables it attach itself to rocks. Its source of nourishment is algae which it scrapes into its mouth. These two species live primarily in the deeper parts. In contrast, the 8-centimeter-long Jordan loach is found in all parts of the river. This fish can be identified by its pale yellow skin and large spots. It lives between the rocks on the riverbed or hides in the sand. Although is difficult to spot birds flying between the tangled branches, visitors can enjoy the chirping of the cetti warbler, a small songbird which hides and nests in the thicket. White wagtails sometimes nest on the “islands”. In recent years, many jays fly over the Reserve.
Our gratitude to the Authority for Nature and National Parks for their permission to use the text from their folder for our “Live” site.
Pictures by Pinhas Baraq
Tel Chai ( Getting Israel Together)
It’s hard to imagine the drama that was played out in this spot, next to Israel’s northern border. The sun shines on well-tended lawns, and in between neat wooden shacks lie agricultural implements, carefully placed as if they were pieces of sculpture at a modern art exhibition. It’s easy for the casual visitor to miss the significance of this place.
But this small yard witnessed one of the most dramatic moments in the life of the young Zionist community of Israel. Here took place a struggle which has become a legendary chapter in the story of Israel.
Tel Chai was settled in 1918 by a group associated with the Hashomer organization. It was a lonely spot, surrounded by open country, with only the small settlement of Kfar Giladi as a neighbor.
At the end of 1919, tension in the area increased, as the Arabs attacked French patrols and gained effective control of the region. The situation of the isolated Jewish settlements in the Galilee Finger was very bad. A fierce argument developed within the Jewish community over the future of the northern settlements. Some said that settlements must be abandoned, since the price of defending them would prove too high. But others believed that the settlements had to be defended whatever the cost. They believed that abandoning the threatened settlements of Tel Chai and Kfar Giladi would indicate weakness and a lack of determination to defend settlements and would be an open invitation to enemy forces to attack settlements anywhere in the land. The entire Zionist enterprise could be endangered.
The settlers in the northern outposts were determined not to give up. To do so would be treason. But as they surveyed the Arab forces in the area, and compared them to their own meager forces, they nearly des- paired. There were less than 20 defenders in Tel Chai and about the same number in Kfar Giladi; the Arab forces had put the French troops, with all their guns and canons, to flight.
Nevertheless, the settlers were determined to stay. “We will stay, no matter what. We won’t let the armed Arabs come near our home,” wrote one of the settlers in the communal diary of Tel Chai. “When the decisive moment comes, we’ll do whatever we can in an effort to raise the price of our lives as much as possible.”
The settlers of the north put out a desperate call to the Jews of Israel for volunteers to help defend the settlements. But only a few responded. One of the settlers in Tel Chai wrote:
“We felt ourselves to be in a continuous siege. We left all the work in the fields – and we didn’t even have enough people to do all the jobs in the yard. Our eyes longed to see volunteers coming to relieve us of our endless guarding, but we hoped in vain.”
The situation was desperate. The children of Kfar Giladi were evacuated to a settlement further south. In December 1919, the first blood was drawn in Tel Chai when a young worker was killed. A few reinforcements were now sent to the region, under the command of the Russian Jewish military hero Joseph Trumpeldor. Trumpeldor had recently returned after a visit to Russia during which he organized Jewish self-defense groups to stave off attacks after the Russian revolution and mobilized groups of pioneers for Israel. Now back in Israel, he quickly took command of Tel Chai.
There were more incidents – and more casualties. Trumpeldor called for reinforcements from the governing organizations of the Jewish community. On February 8, 1920, he implored: “Armed gangs are multiplying in the area, and they are drunk with the spirit of victory. You must hurry, or it will be too late.”
By the time more help was organized it was indeed too late. On March 1, as Trumpeldor sat in conference at Kfar Giladi, a cry went out. “They’ve attacked Tel Chai!” Tel Chai, was, in fact, surrounded by several hundred armed Arabs – but they had not yet attacked. Somehow Trumpeldor managed to get inside the yard at Tel Chai.
Several times in the past, the Arabs had demanded to search Tel Chai for French soldiers, and the settlers had allowed them to do so. This time the demand came again, and Trumpeldor agreed to let the com- mander of the Arabs and some of his men come in. Once they were inside, gunshots were fired – and what happened next is unclear. The yard rang with rifle shots in all directions. There was chaos. Trumpeldor himself was shot twice in the chest. Finally a cease-fire was established. When the smoke cleared, there were eight Jews dead or dying.
Two days later, the decision to evacuate all the settlements was taken. The dead of Tel Chai, including Trumpeldor, were buried in a communal grave at Kfar Giladi, and the retreat to the south began.
A year later, when the situation in the area improved, the Jews returned to Kfar Giladi. The communal grave was marked by a stone lion, the traditional symbol of independence and courage. It stands as a monument to the bravery of those who fell, determined at all cost to defend what they had built.
One of the most famous songs of the pre-statehood period is this one:
In the Galilee, in Tel-Chai, Trumpeldor fell, For our people, for our country, the hero Joseph fell, Over hills and mountains He ran, to save the name of Tel-Chai, Saying to the comrades there: “Follow in my footsteps. “
Picture by: Pinhas Baraq
Rosh Hanikra is a chalk cliff on the beach of Upper-Galilee on the border between Israel and Lebanon, chiselled out into labyrinthine grottoes filled with seawater formed by the geological and biological processes and by waves lapping on the soft rock.
