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.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Caves and the Fortress of Arbel. The three-storied castle (12th cent AD onwards) connects caverns and caves in the cliff into one fortress. The caves were actively used by Jewish rebels against King Herod's forces (1st Century BC).

The caves were used by Jewish rebels of ancient Arbel as a stronghold against: 1) Syrian General Baccides (2nd Cent. BC) by the Maccabees; 2) King Herod's army (1st Cent. BC); 3) Romans (1st Cent. AD) at the time of first Jewish War. During the great Jewish rebellion against the Roman army in 68 AD, Arbel was fortified by none other than the famous Jewish Historian, Flavius Josephus! The towering steep cliffs, the gaping void below it and lack of access roads made the caves a strategic location for the defense of Arbel. Most of the remains of fortifications from this time were uncovered on adjacent Mount Nitai.
 1P: The Caves of Arbel (located in the Nithail hills)

 The three-storied Arbel Fortress
The fortress at Arbel was used during the Crusader and Mamluk periods. But most of the remains visible today are from the castle built here by Ali Beck (18th century) during the Ottoman period. Known as Qala’at Ibn Ma’an in Arabic, the fortress controlled Arbel Valley and the roads leading through it. Coins and Jewish ritual immersion baths from the Hellenistic period (2nd Cent BC) were among the finds in the caves inside the fortress.

 Inside the Arbel Fortress

 Views from the Arbel Fortress

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