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Israel

Main attractions

Landscape at the Dead Sea, Israel
Landscape at the Dead Sea. / tsaiproject, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

If there is a land on the crossroads of civilizations, then Israel is one. Here from Africa to the remaining world entered different species of humans, including us. Area of Israel was located between the first civilizations in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Anatolia. Whole country is dotted with monuments of archaeology and history. Most interesting landmarks are:

  • Ancient Jewish heritage. Amidst the kaleidoscope of diverse cultures, Jewish culture is indigenous. Harsh history of Jews sheds a light on the mysteries of this amazing, unique nation. True symbol of nation is the impressive Massada fortress.
  • Other ancient settlements. Nabateans, Romans, Hellenes, Egyptians, Canaanites, Edomites and yet unknown cultures... They have created their own settlements, conquered each other's villages and towns and shaped each his own palaces, shrines, fortifications and art. There are hundreds of ancient settlements around Israel.
  • Remnants of hominids and prehistoric people. Many caves in picturesque canyons and gorges have provided many amazing discoveries, such are the first hominids (including people) leaving Africa to the remaining world, world's oldest burials, first domesticated dogs and many other amazing features.

Natural landmarks

Hexagon Pool, Israel
Hexagon Pool / Martin Boesch, / CC BY-SA 4.0

Rock formations

  • Ein Avdat canyon and falls - South. Impressive canyon, formed by a group of powerful springs, such as Ein Ma'arif. Springwater forms several waterfalls, there are historical monuments around the canyon.
  • Hexagon Pool - North. Beautiful lake surrounded by hexagonal basalt pillars. A waterfall falls in the pool.
  • Solomon's Pillars - South, Timna Valley. Spectacular sandstone formations - enormous rock pillars. In this are are found other interesting rock formations such as Mushroom - hoodoo with wide upper part, natural arches.

Other natural landmarks

Shokeda Forest, flowering of anemones, Israel
Shokeda Forest, flowering of anemones / Zachi Evenor, / CC BY 2.0
  • Ayalon Cave (Ayyalon Cave) - Center. Large limestone cave (2,7 km long) with unique ecosystem. Organisms in this cave developed in isolation, without the light or outside organisms, basing on sulphur. Here have been found eight unique species of organisms - crustaceans and springtails.
  • Nahal Ayun waterfalls - North. Four waterfalls on spring-fed Nahal Ayun stream: Ayun Falls (9.2 m tall), Tahana Falls (21 m), Eshed Falls (14 m), Tanur Falls (30 m).
  • Rosh HaNikra grottoes - North. Group of grottoes, caves and natural arches at the Mediterranean Sea, formed by wave action in a white chalk cliff. Length of caves is 200 m.
  • Shokeda Forest - South. In this forest in springs is observed mass flowering of bright red poppy anemones (Anemone coronaria).

Man made landmarks

Early human finds

  • Manot Cave - North. Spacious cave where 54,700 years old skull of a modern human was found. This is the oldest known find of modern humans outside Africa and a proof that modern humans lived next to Neanderthals.
  • Nahal Amud caves - North. Group of caves in the picturesque gorge of Nahal Amud. In the caves has been found evidence that here have lived Homo heidelbergensis and Neanderthals.
  • Qafzeh Cave in Nahal Me'arot - North. Site with oldest known deliberate burials of humans in the world. These graves are some 95,000 years old.
  • Qesem Cave - Center. Site of Paleolithic settlement in a cave, inhabited 382 - 200 thousand years ago. There are signs that fire was used, there is also 300,000 years old hearth. Ancient people were hunting here such extinct animals as aurochs and rhinoceros.
  • Tabun Cave and other Nahal Me'arot caves - Haifa. Several caves on Mount Carmel - settlements of early humans. Tabun Cave was occupied 500,000 - 40,000 years ago. Traces of human occupation have been found in 25 m thick layer of sediments. Here were found remnants of Neanderthal-type women. In these caves were found some of world's oldest burials, both for Neanderthals and modern humans.
  • Tel Ubeidyia - North. Site which contains the oldest known evidence of Homo erectus emigration out of Africa, some 1,5 million years ago.
Megaliths in Gezer, Israel
Megaliths in Gezer. / Ian Scott, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Prehistoric settlements

