Other Sites of Interest In Israel
Places of Interest
Other Sites of Interest In Israel
Acre (Akko, Acco, Ptolemais)
Located about 9 miles (14 km.) north of Haifa, Acre was one of the best seaports in Israel.
Acre was allotted to the tribe of Asher, but they were never able to conquer it (Josh. 19:24–31; Judg. 1:31).
It was similar to Tyre and Sidon, cities the Israelites failed to conquer. As a result, Acre became a fortress city of unusual strength that stood up against its many attackers.
However, when Assyria arose to power, Acre was conquered and came under its control. When Assyria fell from world power, Acre, along with other Phoenician towns, came under the rule of Babylon, and then later, to Persia.
In the Seleucid period (BC 312–65), Acre rose to prominence in the battles between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies. The Ptolemies had control of it during the struggles after the death of Alexander the Great and made it their stronghold on the coast. At this time, the city of Acre was changed to the name, Ptolemais. This would be the name it would be known as during the Greek and Roman occupations of Israel. Therefore, the New Testament authors refer to Acre as Ptolemais (Acts 21:7).
In the period of the Crusaders, Acre was the most famous stronghold on the coast. It declined after the Crusader period and fell into the hands of the Ottomans under Selim I, in 1516.
Ashdod is a coastal city on the Mediterranean Sea about 18 miles (29 km.) south of Jaffa and Tel Aviv.
It was one of the 5 main stronghold cities of the Philistines and was well-fortified.
During the conquest of the Promised Land under Joshua and the Israelites, giants known as Anakim were found here (Josh. 11:22). Ashdod was allotted to Judah, but they failed to conquer it (Josh. 13:3, 15:46–47).
During the time of Samuel, Ashdod, and the other main cities of the Philistines were still independent.
When the Israelites were defeated in battle under the priesthood of Eli and his wicked sons (Hophni and Phinehas), the ark was taken to the house of Dagon in Ashdod (1 Sam. 5:1–2). Later, it would be returned to the Israelites at Beth-Shemesh.
Ashdod was conquered and came under the authority of Assyria in around 711 BC. Later, Babylon conquered it as well in around 605 BC.
Ashdod was the recipient of many prophecies proclaiming its doom and destruction, i.e., Isaiah 20:11, Amos 1:8, Jeremiah 25:20, and Zechariah 2:4, 9:6. However, Ashdod continued to be inhabited as the Jews intermarried with its inhabitants after their return from Babylon (Neh. 13:23–24).
In the New Testament, Ashdod is called Azotus.
Acts 8:40: But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
Ashkelon is a coastal city on the Mediterranean Sea about 27 miles (43 km.) south of Jaffa and Tel Aviv. It’s also just a bit north of modern-day Gaza.
Ashkelon was one of the 5 main coastal cities of the Philistines.
Joshua and the Israelites conquered Ashkelon in the conquest of the Promised Land (Josh. 13:3), and it was allotted to Judah, who then occupied it (Judg. 1:18).
One of the golden tumors (emerods) that was returned with the Ark of the Covenant by the Philistines was from Ashkelon (1 Sam. 6:17).
Both Ashkelon and Gath are mentioned in David’s lament over Saul and Jonathan, which reveals their importance (2 Sam. 1:20).
Ashkelon is also mentioned with Gaza, Ashdod, and Ekron, in the prophet Amos’ denunciations of their sin and coming judgment (Amos 1:7–8).
Ashkelon was also denounced by Jeremiah (Jer. 25:20, 47:5–7), Zephaniah (2:4–7) and Zechariah (9:5).
This Crusader castle is located on a hill of the Naphtali Plateau, 12 miles (20 km.) south of the Sea of Galilee.
This impressive structure sits about 1,641 ft. (500 m.) above the Jordan Valley, which was a strategic location during the time of the Crusades. Designed to withstand the Muslim invaders, the fortress provided strong combat positioning as well as an amazing view of the surrounding area. Built in 1168 by the Hospitallers order, it withstood a year and a half siege by Saladin’s forces. The structure itself consists of an outer and an inner square fortress. It is still well-preserved, and visitors can explore the grounds while taking in a stunning view over the Jordan Valley, the Sea of Galilee, and up through the Golan. It is the most complete and preserved Crusader fortress in Israel.
