Numerous national parks in northern Israel are open to the public for free throughout the festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles) this week. The Jewish Agency is sponsoring the free admission in order to encourage tourism in the north following this summer’s war.

The sites include:

  • Sepphoris (Zippori) National Park
  • Achziv National Park
  • Horshat Tal National Park
  • Baram National Park
  • Tel Hazor National Park
  • Nahal Iyon (Ayoun) Nature Reserve
  • Nimrod Fortress National Park
  • Kursi (Gergesa) National Park
  • Corazim (Chorazin) National Park
  • Ein Afek (Aphek) Nature Reserve
  • Nahal Amoud Nature Reserve
  • Hamat Tiberias National Park
  • Beit She’arim National Park
  • Beit Alfa Synagogue National Park
  • Kochav Hayarden (Belvoir) National Park
  • Tel Megiddo National Park
  • Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve
  • Majersa (Batiha) Nature Reserve
  • Gamla Nature Reserve
  • Hula Valley Nature Reserve
  • Yehiam Fortress National Park
  • Beit She’an (Beth Shean) National Park
  • Agmon Hahula Yarden Park

Arutz-7 has a list of many other Sukkot activities, including a hike near Hebron, tours of the Temple Mount, concerts and more.

Mosaic floor from Tiberias synagogue featuring a lulav (palm frond) and etrog (citron), now on display at Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv


The media is reporting the discovery of oil near the Dead Sea. Expected yield is very low, but it raises hopes that there might be more in the area. From All Headline News:

A nationally-held Israeli exploration company announced Wednesday that it had discovered oil near the Dead Sea.

Speaking on Israel’s Channel 10 News, Dr. Eli Tenenbaum of Genco said that after drilling to a depth of 1.2 miles, “we noticed that the pressure in the area was very high and when we opened the tap, oil started flowing freely for several minutes.”

Dr. Tenenbaum said the reserve could contain as much as six million barrels of oil, giving it an estimated commercial value of $300 million.

“We hope it was the first of many [such discoveries],” he added.

Genco started its work 10 years ago, but was forced to stop due to the high costs of its operations. But with oil prices soaring, the government recently gave the company the go ahead to resume exploratory drilling.

Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told The Jerusalem Post that the government is now ready to back any company that wants to try to find oil inside the borders of Israel.

Dead Sea from west, Sept. 27, 2006

UPDATE (10/11): The Jerusalem Post has more details, including a major new investor.

The AP has a good summary of the battle over the construction of the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem. The Simon Wiesenthal Center wants to build the museum where a parking lot has been located, but Muslim organizations are unhappy because it encroaches on an old Muslim cemetery. 

Read the story for the update, but note the archaeologist’s comment that if you’re going to protect every grave in Israel, people are going to need to commute from another country. Some have noted the irony that Muslims built a hotel over the part of the cemetery in the mid-20th century. It’s also interesting to see the ultra-Orthodox and Muslims groups join hands on this issue.

Jerusalem from northwest.
Click on photo for more detail.

Excavations have been going on for a few months in the back (west side) of the Western Wall plaza. The Israel Antiquities Authority has a brief description of the finds so far. In short, they are excavating a building complex from the Mamluk and Ottoman periods that consists of several vaults.

This is a view from near the Western Wall towards the excavations, which are located just to the left (south) of the police station.

The excavations began in April, before construction of a building in this location.

One of the vaults is visible below the metal walkway.


I’ve mentioned The Exodus Decoded here before, and over at Higgaion, Chris Heard is doing a very extended review of the movie (Part 1 | Part 2 (with addendum) | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7). His analysis has elicited responses from the man behind the movie, Simcha Jacobovici, which gives the reader the chance to decide for himself/herself who to trust. Those who have watched the movie and think there’s something to it would do well to read it. Such a dialogue should have taken place before the 3 million dollars was spent, and it’s a lesson on why you should never trust new ideas which are first promoted on television. If the ideas had merit, they could bear the weight of scholarly scrutiny and an end-run around academia to the masses with dazzling graphics would not be necessary. Unfortunately this isn’t the first guy to pull such a trick and it won’t be the last.

Lest any new readers to this blog think that I’m just another liberal blasting someone trying to prove the Bible true, that’s not so. I believe the Bible is an accurate record of history, including in all of its details about the exodus. I just believe that The Exodus Decoded does not do any favors to the biblical record.

UPDATE (9/22): Bryant Wood of Associates for Biblical Research has posted a review of the movie. This one is shorter than Heard’s and is written by one who believes in the accuracy of the biblical narrative. I recommend it.


Archaeologists have recently uncovered a large cemetery where the Jerusalem model of the Holyland Hotel once sat. Hundreds of thousands of tourists have flocked to the site, never knowing that they were standing on top of a remarkably well-preserved Intermediate Bronze cemetery.

For forty years, the Holyland Hotel model was a highlight of many tourists’ visits to Jerusalem. But then the owners decided they could make more money if the land was developed into high-rise apartment buildings. Construction began while an alternate location for the model was sought.

Earlier this year the model was transported from its original location to the Israel Museum where it is now on display to the public. What no one knew is that the model site was a cemetery during the Intermediate Bronze Age.

About 20 shaft graves have been excavated so far, but it is estimated that there are 50 tombs in the area.

Shaft graves are the most common type of tomb from the Intermediate Bronze Age. This period dates from approximately 2300-2000 B.C., and has also been known as Early Bronze IV and Middle Bronze I.

A shaft grave consists of two sections: a shaft and a burial chamber. The photo above shows a tomb with most of the top missing, but gives a good top-plan of the tomb. The shaft is in the back and the burial chamber is in the foreground.

More of this tomb is preserved, including about 5 feet (1.6 m) of depth of the shaft. Typically the shafts are about 6 feet (2 m) deep. The burial chamber was sealed off from the shaft by a blocking stone, which is visible below the boy’s hands.

In this tomb, a larger blocking stone has been preserved in the shaft. Visible behind Superman is an opening to the burial chamber.

This burial chamber was preserved to a greater height, but the large hole in the ceiling gives a good view. Other burial chambers are preserved intact, but dark caves don’t look as interesting in a photograph.

Finds from the tombs indicate that they continued in use into the Middle Bronze period (2000-1550 B.C.). The Mount of Olives is also home to a cemetery from this period, but less is known about it because later cemeteries were built over it (in the Second Temple and modern periods). This cemetery is located 3 miles (4.8 km) west of the Temple Mount (here’s the kmz file for those with Google Earth).

As far as we know, this discovery has not yet been reported in the media.