Throughout human history, Rosh Hanikra served as point of passge for trading caravans and armies between Lebanon, Syria – the northern cultures – and Israel, Egypt, Africa – the southern cultures. The Book of Joshua (Ch. 13:6) mentions “Misraphot Mayim” South of Rosh Hanikra, as the border settlement of the Israelite tribes of that period. Jewish sources referred to the cliff as “The Ladder of Tyre” and, as such, it is mentioned for the first time in the Book of Maccabees I, 11:19, Josephus in his book “De Belli Judeorum” (II: 2, 188) mentioned the high ridge “100 stadia from Acre”, known by the people the ladder of Tyre. It was also the place (“Sulma deTzor”) where Rabban Gamliel descended from his donkey (Eruvin 60, page B).
After the Arab Conquest, the site was renamed A-Nawakir (the grottoes). The present name, Rosh Hanikra, is a hebraicized version of the later Arabic variation Ras-A-Nakura. In 701 B.C.E. the army of Sennacherib passed the way between Tyre and the land of Israel. Alexander of Macedonea (323 B.C.E.) is credited for having hewed a tunnel at Rosh Hanikra to create a passageway for his army after besieging Tyre; armies of the Seleucids and the Ptolemies in their wars in the third and second century B.C.E., made use of this road, as did the Crusaders in 1099 C.E. Documents and drawings of pilgrims show stairways carved into the rock, facilitating the passage of caravans.
The first road accessible to motor vehicles was cut by the British Army during World War One. At the time of the British Mandate in Palestine, a road was laid for commercial and private use. A border post and customs office were established at the site.
During the Second World War the British dug a railway tunnel 250 meters long and built a bridge, as part of the Haifa – Beirut – Tripoli railway track. This was done to connect the local and Lebanese rail networks and to establish a continuous rail route from Egypt via Sinai, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey to Europe for troops and supplies. The project was made possible in summer 1941, after the fall of the Vichy Government in France, who also held power in the Lebanon. There is a second tunnel whose entrance can be seen on the northern side. This tunnel enters Lebanon and leads to a third tunnel, entirely in Lebanon. The bridge and tunnels were all constructed by engineering units of the British Army from South Africa and New Zealand. The building of the system took about one year and it was opened for passengers and freight rail traffic on 24.8.1942. Part of the Ha’apala (Illegal immigration) fleeing from the Nazis made use of this tunnel to find haven in The Land of Israel. In 1947, the British decided to open a civilian passenger service on this line, but this decision was never implemented. At the end of 1947, the Israeli War of Independence broke out and the Western Galilee was cut off from the rest of the country. It was feared that Arab forces would use the railway route to bring volunteers and arms from Lebanon to aid their forces in Haifa. On the night of 14.3.1948, under cover of darkness and cloudy weather, a sabotage unit of the “Carmel Division” of the “Haganah” entered the tunnel and the grotto bridge under the nose of the British Police in their station (today the Youth Hostel at Rosh Hanikra) and blew up the western end of the Bridge. After the withdraw all of the British Police force, the area came under Israeli control.
These are cavernous tunnels formed by geological and biological processes, together with sea action on the soft chalk rock. The total length is some 200 meters. They branch off in various directions with some interconnecting segments.
In the past, the only access to them was from the sea and experienced divers were the only ones fortunate enough to visit. The grottoes have a unique aspect at different times of the day. At sunset, in particular, the sea and cavern walls take on a special hue. Seasonal changes also alter the grottoes’ appearance dramatically. The polished, silvery mirror-like appearance in summer, transformed into a churning, explosive scene in winter. This rare beauty became accessible to the general public in 1968, when, a tunnel was excavated to the natural grottoes, slightly above the sea surface. It is 400 meters long and took two years to complete.
The Rosh Hanikra landscape is unique in Israel. The cliff is at the foot of a chalk mountain range which dips into the sea, creating a steep, white pillar, 70 meters high. The land escarpment and sea bed of the nearby beach front were all formed in this manner. The mountain ridge has three distinct layers from the Kenoman period, each distinguished by their particular hardness: The top layer is hard chalk rock and dolomite. The middle layer is comprised of soft chalk. The bottom layer is hard chalk and for the most part, lies beneath the sea surface, providing underwater fauna and flora in a unique milieu. Over a period of thousands of years, the wear and tear of waves against the second layer created the caves and caverns known today as the “grottoes”.
But all this was possible only because geological breaks or small caves formed by seeping rainwater absorbed by the soft rock before the cliff encountered the sea. You can see the stalactites on the tunnel cave ceilings. Other factors that intiated and contributed to the process of erosion of the soft chalk were the duckweeds and the micro-organisms covering the rock and crumbling it. This primary erosion was continued by the waves that some times lashed the rock in time of storm, with an estimated power of 250 tonnes per square meter.