Bethany Beyond the Jordan
Tradition and archaeology hold that this site is the believed location of Bethany Beyond the Jordan. It’s located on a tributary that connects to the Jordan River known as Wadi Kharrar. Just before where this wadi joins the Jordan River is called Bethany Beyond the Jordan.
It’s also just across from Qasr al-Yahud Baptismal Site on Israel’s side of the river. (For more on Qasr al-Yahud Baptismal Site, please see Jordan River Baptismal Site of Jesus.)
This area is where Jesus is believed to have been baptized by John the Baptist (John 1:28), where John baptized many people, and where John lived for periods of time. It’s on the Jordanian side of the Jordan River and consists of two distinct areas: Tell Al-Kharrar, also known as Jabal Mar-Elias (Elijah’s Hill) and the area of the churches of John the Baptist. There are Roman and Byzantine ruins of churches, chapels, a monastery, caves that have been used by hermits, and pools in which baptisms were held.
Excavations at this site began in 1996, following Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel in 1994, and have uncovered more than 20 churches, caves, and baptismal pools, all dating from the Roman and Byzantine periods.
This area is also associated with the ascension of the Prophet Elijah into heaven, which is commemorated at a hill called Tell Mar Elias or Jabal Mar-Elias (Elijah’s Hill).
What would a trip to Israel be without taking a dip in the famous Dead Sea? Following is some helpful info for helping you decide which beach is best for you.
The northern beaches are privately owned and charge a fee to enter even if your stay is for a quick dip in the sea. They have more of the mud for skincare, the water is a little cooler, they have higher waves, and a little less salt content. However, there is still plenty of salt so you can float quite easily.
For health reasons, a strong warning is given regarding swallowing the saltwater in the Dead Sea. It has 7 times more salt than any other body of water in the world, and it’s easy to get salt poisoning if even a small amount of water is ingested.
All the beaches have changing rooms, restrooms, showers, and bathrooms. All have great places to eat at and shop. The northern beaches have gift shops while the southern beaches have access to gift shops, but they’re not always right at the resorts.
1. Kalia Beach – Less waves, cheaper entrance fee.
2. Biankini Beach
3. Neve Midbar
4. Ein Gedi Hot Springs – More expensive entrance fees, natural hot mineral springs.
The southern beaches have a higher concentration of salt, are more turquoise in color, have more transparent water, are more gradual with fewer waves, are smoother, and are free as they are public beaches.
1. Ein Bokek Public Beach
2. Zohar Public Beach
3. Segregated Public Beach – This beach separates the men from the women for Jewish reasons.
Ekron (Tel Makna Akron)
Ekron is located about 20 miles (32 km.) east of Ashdod and the Mediterranean Sea.
Ekron is the northernmost of the 5 main cities of the Philistines which were all located in the coastal plain along the Mediterranean Sea.
Joshua and the Israelites failed to conquer Ekron in the conquest of the Promised Land (Josh. 13:3). It was allotted to Judah in the division of the land, and then to the tribe of Dan (Josh. 15:11, 45–46, 19:43). However, Dan moved to the northern part of Israel and Judah wound up conquering Ekron and inhabiting it (Judg. 1:18).
When the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, it was the people of Ekron who proposed to have it sent back to Israel (1 Sam. 5:10, 6:16–17). The Ark went up the valley to Beth-Shemesh, where the Israelites received it with joy (1 Sam. 6:9–18).
After David killed Goliath in the Valley of Elah, the Israelites pursued and defeated the Philistines all the way to Ekron.
Ekron seems to have been the center of worship to the false god Baalzebub. This is seen in the account of the sickness and death of King Ahaziah (2 Kings 1:2–3, 6:16).
Ekron is included, among other cities, in pronouncements of judgment by the prophets Amos (1:8), Jeremiah (25:20), Zephaniah (2:4), and Zechariah (9:5–7).
Gath (Tell es Safi)
Biblical Gath (known today as Tell es-Safi, is 14 miles (23 km.) east of Ashdod and Ashkelon, which are close to the Mediterranean Sea.