  • Ain Mallaha - North. Remnants of Natufian settlement which was inhabited sometimes around 12,000 - 8,000 BC. Buildings were cut into earth. Here was found the oldest known evidence of dog domestication - a burial of human with a dog.
  • Atlit Yam - Haifa. Remains of a Neolithic village, now submerged 8 - 12 m deep in the sea. Inhabited in 6900 - 6300 BC. Village most likely was abandoned after tsunami. Site contains megaliths with up to 600 kg heavy stones. There still is flowing a freshwater spring and around it are arranged stones with cupmarks.
  • Gezer - Center. Remains of an interesting Canaanite city which flourished in the first half of the 2nd millenium BC, when it was major (for its time), fortified city. Inhabited from the end of the 4th millenia BC, when large rock-cut dwellings were built. Site contains the impressive Gezer megaliths - cult site with ten upright stones up to 3 tons heavy. On the borders of city have been found stones with inscriptions "border of Gezer".
  • Ohalo - North. Exceptionally well preserved prehistoric settlement from the times of last ice age, 19,400 BC. People here built simple, oval huts and ate hundreds of different species of plants and animals. Finds show that people were planning the gathering of plants and storage of seeds.
  • Rehov - North. Remnants of enormous Bronze Age - Iron Age city with an area of 12 ha. Here were living Israelites and Canaanites, up to 2,000 people. Important find is 30 intact beehives from the 10th century BC - some of the oldest in the world.
  • Tel Hazor - North. Hillfort - ancient settlement. In ˜ 1750 - 900 BC it was one of most important urban centres in the Near East, main city for large region.
  • Tell el-Hesi - South. Ancient settlement where possible iron blast furnace from 1500 BC is found. This is much older than any other known iron blast furnaces.
  • Tel Megiddo (Armageddon) - North. Hillfort - site of ancient settlement which was inhabited from ˜ 7000 BC to 586 BC. Site contains remains of an enormous (for its time) temple from 3500 - 3100 BC, in this time there were built also the first walls.
Ancient breakwater in Caesarea Maritima, Israel
Ancient breakwater in Caesarea Maritima. / xdmag, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Ancient Jewish settlements

  • Arbela Caves - North. Group of fortified caves and rock-cut chambers, which in the 1st century BC - 2nd century AD were used by locals during the warfare. Cave passages are located in several floors, cave rooms were made for different purposes - as shrines, living rooms, storage rooms etc.
  • Caesarea Maritima - Haifa. Ruins of ancient Jewish city, built by Herod the Great sometimes around 25 - 13 BC. Later, in Roman times it became an administrative capital. Abandoned since 1265. Site contains ruins of Martyrion - ornate church in octagonal form (the 6th century), Roman hippodrome and enormous theatre and enormous artificial harbour with amazing features of ancient construction technologies.
  • Khirbet Qeiyafa - Jerusalem. Ancient, fortified settlement near Jerusalem. This fortified hilltop city was existing already in the late 11th century BC. It is possible that it was developed by Jews, although it is possible the it was built by some other culture. Upper city (3 ha) is encircled with impressive stone wall, still 2 - 4 m tall. Some stones are up to 8 tons heavy. Site also contains remains of an ornate structure - so called King David's Palace, although there are no direct proofs to this.
  • Masada (Massada) - South. Dramatic fortress/ refuge on top of table mountain, built in 37 - 31 BC, taken by Romans simultaneously with mass suicide of 960 defenders in 73 AD. Here are located remnants of one of world's oldest synagogues.
Mamshit - Nabatean city, Israel
Mamshit - Nabatean city. / Photo Gallery Israeli Ministry of Tourism, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Other ancient settlements

  • Avdat - South. Impressive ruins of Nabatean city in Incense Road. Important regional centre in the 1st century BC - 7th century AD. Avdat has impressive citadel, where is found Temple of Oboda (the 9th year BC).
  • Beit She'an - North. Ruins of an ancient trade city, inhabited since the 5th - 6th millenia BC. Later it was developed by the ancient Egyptians, Canaanites, Hellenes, Romans. Site contains ruins of numerous buildings including Roman road, amphitheatre, baths and others.
  • Mamshit - South. One of the best preserved Nabatean cities, former station on Incense Road. City was small but it had ornate, unusual buildings, mostly from the 1st century BC - 2nd century AD. Site contains also ruins of two churches. St. Nilus Church has fine mosaics on the floor.
  • Tel Be'er Sheva - South. Hillfort with remnants of ancient settlement which was inhabited in the time period from around 4000 BC to the 15th century AD. This is the earliest planned settlement in this region where in the 10th century BC was created a grid of streets with separate districts for administrative, military, residential and commercial uses. Here was found ancient shrine - horned altar.
  • Tel Maresha - South. Remnants of ancient settlement of Edomites, major centre in ˜ 900 - 200 BC, destroyed in 40 BC. Under the city are hundreds of underground passages, shelters, workshops and other premises.
Acre Old City from above, Israel
Acre Old City from above. / Avram Graicer, / CC BY-SA 3.0

Medieval and modern cities

  • Acre Old City - North. Historical city on a promontory. Although Acre is inhabited for some 5 thousand years, Old City has been created mostly in the times of Crusaders, in 1104 - 1291 and later, in the time of Ottomans (the 18th - 19th century). City is enclosed in walls and its historical architecture is almost intact.
  • Tel Aviv Bauhaus quartals (White City) - Tel Aviv. Largest collection of Bauhas style buildings in the world with more than 4,000 structures in this style. Buildings were designed by architects who left Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
Capernaum synagogue, Israel
Capernaum synagogue. / Eddie Gerald, / CC BY-SA 3.0

Synagogues

  • Beth Alpha synagogue - North. Remnants of ancient synagogue, built in the 6th century AD. Building has very interesting floor, which is covered with mosaics and inscriptions. Mosaics include Zodiac Wheel and the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham.
  • Capernaum synagogue - North. Ruins of very old synagogue, built in the 4th or 5th century AD. Remains show that this has been an ornate building with beautiful stone carvings and painted stucco walls. Most likely it is built over an older synagogue from the 1st century AD.
  • Kfar Bar'am synagogue - North. Ruins of ancient pyramid, built in the 2nd - 4th century AD. Synagogue is preserved up to the second floor level. Interesting artwork here is a sculptural group of two lions.

