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As our guide Jacob will tell you, Beit She’an (aka Scythopolis) is one of the world’s most extensively excavated Greco-Roman sites. Blessed with fertile land and abundant water, this strategic location at the convergence of the Jordan and Jezreel Valleys has been occupied at least since the 5th millennium BCE and holds remains from Canaanites, Egyptians, Philistines, Israelites, Greeks, Romans and Byzantines in 18 distinct layers. At its peak, as the main Roman Decapolis city, Beit She’an had a population of 40,000.

 

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The inland sea pictured above forms part of the border between Israel and Jordan. This sea lies at the lowest elevation on earth, over 1,300 feet below sea level at the surface. Due to a unique mineral content, the sea water and mud are prized for their therapeutic qualities. The extreme salinity of the water makes it very difficult to sink. Bathers bob on the surface effortlessly. Atmospheric conditions here also have health benefits. High levels of oxygen are both invigorating and relaxing. It’s really a magical place. The sea is centrally located and makes an easy stopover between visits to other top tourist attractions. It also makes a good base for visiting a number of tourist sites.

 

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This is one of some 800 Bell Caves in the Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park in the central part of our mystery. The caves were chalk mines dug in the 7th-11th centuries, during the country’s Islamic period. Miners would first dig a shaft and then cut blocks out of the soft chalk walls and haul it up through the shaft with ropes. Chalk was used in construction.

 

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This stretch of the Kidron Valley lies between Mount Moriah and the Mount of Olives in one of the world’s holiest cities. The valley continues eastward about 20 miles to the Dead Sea. The valley and adjacent slopes have been burial grounds for thousands of years due to their association with End Times in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

 

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Byzantine Christians named this ancient citadel The Tower of David because they mistakenly understood one of the Herodian watchtowers to have been built by the 2nd king of the land. In modern times, the Tower of David refers to the 17th-century Ottoman minaret, which adjoins the Mamluk mosque built within the citadel grounds. Today, the Tower of David is a museum, with historical, cultural and art exhibits, as well as activities and lectures.

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The Western Wall, built around 19BCE, is among the world’s most holy places, but much of it is hidden behind unrelated structures built up against it over the centuries. The section commonly known as the Western Wall is only about 200 feet of a total length of 1600 feet . Fifty years ago tunnel excavations began to reveal the full length of the wall, as well as the lower 17 courses below modern street level. One of many interesting things uncovered in 20 years of digging is the wall’s largest stone, which is 45 feet long, 10 feet tall and weighs 570 tons!

 

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When Jesus was 30 years old, he left Nazareth and settled in the village of Capernaum, about 30 miles away. The village sits on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, which is actually a fresh water lake, known locally as Lake Kinneret. Several of Jesus’ disciples lived in Capernaum and fished in the lake for a living. The synagogue pictured above post-dates Jesus but is built on remains of a synagogue where he certainly preached.

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