Gath was one of the five main cities of the Philistines (Josh. 13:3; 1 Sam. 6:17).
It was a well-fortified walled city (2 Chron. 26:6).
Joshua and the Israelites were unable to conquer Gath despite the numerous conflicts that took place between the Israelites and the inhabitants of Gath.
It wasn’t until King David that the city was conquered and became part of the Israelite Kingdom (1 Chron. 18:1).
Its name is most remembered as the home of the giant, Goliath, whom David slew (1 Sam. 17:4).
The people of Ashdod took the Ark of the Covenant to Gath when they were smitten with tumors from God. Later, the people of Gath were smitten as well with tumors and took the ark to Ekron (1 Sam. 5:8–10).
David sought refuge in Gath on two occasions when King Saul was seeking his life (1 Sam. 21:10, 27:2–4).
Gath appears to have been destroyed after being taken by David because Rehoboam restored it under his reign (2 Chron. 11:8).
Later, the Philistines regained control of Gath for we see that King Uzziah conquered it and destroyed its walls (2 Chron. 26:6).
Once again, it must have been restored and rebuilt because Hazael, of Damascus, captured it once more (2 Kings 12:17).
During the time of the prophet Amos, Gath seems to have been destroyed (Amos 6:2), and is only mentioned in Micah 1:10, as a proverb, “Tell it not in Gath.”
Since the time Gath was destroyed, most likely in the middle of the 8th century BC, it has laid desolate.
Gaza is one of the 5 main cities of the Philistines and seems to be the oldest of them all.
It’s a coastal city on the Mediterranean Sea about 40 miles (64 km.) south of Joppa (Jaffa). Gaza was also located on the Via Maris.
Gaza was on a hill rising about 200 ft. (61 m.) above the valley floor. There were sand dunes between it and the sea, which was about 2 miles away.
In the conquest of the Promised Land, Joshua and the Israelites failed to conquer Gaza, along with several other main cities of the Philistines (Josh. 10:41, 11:22).
Later, the tribe of Judah captured Gaza, but couldn’t control it for long, and it fell back into the hands of the Philistines (Judg. 1:18).
During the time of Samson, it was the heavy gates of Gaza that Samson carried all the way up to Hebron (Judg. 16:1–3).
After the Philistines defeated the Israelites in battle and captured the Ark of the Covenant during the priesthood of Eli and his two wicked sons, Gaza, along with the other main cities of the Philistines, sent a trespass offering to God when the ark was returned to the Israelites at Beth-Shemesh (1 Sam. 6:17–18).
When Hezekiah reigned, he defeated and pursued the Philistines to Gaza, but does not seem to have captured the city. It was later captured by the Assyrians in 720 BC.
In the New Testament, Philip was sent to Gaza to evangelize the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26).
Today, because ancient Gaza lies in the Gaza Strip where land is scarce and Israeli interests are not valued, the remains of ancient Gaza are practically nonexistent.
Jezreel, located in the fertile Jezreel Valley, is about 24 miles (38 km.) east of the Mediterranean Sea and about 17 miles (28 km.) southwest of the Sea of Galilee.
Jezreel was a major biblical city, and during the 9th century BC, it was the northern capital of the Israelite Kingdom.
When Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle on Mount Gilboa, news of this event came from Jezreel. Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son, became crippled when his nurse fell while carrying him as she ran in haste after hearing the terrible news of Jonathan’s death (2 Sam. 4:4).
After the Kingdom of Israel was divided in around 930 BC, King Ahab made Jezreel one of his royal residences, erecting a palace here (1 Kings 21:1).
At Jezreel lived King Ahab’s wife who instituted the worship to the false gods of Baal and Asherah. This provoked God to send a drought that lasted 3 years. It ended with the great showdown between Elijah and the 850 false prophets of Baal and Asherah. God sent fire from heaven that consumed Elijah’s altar to show the nation of Israel He was God. Afterward, Elijah killed all the false prophets (1 Kings 18).
The vineyard of Naboth was by King Ahab’s palace in Jezreel. Ahab wanted the vineyard for a vegetable garden, but Naboth refused to sell it. Ahab’s wicked wife, Jezebel, arranged for Naboth to be wrongly accused and executed so Ahab could have his land (1 Kings 21).