The cliff and the sea-shore are a natural reserve of unique fauna and flora. On the slopes of the cliff, amongst Charob and Pistacia Elastica, blown and started by the wind into Bonsai-like shrubs, blooms the Statice, endemic to this stretch of land. The scented white sea-shore Lilies, Narcissus and Squill, bloom in autumn and wintertime. Other colorful flowers bloom in early spring. Inside the Grottoes, groups of bats spend their day resting on the ceiling while swallows and rock pigeons nest in the protective darkness of the caves. flights of seagulls wing their way to their nesting island a mile to the west. There one can observe most of the local and European sea-shore and sea birds. The sea-shore pools offer plenty of food to winter-guest birds. The rocky depths of the sea offers a friendly environment to all kinds of Mediterranean fish and other marine animals. The most attractive guest to this shore is the loggerhead turtle, a huge maritime reptile that has chosen these rocky shores as a mating area, and the rough sand shores to dig his bottle shaped pits where the females lays eggs in early summer. A few weeks later hundreds of tiny turtles dig their way out of the pits and hurry to the sea guided by the beam of the full moon. Today the nesting areas are endangered by the changing environment and by tourism.
Services at the site
To facilitate the approach to the cavern entrance, a cable cars system, was installed. The ride takes about a minute in each direction and provides a panoramic view of the cliff and sea. The cable way operates year round, with exception of two or three days when weather conditions may necessitate a shutdown. “The Peace Train” media display is also shown on site. Above a Kosher restaurant constructed in the shape of a ship overlooks the cliff and sea.
Kibbutz Kfar Rosh Hanikra
At the foot of the mountain, on the right side of the road to the cliff, lies a kibbuts. It was founded in 1949 by disarmed members of the Yiftah division of the Palmach, together with additional groups of the pioneers youth movements. Its income is based on field agriculture, a banana plantation, flower nursery, poultry , dairy farming, cotton, a Guest House, the restaurant and the cable car at the Rosh Hanikra site.
We wish to acknowledge our gratitude to the marketing division of Rosh Hanikra for the permission to use text from their folder for this “Live” site page. Additional details are based on the “Guide Israel” and “Israel – Sites and Places”.
The pictures were taken by: Pinhas Baraq
Jerusalem capital of the State of Israel and spiritual center for most of the western world. Jerusalem is more than just a physical grouping of stone buildings and ancient walls spreading out over the Judean hills: it is the Holy City, symbol of universal peace and redemption for over 3,000 years.
Jerusalem is located on the ridge of the Judean Mountains. These mountains continue to spread out west of the city, but to the east the green landscape gradually merges with the barren Judean desert which descends to the Dead Sea. The city is built entirely on hills, its houses picturesquely dotting the rocky slopes.
Part of the city’s historical importance can be attributed to the fact that it lies in one of the crossroads of Israel, balanced between the north-south route leading from Hebron and Bethlehem to Shechem (Nablus) and the east-west routes from the coast to the Jordan Valley.
In biblical times, Jerusalem was surrounded by thick, green forests of almond, olive and pine trees. But in the course of numerous wars and settlements, much of this lush greenery was destroyed and the soil left to dry out in the summer sun and wash away in the heavy winter rains. From earliest times, farmers have therefore been forced to terrace the ground and build stone fences along the slopes to hold back the soil. This stone terracing is still in evidence all along the Jerusalem landscape. A deliberate attempt has been made in modern times to replant the trees and the approach to Jerusalem is once again flanked by heavily forested areas.
Jerusalem has a rainy, temperate winter and a hot, completely dry summer. It is especially pleasant in the summer when the air is clear and the cool evening breezes bring relief from the noon-day heat. There is an occasional snowfall in mid-winter lasting only a few days.
The boundaries of the city have changed often, the last expansion taking place as a result of the Six-Day War in 1967. The remains of several different encircling walls attest to the city’s changing size even in ancient times.
The first mention of the city of Jerusalem appears in the Egyptian Execration Texts of the 19th and 18th centuries b.c.e. It is referred to there as a Canaanite city-state whose name was probably pronounced as “Rushalimum.” In the Tell el-Amarna letters of the 14th century b.c.e. it is called Urusalim, and in Abraham’s day it seems to have been known simply as Salem. In later times, the rabbis interpreted this as a variation of the Hebrew word shalom (peace) and gave the city its designation as the “City of Peace.”
Jerusalem is also sacred to many religions and this atmosphere of holiness is reflected in some of its names.The Greeks added the prefix hiero (“holy”) and called it Hierosolyma. and the Arabs call it Al Kuds (“The Holy”). Almost every occupying power has given the city a new name. It was called Jebus by the Jebusites who preceded the Israelite conquest. The name Zion at first designated a part of that Jebusite city, but was later used to refer to the whole city. Later, David gave his name to the city and it was called Ir David (The City of David). Jerusalem has since had many names, reflective of the love and reverence of its admirers, including “God’s City,” “Faithful City,” and “The Beautiful City.”
Although there is archaeological evidence of man having been in the Jerusalem area in prehistoric times, there does not seem to have been a permanent settlement there until the Canaanite period. It was during this time (c. 2000 b.c.e.) that Abraham met up with Melchizedek, priest-king of Salem. The Bible later tells how Abraham came to Har ha-Moriah (Mount Moriah) for Akedat Yizhak — the near- sacrifice of his son Isaac (see Akedah). According to rabbinic tradition, Har ha-Moriah ultimately became the Temple Mount in the heart of Jerusalem. When the Israelite tribes divided Canaan into tribal lots, Jerusalem was originally assigned to the tribe of Benjamin, but they seemed unable to gain control of the area from the local inhabitants. So Jerusalem remained a Jebusite city until the time of David, thus cutting the Israelite territory in two and separating the central tribes from the southern ones.
