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

VISITING ARBEL NATURE RESERVE-one of the most beautiful nature reserves in Israel. 'Beth-Arbel' in the Holy Bible (Hoshea 10:14) is most probably refering to the region of Arbel.

The official brochure of the National Park introduces Arbel as "A sheer cliff rising majestically above the Sea of Galilee with a magnificent view of the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon; an ancient community that left remnants of its fine synagogue;trails to a cave-fortress nestled in the rock – these are the Arbel: a nature reserve and national park, a jewel of nature and landscape and an ancient heritage site unparalleled in Israel".

The 'Arbel National Park' is spread in 2,127 acres and it encompasses 460 acres of the national reserve. Mount Arbel (181 meters above sea level or 390 meters above the Sea of Galilee) and Mount Nitay (98 meters above sea level) are the major cliffs in the reserve. Abundant with some unique flora and fauna,  Arbel  is also famous for its history. Active from the Maccabean period (2nd century BC), Arbel has been associated with King Herod and Josephus. Jesus has  preached and performed many miracles in the Valley of Ginnosar at the foot of the Arbel. The towns of Magdala and Capernaum associated with Jesus' public ministry are also located near the valley of Arbel. I believe that there is a high probability of Jesus climbing these cliffs with his disciples for solitude or prayer. 

Arbel is often mentioned in both the Mishnah and Talmud. Some famous Jewish sages like Nitai HaArbeli (2nd Cent. BC), Rabbi Zeira (3rd  to 4th Cent AD) and Rabbi Hezekiah (3rd Cent AD) are said to be buried here though their graves are not identifiable today. Interestingly, there is even a certain Jewish tradition that the burial sites of Reuben, Levi and Dina (children of Jacob) and Seth (son of Adam) are in  Arbel!

There are several hiking trails marked inside the park, from 30 minutes short walk to more demanding steep routes that can easily take 4-5 hours.We took some of the lengthiest trails. It was a bit tiresome  feeling to walk under the scorching heat. However, the breathtaking views offered by Arbel's summit together with knowing its glorious past was a rewarding experience.

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