Archeology and History

The Land of Israel in the time of Jesus

In Jesus' time, the Land of Israel was the Judean Province of the Roman Empire. There  were Jewish cities, mixed cities, and completely pagan cities. Jesus spent most of His time in small Jewish towns. He was born in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth, and most of His ministry was in towns around the Sea of Galilee such as Capernaum, Chorazin, Bethsaida and others. Jesus traveled to Jerusalem through the Jordan Valley and entered Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives where He spent the last week of His life teaching the Disciples. Also on the  Mt. of Olives, Jesus prayed and was betrayed by the Disciples and later Judas leading to the Crucifixion. Following the Resurrection, Jesus spent 40 days mostly in Judea  but also back up in Galilee. The Ascension takes place on Mt of Olives.

 

Baptism Site on the Jordan River

This Byzantine mosaic map, known as the Medaba Map (which is decorating a Church in Medaba, Jordan), is the oldest map of the Holy Land. This section of the map shows the place where Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River near the place where the Jordan River feeds into the Dead Sea. This site has been recently made accessible by Israel and is known as Qasr el-Yehud in Arabic, meaning the  place where the Tribes crossed the Jordan River when the Israelites entered the Land of Israel with Joshua. Visiting this site is a real highlight, but many people find it more comfortable to be baptized at  Yardenit which is on the Jordan River, near the Sea of Galilee.

Nabatean Incense Routes

The Nabateans were tribal Arabs who developed a thriving business by transporting spices and other goods over land through the desert areas from as far as  Yemen to the Mediteranean Coast in Gaza. They developed a way of collecting and preserving water  throughout the desert in hidden cisterns which enabled them to travel through the desert. Over time, the Nabateans became Christians. Remarkable Byzantine churches can be seen in their desert towns in Israel today, several of which are  UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Byzantine Church in Nabatean Desert Town (Mamshit)

Due to the  dry climate and low population of the  desert over the centuries, Nabatean towns have  been preserved  remarkably well. This pictures  shows  a Byzantine Church in  the town of Mamshit. It is a fascinating place to visit (in the winter). Israel's first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion loved the idea of making the desert bloom, and he considered (for a short time) making Mamshit national capital. But, he later realized that Jerusalem is the only  real capital of Israel. In December, 1949, Ben Gurion declared, "Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel, so it has been for 3,000 years and will be for all time."

Judea Capta Coins 

These coins were minted by the Roman Empire to celebrate their defeat of the Jews and destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem by General Titus, under the Roman Emporer Vespasian. The coins show an image of a woman (representing the Jews or Judea) cowering next to a  Roman soldier.  The palm tree was a symbol of the Land of Israel as date palms flourished here along the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley. Coins are more than just a means of exchange, they show who is in control of any given place at any given time.

Bar Kochba Coins - The Temple and Unity

Approximately 60 year after the destruction of the 2nd Temple, the Roman Emporer Hadrian began building a pagen temple on the Temple Mount. This infuriated the Jews and led to the Bar Kochba Revolt from 132-135 CE. During this time, the Jews minted many coins on filed-down Roman coins. This coin shows the Temple  gates, with a star over it.  The  star is a symbol  of the Messiah.  Shimon Bar Kochba was seen by many Jews as a potential Messiah (based on the Jewish tradition that every generation has someone who could be the Messiah) and has become, the Messiah prototype in some rabbinic literature. The reverse side of the coin shows a  lulav and etrog which are used on Succot  (The Feast of the Tabernacles). This is a symbol of unity, of the Temple, and of all the world coming to Jerusalem to the Holy Temple.

Bar Kochba Coins - Musical Instruments of the Temple

These coins show pictures of trumpets and a lyre, instruments used by the Levites to make exquisite music in the Temple. The coins have the words, "To the Freedom of Jerusalem" showing their desire to come back to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. The Bar Kochba revolt failed, but it angered and hurt the Roman Empire severely. As a result, the Roman Emporer Hadrian renamed Judea, as "Palestina" in order to give the Land a name that  reminded  the Jews  of  their ancient enemy--the Philistines, originally Greek Sea people who settled in the Land of Israel who had disappeared 800 years before. His goal was to erase the connection of the Jews to the  Land by changing the name. The name did remain, but no person could ever erase the Jews connection to the Promised Land.

Allenby Conquers Jerusalem in 1917

This photo shows the British General Allenby walking into Jerusalem which had just been taken from the Ottomans by the British. Allenby was aware of the great significance of conquering the city of Jerusalem. He chose to enter modestly on foot rather than making a grand entrance by carriage or riding on a horse or donkey which some may have interpreted as him suggesting that he was the Messiah. The British ruled in Palestine from 1917 to 1948 under the British Mandate.

 

Tiberius in 1862

Today, Tiberius is a thriving city on the Sea of Galilee with beautiful flowers, palm trees, hotels, restaurants, shops, a lively boardwalk along the sea, beaches and places to rent different types of boats and rafts to enjoy the water. However, in the 1860s, Tiberius was barren. Mark Twain visited Palestine in 1867 and describes the Holy Land as follows: "It is a hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land" (Innocents Abroad). The Jews started to return to the Land of Israel in large numbers with the "First Aliyah" (First Immigration) in 1882. The return of the Jews to the Land of Israel has brought the Land back to life, fulfilling many Biblical prophecies.