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The most recommended archeological sites in Israel

As a country that has such a long and fascinating history, Israel offers countless archeological sites which tell the story of life in the Holy Land thousands of years ago. We have chosen for you the seven most popular and recommended of them
by: Israel Traveler   |   09.01.2012
Masada is located on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea. It is an ancient fortress built on an isolated rock plateau, the royal citadel of King Herod the Great and the last post of the zealots at the time of the Great Revolt against the Romans between 66-73 CE. The most famous story about Masada is of course the story of the Great Revolt, the First Jewish–Roman War, when after the Jewish warriors lost all hope of victory against the Romans, just before Masada would fall into Roman hands, the leader of the rebels, Eleazar ben Ya'ir, managed to convince those under Roman siege to commit mass suicide rather than fall into Roman captivity. The site was declared a World Heritage Site in 2001 and it is filled with archeological remains from the time of King Herod the Great, such as palaces, bath houses, storage rooms, cisterns and a uniquely preserved Roman siege fortification system, the best and most complete example to have survived to date. Beside all these, this site offers breathtaking and impressive views and, as said before, a complex and fascinating historic tale. Arrival to the site is done by cable car or by climbing the snake path. On site one can tour among the archeological remains, watch the films and the audio-visual presentation and of course enjoy a magnificent and magical desert sunset or a picturesque and romantic sunrise.

Herod, the controversial king, responsible for historical classics such as Caesarea, Masada and other monuments which have survived many generations, has chosen to be buried here of all places, at the edge of the Judean Desert, on a mountain which is a palace and a palace which is a mountain. When you get here you will understand. This is a wondrous combination of the natural and the manmade, which over time have become one. This great mountain-palace (built 23-15 BCE) has included in its day gardens, Roman style luxurious baths and vast living spaces. Today only remnants remain of all of these, together with a breathtaking panoramic view seen from the top of the mountain, which includes the Dead Sea (on a clear day). One of the most enjoyable surprises here is the branching underground tunnel system which was dug in the mountain, some of it at the time of King Herod and some later, at the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt (132–136 CE). In 2007, the lost grave of King Herod the Great was found here, and next to it the remains of a theater and a room with over 2,000 years old magnificent paintings which were painted on dry plaster.

The Western Wall Tunnels are an underground system of manmade tunnels, entrances and passage ways in the Old City of Jerusalem, which pass under the buildings of the Muslim Quarter and serve as the continuation of the Western Wall. In order to reveal the continuation of the hidden wall, archeologists dug and exposed the full length of the Western Wall. In 1996 the tunnel opened into the Via Dolorosa Street which is in the Old Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter. In the Western Wall Tunnels one can see the huge stones of the Western Wall, which King Herod the Great has planned. In one of these tunnels a huge stone has sunk and its weight is no less than 570 tons. In the Western Wall Tunnels the visitors pass underneath the houses of the Old City of Jerusalem and get to see the hidden sections of the Western Wall, a completely preserve Second Temple Period street, a tunnel form the time of the Hasmoneans (a ruling Jewish dynasty of Judea and the surrounding regions during the 2nd century BCE), the remains of a thousand years old synagogue and more. The walk underground itself and the proximity to the remains of the Jewish Temple are very much awe inspiring. The Western Wall Tunnels also pass near the Foundation Stone (Even HaShtiya), which is now located inside the Dome of the Rock, but is the holiest site in Judaism, the place of the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept in the Jewish Temple which stood there before, and the spiritual junction of heaven and Earth, from where the world was created.

The City of David is ancient Jerusalem, the Biblical City of Kind David. The story of the City of David began 3,000 years ago, when King David decided to leave his city of Hebron and go to Jerusalem in order to unite the Israelites around one capital. The First Temple was constructed under King Solomon, King David’s son, on the top of Mount Moriah. Today, the City of David is an archeological site serving in the studying of that period of time and offering a glimpse into the past. The City of David is a charming small hill, located near the Western Wall and offering its visitors a magnificent view over fortifications and ancient walls, underground water tunnels, a dip in the waters of the Gihon Spring and a walk in Hezekiah's Tunnel- a water tunnel considered to be one of the technological wonders of the ancient world- with the help of a flashlight.

Caesarea, the ancient port city, is one of the most impressive National Parks in the country. At this site are found unique architectural structures from various periods which attest to the many changes which this city has gone through in its 2,300 years of existence. A visit to Caesarea combines an enchanting time near the sea and a tour of the numerous archeological finds that were found here. Among the impressive structures are the ancient Roman Theater, the Hippodrome, the Crusader fortifications, the ancient harbor and more. The information center here invites the visitor to embark on an interactive journey which presents the city’s past through various means such as a fascinating film and computerized animation, through which one gets to meet the historical figures which lived in Caesarea in its past and have left their mark on it. In the nearby kibbutz of Sdot Yam is the Caesarea Antiquities Museum, which includes various finds from the various periods in the history of this ancient city. In this kibbutz one can also find the ancient arched aqueduct which brought this ancient city its water.

Acre is one of the world’s oldest port cities, and in 2001 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The fascinating historical heritage of this city, its rare combination of East and West, its authentic views from the past, its being a unique meeting point of faiths and religions and its remnants from various cultures- all these have made Acre into one of the ancient world’s most important cities. The Old City of Acre has a special atmosphere and many attractions: the lively and colorful oriental markets, the city’s walls, the museums, the fishermen’s port, the marina, the restaurants, the hotels, the picturesque festivals which take place here every year, the Crusaders Knights’ Halls, the Turkish Hammam and the unique Khan. Visitors to this city can also enjoy an exciting visit to the magnificent Hospitallerian citadel, which was the citadel of the Knights Hospitaller, the knightly order dedicated to St. John the Baptist.

Beit She'an National Park is an impressive archeological site, which preserves the antiquities of one of the most ancient and important cities in Israel. The site includes the ancient high mound of the biblical Beit She'an, from which one can see the landscape of Beit She'an Valley, the city of Beit She'an and the archeological digs revealing the various periods in this city’s history. One of the most impressive finds in the National Park complex is the magnificent Roman Theater, which had 7,000 seats. This Roman period built Theater is impressively well-preserved. The National Park also includes the Byzantine period’s Bathhouse, the main Colonnade Street, the amphitheater which served for Gladiator fights, a Roman Temple and an ancient fountain. In addition, one can view here a spectacular audio-visual presentation, which is displayed on the pillars, mound and walls of this ancient site and tells about the fascinating development of the city of Beit She'an throughout the ages.

The ancient Nabatean city of Mamshit was an important station on the Incense Trade Route of Antiquity. Today the site of Mamshit is wonderfully reconstructed. It includes streets and wonderful arched structures, two impressive entrances- one with a mosaic floor and the other with marble columns which hold a preaching platform. In this city a large house which was preserved marvelously was reconstructed and in it was discovered the greatest treasure of coins ever to be found in Israel- 10,800 silver coins which were put here during two hundred years, and also a stable that could contain 16 horses. The city was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
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