When David became king, he set about uniting all the tribes into one nation. That meant eliminating the foreign enclave which presented a physical barrier to unification. At the same time, he hoped that by taking Jerusalem, the only city not owned by any tribe, he could create the national capital there and thus avoid inter-tribal jealousies.
David managed to capture Jerusalem with relative ease by infiltrating his men into the city through the water tunnels and surprising the enemy within the city walls. He used his own private army for this purpose rather than the combined armies of all the tribes. The city therefore became his royal domain — the “City of David,” capital of Israel.
When the Ark of the Law was later transferred there by the king, Jerusalem became not only the Royal City, but the Holy City as well. Yet for all its importance, the City of David was actually very small, covering an area of only about 30,000 square meters (roughly the size of three football fields set side by side). It was located in the Siloam Valley on the south-eastern slope of what would later become the Temple Mount.
Though David himself chose the site for the Temple, it was left to his son Solomon to actually carry out the plans for its construction. During Solomon’s reign, Jerusalem really took on the aura of a thriving capital, with its magnificently designed Temple and royal palace. At first the city was below in the valley and the Temple on the mountain towering above the city. Later the importent people and the king began to live on the mountain around the Temple. During this period the city changed its shape, expanding in all directions. But it was still within what is the Old City of today. Trade caravans passed through its markets, and the presence of a chariot force, foreign guards and a sumptious court replete with a large harem, contributed to its fame and growth. Solomon enlarged his father’s city to more than five times its original size.
When the kingdom split in 930 b.c.e. after Solomon’s death, Jerusalem lost much of its political supremacy. The kingdom of Israel established its own capital and Jerusalem, now impoverished and weakened, remained only as the ruling city for the smaller kingdom of Judah. For the next four centuries, the city alternated between short periods of prosperity and longer periods of religious and political crises. Some kings defiled its holy ground with pagan shrines, while others tried to purify its sanctuaries and restore it to its former state of glory. Uzziah fortified the city, making it the center of moral and social regeneration. And Hezekiah reinforced the walls, repaired the Temple, and built a water tunnel capable of supplying the city in times of emergency.
In 587 b.c.e. the Babylonian army captured the city of Jerusalem after several months’ siege. The Babylonian captain exiled most of the inhabitants and, according to the Bible, “he burnt the house of the Lord, and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man’s house burnt he with fire.” This disaster left Jerusalem desolate for over 50 years.
In 536 b.c.e., after the fall of Babylon, Cyrus, king of Persia who became the overlord of Judah, issued his famous declaration which allowed the Jews to return to Zion and rebuild the Temple. Slowly the Jews began returning to the Holy City and gradually they began to rebuild from the ruins. In the fifth century, under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah’ the walls were repaired’ the Jewish community reorganized and eventually the Temple rebuilt.
Jerusalem submitted peacefully with the rest of Judah to Alexander the Great (332 b.c.e.) who left the Jews pretty much on their own. But after Alexander’s death in 323 b.c.e., the city suffered through a series of wars fought by his would-be successors. It was finally taken over by the Egyptian Ptolemaic dynasty and remained under their rule in relative stability for the next hundred years.
In 198 b.c.e. the Seleucids (Syrian Greeks) defeated the Egyptians and, once again, Jerusalem changed hands. At first, the situation in Jerusalem seemed unchanged and even slightly improved. Jews were granted a charter confirming their right to live by “the laws of their fathers” and Jerusalemites were even partly exempted from taxes.
But in many subtle ways the Seleucids were attempting to Hellenize the Jews. In 175 b.c.e. Antiochus Epiphanes became ruler and the pressure for Hellenization became more blatant and forceful. The name of Jerusalem was changed to Antioch, a gymnasium was built just beneath the Temple and the Temple itself was ransacked.
Enraged by these actions, the Jews began an armed rebellion under the leadership of the priestly Hasmonean family. In December 164 b.c.e. the Hasmoneans were able to reoccupy Jerusalem and cleanse the Temple. The festival of Hanukkah celebrates that event. Though the city was besieged several times during the Hasmonean rule, it remained as the capital of the kingdom until 63 b.c.e. and boasted of evergrowing political, economic and religious activity. The remains of Hasmonean walls, coins, arrowheads and monuments found in Jerusalem are evidence of the prosperity of the city during that time.
Hasmonean rule was ended in the first century b.c.e. by the Roman invaders who divided the country into districts so that Jerusalem lost its status as capital. The Hasmoneans made one last attempt to regain control, but were ruthlessly suppressed by King Herod who seized control of Jerusalem in 37 b.c.e.
In an effort to secure his hold on the city, Herod completely transformed its appearance. He built a palace surrounded by towers on the northwest corner of the city. He enlarged the Temple area and surrounded it with a wall, of which the Western Wall is the only remaining section. He also entirely rebuilt the Temple, doubling its height and richly adorning its exterior.
