Monthly archives "April 2013"

Herod the Great at the Israel Museum

Herod the GreatThe Israel Museum is currently exhibiting the story of the life and death of Herod the Great, ancient Israel’s most controversial figure. Herod was a great builder who expanded the Second Temple and the Temple Mount considerably. He also built palaces at Masada, Jericho and Herodium. On the other hand, he was a paranoid ruler who killed many people, including family members, for fear that they were trying to usurp his throne.

This is the first museum exhibit dedicated to Herod and it includes artifacts discovered in the archaeological excavations conducted at Herodium by Prof. Ehud Netzer. The exhibit is dedicated to the memory of Prof. Netzer, who died following a fall at the archaeological site. He planned large parts of the exhibit but didn’t live to see it.

Visitors travel in the footsteps of Herod’s funeral, from the palace at Jericho where he died to Herodium where he was buried. They can view artifacts such as a stone bathtub, reconstructed palace walls and the sarcophagus thought to hold Herod’s remains.

Israel National News visited the exhibit and reported from it:

The exhibition is open during regular Museum hours:

  • Sun, Mon, Wed, Thurs, Sat 10 am – 5 pm
  • Tues 4–9 pm (August 10 am – 9 pm)
  • Fri and Holiday Eves 10 am – 2 pm
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An Oasis in the Judean Desert

Judean Desert - Ein KeltA short drive from Jerusalem, opposite the entrance to Mitzpe Yericho, is a beautiful oasis in the Judean desert. Ein Kelt is a short free hike leading to a cold refreshing waterfall and pool.

Ein Kelt has two parking lots, upper and lower. Although the dirt road to the lower lot is a bit treacherous, it is worth the drive down to avoid having to walk all the way down and especially all the way back up. Park at the lower lot and follow the trail toward the pool.

The trail is not stroller-friendly, since it contains a lot of steps. It’s not too far but should not be attempted without hiking shoes or sneakers. Carry water shoes with you but don’t try to hike in them.

The pool is reached by climbing down some rocks. Children and the less agile will need help with this. The pool is very shallow in parts and doesn’t get very deep anywhere. Stand under the cascading water for a freezing and thrilling experience.

When you are ready to head back, you can either go back the way you came or take a longer route by continuing along the trail. Part of the trail parallels a water channel, so you can walk on dry ground or inside the water. There are even some trees you can sit under to eat a picnic or just enjoy the view.

For a day at Ein Kelt, don’t forget to pack:

  • Bathing suits
  • Towels
  • Water shoes
  • Hiking shoes
  • Food
  • A lot of water
  • Sunscreen
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Deer in the Golan?

P1020176Strange as it sounds, there is a small deer forest in the Golan, created by a member of Moshav Odem, who imported deer to create a tourist attraction aimed at children. A guided tour of the forest reveals the difference between different types of deer and the Jewish connection of some of them. Some of the deer roam free while others are behind fences, but can be touched and fed.

In addition to the deer, the park offers activities for children. Small animals such as baby goats, rabbits, chicks and guinea pigs are available for petting. Pedal “cars” can be driven around a track and trampolines are set up for jumping and flipping. “Tubing” down a dry slide is particularly fun, although small kids will need help dragging the tube up to the top. Little kids will love the obstacle course leading to a small zip line and the pony rides.

P1020159Moshav Odem is located pretty far north, so a visit to the deer forest can be combined with visits to Metullah, the Hermon and Kiryat Shemonah. In the summer, camping in the forest can be a fun experience. This area is very cold and windy (not the usual Israel weather) so camping should only be considered on hot days.

The deer forest website is in Hebrew and includes a video showing the various activities at the site.

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Yom Haatzmaut 2013

Yom Haatzmaut 2013

Despite reports of rainy weather on Yom Haatzmaut 2013, Israelis are gearing up for Independence Day with videos, blog posts and opinion pieces. (Don’t worry, they are also buying out all the meat in the stores, driving around with flags on their cars and staking out their spot in the local park.)

We bring you a roundup of some of the fun, funny and inspirational items celebrating Yom Haatzmaut:

What have we missed? Let us know in the comments. Chag Sameach!

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Gamla: A Hike Through History

GamlaHiking is a favorite pastime of Israelis and a great activity for visitors. Israel is home to some absolutely breathtaking views. Whether you like to hike in the heat of the Negev or through the lush greenery in the Galil, there’s a place for everyone. Many of the locations you find will have connection to the Torah and/or events in the history of the Jewish people, and you will often see signs along the trail where that particular site featured in Jewish history.

In the Golan Heights, there is one such trail that leads you on a path to the ancient city of Gamla. It was discovered and excavated in 1968, 1900 years after it fell to the Romans in 67 CE. The details of the battle were recorded by Josephus Flavius and the devastating fall of this city has been likened to that of Masada in the south.

To reach Ancient Gamla, it is approximately a 20 minute hike from the beginning of the trail, with some steep sections, but on the way, you are treated to spectacular views of the mountains and the valleys in the area. As you get closer, there are excerpts from Flavius’ writings describing his first hand account of the battle as the Roman troops advanced. Among the historical treasures uncovered at its discovery was one of the oldest synagogues ever found, built before the destruction of the Second Temple.

But the ancient city is just one option in this nature reserve. Another trail- which is wheelchair accessible- takes you to an observation station on the cliff where you can see the amazing Griffon Vultures that Gamla is famous for. On the way to the observation station, you’ll pass by a church from the Byzantine era. Yet another path will take you to a lookout where you can view Israel’s largest waterfall.

Whether a hike with friends or an outing with the family, Gamla is a beautiful place to spend a day in the north.

More details about Gamla and how and when you can go can be found here:

If you’d like to spend a few days in the area, there are campgrounds where you can pitch a tent, bed and breakfasts, and other guest house options available. is a great resource to help find accommodations.

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