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.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Brief Itinerary

08.20-Sede Boker-Metropolin 60
09.40-Beer sheva-Egged 384


18.30- Masada-Egged 384
20.10-Beer Sheva-Metropolin 60
21.00-Sede Boker

My first visit to Masada was on 13th February, 2008 and it took me more than two years to revisit this historic fort standing on the top of a boat-shaped hill. Masada is the most visited of all archeological places in Israel after Jerusalem. A unique venue where 2000 years ago, 960 Jewish men, women and children supposedely defended the might of 10,000 Roman soldiers and later committed a mass suicide. It took Romans almost two years to conquer Masada only when they managed to construct a siege ramp up one of the slopes of the mountain to breach the wooden walls of the fortress with fire (73 AD). To their great surprise, Romans found nearly all people inside the fort dead. Only seven women and children chose to survive and surrender than suicide. Perhaps the history of Masada begins from the time of Hasmoneans who first fortifies the site by 90 BC. However, it was during King Herod's reign (37 BC-4 BC), Masada was turned into a luxurious and magnificient  palace-fort complex, whose remains still astonish visitors.

Is Masada biblical? By name Masada is never mentioned in the Bible. However, some believe that it was in Masada, David took refuge during his flight from Saul and where he wrote some of his Psalms. David's "stronghold" in I Samuel 22:4-5; 23:14; 24:22 and his "fortress and rock of refuge" (Ps 18:2, 31; 71:3; 144:2) are also said to be in Masada. Masada is still one of Jewish people's greatest symbols, where Israeli soldiers take an oath there: "Masada shall not fall again". I am not adding more details about Masada, as you can always go through the link appended during my earlier vist.

On the way to Masada from Sede Boker. 1P: Arad; 2P: Judean Desert; 3P-7P: Dead Sea.

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Entering Masada National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of Israel's most visited tourist attractions and a symbol of Jewish national heroism.

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Masada-the mount of legends. It was on the top of this cliff rising over 1500 ft , 960 Jewish men, women and children defended the might of 10,000 Roman soldiers under Flavius Silva, for three years (70-73 AD). According to Josephus, the 1st Cent. historian, the defenders decided to kill themselves rather than submit to capture and enslavement under Romans. The mass suicide occurred on the 15th day of Hebrew month Nisan in A.D. 73, the night before the Roman Tenth Legion took Masada.

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Enlarge and read about Masada.

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Model of Masada displayed at the entrance.

Masada is 190 feet above sea level and about 1500 feet above the level of the Dead Sea. The mountain itself is 1950 feet long, 650 feet wide, 4250 feet in circumference, and encompasses 23 acres.

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