Upon Herod’s death, Jerusalem was ruled by a series of Roman procurators. (One of these, Pontius Pilate (26–36 c.e.) was responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth in Jerusalem.) But the misrule of these administrators provoked the outbreak of yet another Jewish revolt, which soon became a full-scale war. In 70 c.e. Titus and his Roman legions laid siege to the city and then stormed its weakened defenders. The city was burned, its inhabitants massacred and the Temple destroyed. Of the once-glorious city, only the three towers of Herod’s palace and the western wall of the Temple Mount remained intact.
According to Jewish sources, the Romans razed Jerusalem to the ground and plowed the site over to prevent further settlement. Even so, some Jews managed to return. When the emperor Hadrian tried to establish a Roman colony there, the second Jewish-Roman war broke out with Bar Kokhba leading the Jewish rebels. They were defeated by Hadrian who subsequently decreed that no circumcised person should be allowed into Jerusalem under pain of death.
The Romans then proceeded to convert Jerusalem into a typical Roman colony, calling it Aelia Capitolina. After Hadrian’s death the ban on Jews in Jerusalem was unofficially lifted, only to be renewed by Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. He permitted Jews to enter Jerusalem only once a year, on the ninth of Av, anniversary of the destruction of both Temples.
Constantine was the founder of the Byzantine empire and a devout Christian. He tried to make Jerusalem into a center of Christian worship by erecting many churches there, including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and designating various areas as Christian holy sites. He also restored the name “Jerusalem” to the city. This policy of Christianizing Jerusalem was maintained by most of the Byzantine rulers who extended the restrictions on Jewish settlement in the city. Byzantine control had been threatened at various times by the Persians and in 614 the Persians actually managed to capture Jerusalem and hand it over to the Jews. But this victory was short-lived and the Byzantines returned in 629 to again expel the Jews. They ruled Jerusalem until their defeat at the hands of the Muslim Arab caliph, Omar, in 638.
The Arabs, like all of Jerusalem’s rulers, tried to change the character of the city to fit their own religious needs. Jerusalem was sacred to the Muslim Arabs as the place from which Muhammad ascended to heaven. The Dome of the Rock, built on the Temple Mount, is the most magnificent of the mosques and holy sites built by the Arabs in Jerusalem to commemorate that event.
But the Arabs never really restored Jerusalem to its former glory and it remained basically a provincial town. The majority of the population was still Christian, though the Jews were allowed to settle there. They developed two Jewish quarters: one southwest of the Temple area, and one north of it. The city’s inhabitants were for the most part impoverished merchants.
In 1099 the Crusaders besieged Jerusalem and, in one of history’s strange ironies, the “City of Peace” was once again involved in war and bloodshed. The Christian soldiers, led by Godfrey of Bouillon, scaled the city walls and massacred the inhabitants — Jews and Muslims alike. In order to repopulate the city, the Crusaders transferred Christian Arab tribes from Transjordan and settled them in the former Jewish quarter.
Jerusalem became the capital of the Crusader kingdom and thrived because of the concentration of all the government and church bodies there. Tens of thousands of Christian pilgrims visited the city every year, thus adding to its growth and prosperity. But the Jews were still for the most part banned, as during the previous Christian period.
When the Muslims, under Saladin, recaptured Jerusalem in 1187, the Jews enjoyed a short period of resettlement in Jerusalem. But with Saladin’s death, the city remained without any stable authority and was shuttled back and forth between Christians and Muslims.
In 1250 a new Muslim force appeared on the scene, the Mamluks, who managed to establish themselves as rulers of Jerusalem for over 260 years. Jewish life in Jerusalem was somewhat freer under Mamluk rule than it had been with the Christians. The city remained poor but Jewish scholarship and learning thrived. Ottoman Empire.
Jerusalem came under the domination of the Ottoman Turks in 1517 when Sultan Selim I took it in a bloody battle with the Mamluks. His successor, Suleiman the Magnificent, left his mark on Jerusalem’s history by building the present-day wall around the Old City. The construction of the wall, which took five years, made a great impression on the Jews of the time and it remains as one of the dominant architectural features of the city to this day. Legend has it that Suleiman had a dream that he would be eaten by lions if he did not build the wall. One of the gates to the Old City has two lions carved on it and is called “Lions’s Gate” in memory of that dream.
But aside from spurring a construction boom, the Turks did not pay much attention to Jerusalem. They considered it insignificant from a strategic and political point of view, and during their 400-year reign, only a few Turks settled in the area. Neither industry nor trade developed to any important degree and the inhabitants were often forced to accept charity from outside sources. The three main sections or quarters of the city — Jewish, Muslim and Christian — remained overcrowded and squalid.
The “New” City
In 1859, in an effort to relieve the congestion in the Jewish quarter, Sir Moses Montefiore bought a plot of land near Mount Zion and established the first Jewish quarter outside the city walls. He also built a windmill on the plot which became one of the landmarks of the city and its first “industrial” structure. Thus began the development of the New City of Jerusalem and the expansion of the Jewish settlement there.
During the next few decades, many more Jewish neighborhoods were founded outside the walls, each with the distinctive ethnic flavor of its inhabitants. These quarters were usually built as uniform blocks with the windows facing inward on a closed courtyard. This fortress-like arrangement was meant to protect the inhabitants from Arab attacks. Among the Jewish communities to spring up in the New City at the end of the 19th century were the Mahaneh Yehudah quarter founded by Moroccan Jews, Shaarei Rahamim, founded by Kurds, and the Hungarian and Bukharan quarters inhabited by immigrants from Hungary and Bukhara (a territory in the U.S.S.R.).