It was apparently on the eastern wall of the city from which Jehu entered when he ordered Jezebel (King Ahab’s wife) to be thrown down according to prophecy. When she landed, some of her blood spattered on the wall, and the dogs ate her body (2 Kings 9:30–37).
Mizpah was located centrally in the country within the territory of Benjamin about 8 miles north of Jerusalem. Its importance as an administrative center is demonstrated not only by its use during the days of the Judges and Samuel, but also by its utilization by conquering nations years later when Judah would be taken over by the Empires of Assyria and Babylon. Mizpah means watchtower or lookout, and was a central meeting place where Israel gathered for much of its history.
At Mizpah, Jacob and Laban made a covenant wherein Jacob promised Laban that he would take care of his daughters and grandchildren (Gen. 31:48–49).
The city of Mizpah was established as an important site early in the history of Israel in the time of the Judges, and was used as a national rallying point for a man of the Levites who asked for national justice at the end of the time period of the Judges when his concubine was raped and killed by several members of the Benjamite tribe.
Samuel judged the nation from Mizpah and held national gatherings at the city, and Israel's first king, Saul, was presented to the nation at Mizpah.
Nimrod Fortress National Park
Nimrod Fortress is situated in the northernmost part of Israel just a few miles north of Caesarea Philippi. It’s on a ridge rising some 2,600 ft. (800 m.) above sea level and is the biggest Crusader castle in Israel. The mountain-top stronghold overlooks the deep narrow valley separating Mount Hermon from the Golan Heights and the road linking the Galilee with Damascus (present-day Syria). It was built in the Middle Ages by the Crusaders with the purpose of guarding this major access route against armies coming from the west. On the eastern edge of the fortress was a large keep (a keep is a fortress within a fortress), protected by large rectangular towers. In the west, it was separated from the main fortress by a moat, accessed by a bridge. The keep served as living quarters for the commander of the fortress. In times of siege, it became an additional defense position. The fortress is named after a biblical hero, the hunter, Nimrod, the great warrior (Gen. 10:8-9) who according to local tradition, dwelt on this summit.
While the exact location of biblical Ziklag is debated, most archaeologists now place it at Tel Ser'a (Tel esh-Shariah), which is in the southernmost area of Judea about 14 miles (23 km.) northwest of Tel Beer Sheba and about 15 miles (24 km.) east of Gaza.
Ziklag is first mentioned in the Bible as part of the inheritance of the tribe of Judah (Josh. 15:31). It was allotted to the tribe of Simeon (within the tribe of Judah), but the Israelites apparently failed to conquer it because Ziklag was still under Philistine control when Saul reigned as king (Josh. 19:5).
Because for many years King Saul sought to harm David, David fled to Ziklag seeking refuge after the death of Samuel. As a result, he lived in Ziklag with six hundred men and their households in Philistine territory.
While living in Ziklag, David petitioned Achish, the Philistine king of Gath, to give him the city of Ziklag (1 Sam. 27:5–6). Achish consented and gave Ziklag to David.
During David’s rule over Ziklag, which lasted 16 months, he made it his military home base. From Ziklag, David raided many of the cities of the Amalekites. Because many soldiers from Israel were disappointed with Saul’s leadership, they joined forces with David’s private army during this time (1 Chron. 12:1–22). When war broke out between the Philistines and Israel during the reign of King Saul, David and his small army attempted to join the Philistine army to fight against Saul. However, the Philistine leaders rejected David and sent him away from the battle. While David and the Philistines were away, the Amalekites attacked Ziklag. They burned the city and took captive all the women, children, and the elderly.
When David and his men returned to Ziklag, they found it had been destroyed by fire, and their families had been taken captive (1 Sam. 30:1–3). In response, David and his army pursued the Amalekites and recovered their families and possessions. (1 Sam. 30:16–31).
While David was living in Ziklag, he received the news of the defeat of Israel by the Philistines, and of the deaths of Saul and Jonathan (2 Samuel 4:10).
Ziklag remained in control of Israel from this point on and is last mentioned in the Bible as one of the cities the Jews inhabited after returning from exile in Babylon (Neh. 11:28).
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