Churches and Christian monasteries

  • Megiddo church - North. Remnants of one of the oldest known church buildings. This church was built in the 3rd century AD and here still is found a fine mosaic floor with Greek inscription mentioning Jesus Christ.
  • Stella Maris Monastery - Haifa. Worldwide centre of Carmelites on Mount Carmel. Rebuilt in 1836 in site where hermits settled already in the 12th century.
Shrine of the Báb with garden, Israel
Shrine of the Báb with garden. / Israeltourism, / CC BY 2.0

Shrines of Bahá'í Faith

  • Shrine of the Báb - Haifa. Sacred site of Bahá'í Faith - here remains of Báb have been laid to rest in 1921. Enormous gold-domed shrine was built in 1953, beautiful garden was set later.
  • Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh - North. Most holy site of Bahá'í Faith, here are remains of Bahá'u'lláh. Consists of shrine and beautiful gardens around it.

Prehistoric and ancient shrines

Ein Gedi Temple, Israel
Ein Gedi Temple, Bronze Age. / Sarah Murray, / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Ein Gedi Temple - South. Remains of an enormous temple from the Bronze Age, 3500 BC. Temple complex was surrounded by an impressive fortification wall.
  • Har Karkom - South. Mountain in Negev desert, an important sacred place since the Paleolithic until 1950 BC. Here have been found more than 40,000 rock engravings, many of very high quality. Around the site are located hundreds of megalithic structures - tumuli, stone circles, standing stones and others.
  • Nahal Hemar - South. Cave - site of possible magical rituals in Neolithic period. Here have been found different artefacts - bone, flint, wooden utensils, decorated human skulls. Objects are covered in a glue - possibly the oldest known glue in the world, made in 8310 - 8110 BC.
Frescoe in Tomb of Musicians, Israel
Frescoe in Tomb of Musicians. / Carole Raddato, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Cemeteries and burials

  • Ashkelon dog cemetery - South. World's largest ancient dog cemetery from the late 5th century BC, Achaemenid period. Here over some 80 years some 1,400 dogs were buried. Purpose of this tradition is not known.
  • Beit She’arim necropolis – Haifa. Group of ancient rock-cut Jewish tombs from 2 – 4 century AD with interesting monuments of art.
  • Cairn in the Sea of Galilee - North. Cairn with a diameter of some 70 m in the sea of Galilee, located up to 13 m deep in the water. Cairn is made from basaltic boulders and is approximately 4,000 years old.
  • Mazor Mausoleum - Center. The only Roman structure in Israel which has been preserved as a whole until our times. This mausoleum was built for influential Roman family in the 3rd century AD.
  • Sidonian Burial Caves - South. Group of rock cut, underground burial caves created in the 3nd - 1st century BC. Some of these caves are adorned with frescoes and incsriptions. Best known are Tomb of Apollophanes and Tomb of Musicians. The later contains frescoes of a women playing the harp and a man playing flute.
Caesarea aqueduct, Israel
Caesarea aqueduct. / Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, / CC BY 2.0

Other man made landmarks

  • Caesarea aqueduct - Haifa. Two parallel aqueducts, first built by Herod in 37 - 4 BC and the second - by Romans in the 2nd century AD. Structure is 10 km long and visually impressive.
  • Israel Museum - Jerusalem. Israel's National Museum with numerous artefacts of global importance. Here are located such treasures as Dead Sea Scrolls in a specially built Shrine of the Book and many other items valuable to the history of civilization and religion.
  • Khan al-Umdan - North, Acre. Largest caravanserai (khan) in Israel, very well preserved. This enormous complex of buildings was constructed in 1784.
  • Mary's Well - North, Nazareth. Historical well which since the ancient times is used by the inhabitants of Nazareth. According to the Christian legend here took place Annunciation to St.Mary. Here have been found underground passages - ancient bathhouse.
  • Tel Dan city gate - North. Remnants of a megalithic structure - massive city gates made from mud brick and enormous, upright basalt slabs. This gate was built sometimes around 1700 BC (Bronze Age) and has three intact arches still standing - the oldest complete arches in the world.
  • Tell Kabri - North. Ruins of an enormous Canaanite palace, built and occupied in 2200 - 1550 BC. Around the palace was an extensive system of fortifications. Palace contains Minoan style frescoes.
  • Terraces of the Bahá'í Faith - Haifa. Beautiful garden on the slope of Mount Carmel. Gardens were set in 1987 - 2001 and consist of 18 terraces extending for one kilometre.

List of described attractions by districts

Israel is divided into 6 districts. Here below they are listed in alphabetical order:

Center
Haifa
Jerusalem
North
South
ArrowMasadaAncient cities, Abandoned cities, Fortified settlements
Tel Aviv

Map of Israel

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