The Christians also began establishing a foothold outside the city walls and soon there was a Russian compound for the Russian Orthodox community and a German Colony for the Protestant Templars.
One of the most important Jewish communities established in the New City was the Mea Shearim section founded in 1874 by pious Jews from within the city walls. Various communities of Ashkenazi Jews came to settle there and these kolels as the communities were called, were supported by funds from their hometown congregations. In the early years each kolel lived a totally separate existence within the narrow streets and winding alleys of its neighborhood, establishing its own yeshivot, synagogues and community services. They were later united under one all-encompassing religious authority, and Mea Shearim remains today as a stronghold of ultra-Orthodoxy and the traditional eastern European Jewish way of life.
With all this new settlement activity, Jerusalem began taking on the character of a “westernized” city. Roads were built and modern shops opened. Even suburban communities such as Rehavia were established whose beautiful homes contrasted sharply with the dense, shabby quarters near the center of town. At the turn of the 20th century, the population of Jerusalem was estimated at 45,000 including 28,200 Jews.
The outbreak of World War I, however, changed the status of Jerusalem. It suddenly became the focus of international attention as various factions vied for control in the Middle East. The Turks sided with Germany and Jerusalem, no longer able to remain isolated from world affairs, became he nerve center for the attack on the eastern portion o’ the British Empire. But step by step the Turks were forced to give way to the British counter-attack. On December 11, 1917 the Turks officially surrendered Jerusalem to the British forces under General Allenby, who marched victoriously through the crowded city streets on his majestic white horse.
The Jews welcomed British rule. The efficiency and progressiveness of the British administration, coupled with the Zionist movement now in full swing and the historic Balfour Declaration which gave it impetus, encouraged greater Jewish settlement in Jerusalem. The Jews engaged in a tremendous building boom west of the city walls, as did the Arabs in the eastern part of the city. Hospitals and schools were erected and the Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus was opened in 1925.
But along with the development came increased tension between the Arabs and Jews. Jerusalem, one of the few cities where the two groups lived side by side, became the focal point of this tension and exploded many times into bloody riots and acts of terror. Haj Amin al Husseini, appointed by the British as mufti (religious leader) of Jerusalem, incited his people to violent hatred of the Jews. Jewish, Arab and British facilities in Jerusalem were bombed by extremists on all sides.
Unable to cope with the situation, the British referred the problem to the United Nations and on November 19, 1947, the UN General Assembly approved a partition plan for Palestine, which left Jerusalem as an international zone, belonging neither to the Jews nor the Arabs. Refusing to accept the decision, the Arabs immediately began attacking Jewish settlements, including those in Jerusalem. The Old City was cut off from the New while the areas outside the walls were divided into warring camps of Jews and Arabs. Jewish Jerusalem was put under virtual siege by Arabs attacking the supply convoys along the approach to the city. Thus began Israel’s War of Independence.
The Divided City
Jerusalem emerged from the battle in April 1949 as a divided city. The cease-fire line, running roughly north-south, left the Old City of Jerusalem and its eastern environs to the Arabs while the Jews maintained control over the New City to the west. Walls were built along parts of the border to guard against sniper attacks. They were a tragic symbol of the physical and spiritual rift between the two peoples. For 19 years the Jews were denied access to the Western Wall, the old synagogues, the cemetery on the Mount of Olives, and other Jewish holy sites. There was a Jewish enclave on Mount Scopus, but it was isolated from the rest of Jewish Jerusalem, the University and Hadassah hospital facilities remaining neglected and unused. By UN arrangement, only occasional convoys of Jewish police were allowed access to the area, and they were often fired on by the Arabs.
But Jewish Jerusalem recovered quickly and construction began immediately to replace lost facilities. A new modern University was built, Hadassah hospital opened a new branch, an improved museum was erected, and new roads were constructed to replace the Arab-held Latrun highway running from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The Reunited City
In 1967, as a result of the Six-Day War, Jerusalem was again unified, this time under Israeli rule, and the Jews and Arabs alike were given free access to all of its ancient and modern sites. Upon entering East Jerusalem and the Old City, the Israeli forces found that the Arabs had destroyed many of the old synagogues and desecrated the cemetery on the Mount of Olives, using the tombstones as building blocks. The Jews restored these areas, rebuilt the synagogues, renovated and reopened the facilities on Mt. Scopus and greatly improved the living conditions in the area, benefiting Arabs and Jews alike. Israel has also developed previously barren areas in the eastern sectors, building whole new, modern communities.
In 1993, local elections in Jerusalem resulted in the Labor party’s loss to the Likud and the end to its rule of the city for a generation. In a highly controversial and politically unwise move, Prime Minster Yizhak Rabin persuaded longtime Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kolleck (in office since 1965) to run again, despite the fact that the 83 year old Kolleck had originally conceded that he was too old to run for a seventh term. Kolleck lost to member of the Knesset Ehud Olmert, an articulate former health minister some thirty years Kolleck’s junior. After the signing of the Declaration of Principles between Israel and the PLO in the same year, the Labor party tried to mix national with local politics declaring that the elections in Jerusalem would be viewed as a referendum on the peace process. This tactic was damaging in Jerusalem, a city whose distinctive religious and ethnic makeup consistently produced an ultra-nationalist majority.
