JERUSALEM-the 50 sites you may overlook

In a historic and religious city like Jerusalem there is so much to see no matter how much you tour. When time is a limiting factor, even the most efficient tour guides have to compromise while deciding what to incorporate in the itinerary. Although it depends on the interest of the individual visitor as well, there is still a huge must-see-list in Jerusalem that cannot be avoided. At every stop so much information is thrown on a visitor that sometimes s/he tends to forget the details after leaving the place.

I remember when I first visited the Church of Holy Sepulcher, it appeared to me more like a small museum than a church. I was virtually clueless inside a dark and dull overcrowded massive complex of more than 25 chapels with several curious artifacts and antiques scattered under some dusky arches and dingy columns. It took me at least three visits with a proper map in hand to understand the Church complex. A normal visitor for instance would be satisfied with Golgotha, the ‘Stone of Unction’ and the ‘Holy Sepulcher’, but the oldest part of the complex, viz. the first century tombs inside the Syrian Orthodox Chapel could be easily missed.

In the upcoming posts I plan to upload 50 such sites from Jerusalem that I believe can be easily overlooked or go unnoticed by an average visitor. I am incorporating the following sites from my previous visits, again with no specific order of importance. I am sure that a serious traveler who loves history, traditions and the Bible has noticed or been to most of them.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Also known as Yam Ha-Melah or "Sea of Salt" in Israel, Dead Sea has the lowest point on the surface of earth (422 metres or 1,385 ft below sea level). The world's saltiest water body is 34 % saline, almost 9 times saltier than normal sea water. It is so salty that you can float in the water and read a newspaper. This extreme salty condition and harsh environment makes the region highly unsuitable for aquatic plants and animals to survive and hence the name Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is 67 km long and 18 km wide at its widest point. Today, the Dead Sea is 378 m (1,240 ft) deep and the level keep on decreasing. Being the lowest point, water does not drain from this lake, but daily 7 million tons of water evaporates leaving the minerals and salt to increase. Rich source of valuable minerals and Dead Sea has several factories in the vicinity with hundreds working. Israel extracts minerals from Dead Sea, mainly magnesium, potassium, and bromides for export throughout the world.

Dead Sea water has been attributed medicinal values from ancient time. Aristotle, Queen of Sheba, King Solomon and Cleopatra are a few to name who were attracted to Dead Sea for its healthy water. Today, Dead Sea is one of the biggest tourist spot in Israel attracting millions. Beaches, historic and archaeological sites, amusement parks, mud packs, nature reserves, botanical gardens, desert tours, rock climbing, hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, spas, camping sites, cosmetic and health products, cable cars; you name anything Dead Sea has the answer.

According to Bible, the cities of Sodom and Gomorra; and three more (Admah, Zeboim and Zoar) that were completely destroyed by God in the time of Abraham stood at this region. Also before the destruction, the Dead Sea was a green valley called the Vale of Siddim (Genesis 18-19; Deuteronomy 29:23)! Interestingly, biblical prophets Ezekiel (47:8-9) and Zechariah (14:8) proclaim that Dead Sea will be revived and become a normal lake in future. King David, King Herod, Jesus Christ and John the Baptist were also closely linked with the Dead Sea and its surroundings. Heard of Essenes and their Dead Sea Scrolls; the heights of Masada and how rebellious Jewish zealots held out against the might of the Roman Legion? It all happened in the vicinity of Dead Sea.

The 2-day trip was organized by the Student Council of Sede Boker Campus. The itinerary in brief: 22-05-09-Visit to Ein Gedi Botanical Garden and Kibbutz Ein Gedi, Hiking Ein Feshka Reserve, Swimming in the Dead Sea and Camping at the base of Masada. 23-05-09-Hiking Wadi Arugot, Ein Gedi and Shopping at Dead Sea.

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