Jezreel – Valley of Battles, Basket of Bread

The Jezreel Valley in Israel, also known as the Plain of Megiddo or Valley of Megiddo, is a flat, fertile valley just south of the lower Galilee between the Carmel Mountains to the west and the Jordan Valley to the east.

In ancient times, many groups fought here for control of the valley, which was a major regional thoroughfare and a coveted piece of land. The Roman Via Maris, an important trade route connecting Mesopotamia (Iraq), Egypt and Asia Minor (Turkey), passed through the valley and crossed the Carmel Mountains to the Mediterranean sea at the Aruna Pass, also known as the Megiddo Pass, controlled by the city of Megiddo. Excavations have uncovered over 20 successive layers of settlement at and around Megiddo dating from the 8th millennium BCE to the 6th century BCE, with significant settlement beginning in the middle of the 5th millennium BCE.

The area is rich with biblical sites. In the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Saul battled the Philistines and died here with his sons (1 Samuel 28:1-31:10), Jezebel had Naboath killed and confiscated his Jezreel Valley vineyard for her husband King Ahab (1 Kings 21-28), at the Harod Spring in the valley, Gideon assembled an army to fight and defeat the Midianites (Judges 7:1-8).

excavations at Tel Megiddo, photo by Itamar Grinberg, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

excavations at Tel Megiddo, photo by Itamar Grinberg, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

In the Christian Bible/New Testament, Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley is the site of the final battle between good and evil. Armageddon = Har Megeddon = the mountain of Megiddo (Revelation 16).

Today, the Jezreel Valley is a major agricultural area.

 

Foto Friday – Israel

Anemonies in bloom in the Galilee, photo by Itamar Grinberg, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

Anemonies in bloom in the Galilee, photo by Itamar Grinberg, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

"Mona Lisa of the Galilee" in Zippori (Sepphoris), photo by Itamar Grinberg, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

“Mona Lisa of the Galilee” in Zippori (Sepphoris), photo by Itamar Grinberg, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

Nubian Ibex in the Negev Desert, photo by Dafna Tal, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

Nubian Ibex in the Negev Desert, photo by Dafna Tal, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

the Galilee, photo by Itamar Grinberg, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

the Galilee, photo by Itamar Grinberg, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

Holy Sepulchre Church, Jerusalem, photo by Noam Chen, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

Holy Sepulchre Church, Jerusalem, photo by Noam Chen, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

Blessed Are Those

view of the Sea of Galilee from the Church of the Beatitudes, Israel, photo by Itamar Grinberg, courtesy of Israel Ministry of Tourism

view of the Sea of Galilee from the Church of the Beatitudes, Israel, photo by Itamar Grinberg, courtesy of Israel Ministry of Tourism

The Church of the Beatitudes sits on a gentle rise overlooking the Sea of Galilee on the spot traditionally believed to be where Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount, which opens with the eight Beatitudes. This was one of the earliest sermons of Jesus and is generally believed to present the core values of Christian faith. According to the Gospel of Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount happened just after Jesus began his ministry, traveling around the Galilee region preaching and healing. He was developing a reputation as a wise teacher and miracle worker and people began to seek him out.

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down.
His disciples came to Him, 2and He began to teach them, saying:

3Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,
for they will be filled.

7Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.

8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.

10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:1-12

Banias / Caesarea Philippi, Israel

waters of the Banias Spring (one source of the Jordan River), with Pan's Cave, aka the Gates of Hades, in the background - For Greco-Roman pilgrims to the sanctuary, the large cave, with its seemingly bottomless pool and flowing stream, marked an entrance to the underworld or “gates of Hades.” The spring no longer flows out of the cave but rises from the ground below.

waters of the Banias Spring (one source of the Jordan River), with Pan’s Cave, aka the Gates of Hades, in the background – For Greco-Roman pilgrims to the sanctuary, the gaping cave, with its seemingly bottomless pool and flowing stream, marked an entrance to the underworld or “Gates of Hades.” The spring no longer flows out of the cave but rises from the ground below.

In or around the last decade before the Common Era, the city of Caesarea Philippi was commissioned by Philip the Tetrarch, a son of Herod the Great. The site already had a long history as a religious sanctuary. For over two centuries it had been known as Paneas, a major sanctuary for the Greek god Pan. The modern Arabic name Banias derives from the Greek Paneas. Before the Hellenistic period, the area was sacred to the Canaanite god Baal. Sheltered in the foothills of Mt. Hermon, the region’s highest mountain, with abundant  water and a lush, garden setting, it does feel like hallowed ground. Continue reading

Safed

the view from Safed, looking out over the Sea of Galilee, photo courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

the view from Safed, looking out over the Sea of Galilee, photo courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

Safed (also spelled Tsfat, Tzfat, and a number of other ways) is a town in the Upper Galilee region in the far north of Israel. It’s one of the few cities in Israel that has been continuously inhabited by a Jewish community for over 2,000 years. At an elevation of 3,000 feet, it’s the highest town in the country, with views out across the Galilee, the Golan Heights and Mt. Meron.

Safed is one of the 4 holy cities in Judaism (along with Jerusalem, Hebron, and Tiberias). According to legend, the Messiah will come through Safed on the way to Jerusalem and the great Kabbalist Yitzhak Luria taught that the divine presence of the Lord will reside in Safed until the building of the 3rd Temple. Legend also tells that the sons of Noah settled in Safed and established a religious school, where Jacob later studied.

In the 16th century, after the Jews were expelled from Spain, Safed became a center of Kabbalah (mystical Judaism) and Jewish learning. Yitzhak Luria, known as Ha ARI (the Lion) studied with renowned rabbis there and went on to develop his own interpretations of sacred texts and pass them on to his own students. His mostly oral teachings were written down by students and went on to have immense influence on the practice of Medieval Judaism and are the basis for the study and practice of most Kabbalah still today.

Safed, Israel

Safed, Israel

Safed, Israel

Safed, Israel

In Safed you’ll find a charming, labyrinthine old town to stroll about, Medieval synagogues, lots and lots of art galleries and artists’ workshops, and stellar views in all directions. In particular, look for the beautiful Abuhav Synagogue and the Sephardic Ha ARI Synagogue, where the Lion himself spent many hours studying and teaching.

Abuhav Synagogue, Safed, Israel, photo by Itamar Grinberg, courtesy of IMOT

Abuhav Synagogue, Safed, Israel, photo by Itamar Grinberg, courtesy of IMOT

art gallery, Safed, Israel, photo by Itamar Grinberg, courtesy of IMOT

art gallery, Safed, Israel, photo by Itamar Grinberg, courtesy of IMOT

kabbalist artist, Safed, Israel

kabbalist artist, Safed, Israel

The annual Safed Klezmer Festival is held in August. Performers from all over Israel and the world play venues around town, many open-air, galleries set up shop in the streets and the whole place parties for three days. Klezmer music is a genre of celebratory, secular music, which originated with Eastern European Jews. Check it out below.

Driving time from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv to Safed is about 2-2.5 hours, from Tiberias it’s about 40 minutes.

See tours that include Safed here.