Kolleck lost the election largely due to the fact that former Kolleck supporters could not bring themselves to vote for such an aged figure and the city’s 89,000 eligible Arab voters virtually boycotted the elections in order not to legitimize Israeli rule in East Jerusalem. The haredi population voted in droves for Olmert after Rabbi Meir Porush, the candidate for United Torah Judaism dropped out of the race on the night before the elections. Kolleck, announced his resignation from the city council on November 29.
The population of unified Jerusalem had exceeded 646,100 by 1995 consisting of 473,200 Jews and 172,800 non-Jews, including Christians. It is a heterogeneous population, ranging from urban, educated Arabs to semi-nomadic Bedouin, from Hasidim to Oriental Jews. Though the various populations have integrated somewhat, there are still quarters in Jerusalem which maintain the character of their distinctive populations. After 1967, the inhabitants of East Jerusalem were considered Israel residents with Jordanian citizenship. (They could apply for Israeli citizenship but practically none of them did so.) This status allowed them to vote for and be elected to the Jerusalem municipality but not to the Knesset. As Jordanian citizens they could cross the cease-fire line and visit in Jordan while they also had the right to move freely throughout Israel.
The Jerusalem Landscape
The landscape of Jerusalem is unique, a vista where ancient structures are interspersed with ultra-modern buildings. To preserve the special character of Jerusalem, the British Mandatory Authority ruled that all buildings in Jerusalem should be constructed of local stone. An effort has been made ever since to adhere to that policy so that most of the structures in Jerusalem are in harmony with the hilly, rocky landscape. The hills themselves have, to a great extent, determined the contours of the city. Jerusalem is really a city made up of individual communities, each built on a hill or cluster of hills and separated from neighboring areas by valleys or rocky slopes.
Jerusalem’s holy sites provide the greatest attraction for Jews, Christians and Muslims all over the world. Its ancient mosques, churches and synagogues dot the landscape. The Dome of the Rock and the El Aqsa Mosque, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Via Dolorosa, the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, David’s Tomb, Solomon’s Pools, Mount Zion… all these are places that evoke a mystical and spiritual sense of belonging for the hundreds of thousands who throng Jerusalem each year.
The ancient walls surrounding the Old City, built by Suleiman in the 16th century, became the identifying symbol of unified Jerusalem. There are seven gates built into those walls that are open to traffic: Herod’s, Damascus and New gates in the north, Jaffa gate in the west, Zion and Dung gates in the south, and St. Stephen’s (Lion’s) gate in the east. The eighth gate, known as the Golden Gate or the Gate of Mercy, was sealed by the Muslim authorities because Muslim legend has it that the Jewish Messiah will enter Jerusalem through this point.
Jerusalem’s rich history and religious significance have attracted many archaeologists seeking relics of the past and a clearer picture of the life and times of the early inhabitants. From the 19th century onwards, excavations have been carried out near the city walls, the Temple Mount, the old City of David and various other sites. The Israelis point out whimsically that one cannot turn over a stone in Jerusalem without uncovering some ancient archaeological find.
The most extensive excavations ever conducted in the area were carried out by Professor Benjamin Mazar near the Western Wall. He continued the work started by the American Edward Robinson in 1838 and British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon from 1961 to 1967. Since 1969 archaeological excavations in the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem have been in progress under the initiative and leadership of Nahman Avigad. Among the finds in his excavations are the Israelite Gate Tower, the Cardo, an ancient shopping market, and the Nea Church.
One of the points that has intrigued archaeologists and historians alike is the way in which Jerusalem has been supplied with water throughout the ages. There is only one natural water source in the Jerusalem vicinity — the Gihon spring on the eastern slope of the Old City. The Canaanites built a tunnel leading from the spring into the city and it was through this tunnel that David made his historic entry into the city. At the end of the eighth century b.c.e. Hezekiah, king of Judah, had a new tunnel built which conducted the waters of the Gihon to the Siloam pools within what were then the city limits. This tunnel is still in existence today. One can wade through it and read the inscription placed there by the builders over 2,500 years ago. It tells how the workers, digging from both ends, met at an exact point in the center in what must have been a great engineering feat for those days. There were other pools, cisterns and reservoirs built round the city to increase its water supply but they proved to be inadequate for the growing population. So Pontius Pilate, the Roman ruler, built an aqueduct to bring more water from the springs near Hebron in the first century c.e.
However, water shortages plagued Jerusalem’s residents in various periods. In the 19th century the waters of the Gihon became polluted and Jerusalem residents were compelled to buy water brought in from elsewhere by train or donkey.
In the 1930s several pipelines were led from other springs to Jerusalem, thus solving the water supply problem. During the War of Independence these were temporarily cut off by the Arabs, but the supply was restored shortly thereafter.
Jerusalem occupies a very special place in the Jewish religion. It is, of course, often mentioned in the Bible, in a historical and poetical context. It is sometimes given a quasi-mystical character and is frequently used to signify all of Israel or all of Judaism. Because of its special holiness, Jerusalem is treated differently from other cities by the sages. There could be no permanent ownership of property in the city; its ritual purity had to be protected, and so no burial sites were allowed within the city walls.
While the Temple stood, Jews were expected to make three pilgrimages there each year — on Passover, Sukkot, and Shavuot. Many still make these pilgrimages, using the opportunity to mourn the destruction of the Temple. Jerusalem is also a popular subject for Jewish legend, folklore and song.
In Other religions
For Christians, Jerusalem marks the physical and spiritual center of the cosmos. It is the spot where the Garden of Eden was located and history began. They also believe it is the place where the world will reach its end.
There are those who feel that New Jerusalem should be for Christians only, believing that the Jewish claim to the city ended with the destruction of the Temple. They see Christianity as the rightful heir to the city because it is where Jesus preached, where he died, and where he is said to have been resurrected.
On the other hand, there are many Christian theologians who approve of the Jewish settlement of the city and view the successes of the State of Israel as a positive step in the rebirth of the Holy City.
For Muslims, the three holiest cities, in order of importance, are Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. They consider the rock in Jerusalem’s Mosque of Omar to be the center of the universe. This rock, which supposedly bears the hoofprint of Mohammed’s horse, is the place from which the Prophet is said to have made his Night Journey to the heavens.
In the Art
Jerusalem has provided the inspiration for many writers, poets, musicians and artists. Jewish poets of the Middle Ages wrote of their yearning to return to Zion. 19th century British poets used Jerusalem as a symbol of man’s yearning for a better life and a nobler society, and many books dealing with Jerusalem have been on the best seller lists since the Six-Day War in 1967.
For centuries, artists have attempted to present realistic and imaginary interpretations of the city. Its many faces have been carved in stone, etched in metal and wood, and painted on canvas. Pictures of Jerusalem appear on coins, old manuscripts, books, and in museum collections all over the world.
Entry taken from “Junior Judaica, Encyclopedia Judaica for Youth” CD-ROM
by C.D.I. Systems 1992 (LTD) and Keter.
Hebron is an ancient biblical city in Erez Israel located in the Judean Hills, 19 miles south of Jerusalem.
The name Hebron may derive from the Hebrew word “haber” meaning friend, or from the Arabic “haber” meaning granary. In Arabic it is known as al-Khalil, which means “the city of the beloved” and refers to Abraham (see below). In the Bible, Hebron is also called Kiriath-Arba (Gen. 23:2).
Hebron was founded around the year 1727 b.c.e. on Jebel al-Rumayda, a hill near to the present town. At about this time, the Patriarch Abraham purchased the Cave of Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite, and it was here that the Jewish forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their wives were buried. Hebron, however, remained a Canaanite city until it was captured by the Jews in the time of Joshua. Several hundred years later (c. 1010 b.c.e.), David was anointed king of Israel in Hebron.
Hebron remained a Jewish city until the destruction of the First Temple in 586 b.c.e., when the Jews were exiled to Babylon; however, it became a Jewish city again around the second century b.c.e. A Jewish settlement continued to exist there under various foreign rulers until the 20th century c.e., except for a short period when Hebron was under Crusader rule (1100–1260 c.e.) and all the Jews were temporarily expelled.
Although the Jewish settlement in Hebron was small, it was considered very important by the Jews, who made frequent pilgrimages to the Cave of Machpelah. It also became an important spiritual center during the 16th century, after many learned Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 had settled there.
By the 17th century many important kabbalists and scholars had also settled in Hebron; a yeshivah was founded in 1659. In 1662 the pseudo-Messiah Shabbetai Zevi visited the Jewish community and impressed its members, but his final disgrace led to an economic and spiritual decline. The influence of the kabbalists was felt until the 19th century, when Habad Hasidim and other leading rabbis settled there and established several new educational institutions.
The flourishing period of Jewish settlement in Hebron came to an end in 1914, with the outbreak of World War I. After the war the Jewish settlement began to recover, but was destroyed in 1929 by Arab rioters who killed 67 men, women and children and wounded 60 others. The community was resettled in 1931, but was again destroyed by the Arab upheavals of 1936. In 1948 Hebron became part of the kingdom of Jordan. It was captured by Israel in the Six-Day war of June 1967, and there is now a Jewish settlement of 4,000 inhabitants called Kiriyat Araba adjacent to Hebron. Jewish presence in Hebron proper was resumed in Jewish-owned buildings in the city. Yeshivot were also established there.
Uniquely among West Bank cities, Jews and Arabs live side-by-side in Hebron. In the 1990s, there are approximately 400-500 Jewish settlers living next to 120,000 Arabs. These Jewish settlers place ideology over personal safety. Hebron is the stronghold of the Islamic extremist movement Hamas who has more support here than in any other West Bank region. It is also home to the ideological core of the Jewish settlement movement which includes leaders and members of the religious extremist Kach group and the settler movement Gush Emunim, from which the 1980s Jewish terror underground sprouted. In 1994, doctor and Kach activist Baruch Goldstein walked into the Cave of Makhpelah and killed 29 Muslim worshippers. Under the Oslo Accords II, 80% of Hebron is to be handed over to Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority. Despite the March 1996 pullback date, four devastating Hamas suicide bombings forced the Labor Government to postpone withdrawal.