Israel's ancient historic treasures from the Jewish peoples' glorious past

From Jerusalem to Tzipori, Israel is full of ancient treasures that are scattered across the country. They highlight the eternal connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.
Photo Credit: Rachel Avraham

Since the dawn of humanity, Israel has been the holiest country in the Jewish faith. It is the land of the Bible. It is the land of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs.  It is the land of the prophets and the ancient Israelite kings.  The history of the Jewish people spans back in this land for thousands of years.   The archeology of this country reflects this fact.  Thus, in honor of Israel’s glorious past, JerusalemOnline shares with you some of Israel’s ancient historic treasures.

Jerusalem has been the eternal capital city of the Jewish people since antiquity and is the holiest city in Judaism. As the Talmud declares in Kiddushin 49b, “Ten measures of beauty descended to the world; nine were taken by Jerusalem.” One of Jerusalem’s most ancient treasures is the Kotel, which represents the remnant of where the First and Second Temple stood. It has been a place of Jewish worship for centuries. Nearby on the Mount of Olives, there are Jewish graves dating back to the First and Second Temple periods. The oldest active synagogue in Jerusalem is the Ramban Synagogue, which was founded by Rabbi Moses ben Naḥman aka Nachmanides in 1267. Throughout the generations except for a few brief periods, Jews have always lived in Jerusalem and prayed inside its ancient walls. All of these treasures highlight the ancient historic attachment of the Jewish people to their eternal capital city.

Another great historic treasure is the Baram synagogues that dates back to the Byzantine period. An inscription found in the nineteenth century in one of the two great synagogues of Baram stated, “Peace be upon this place and upon all of the places of Israel.” It is currently on display at the Louvre in Paris. While one of the two synagogues of Baram is no more, the remnants of the other ancient Byzantine style synagogue are still there for all to see to this day. Ancient Byzantine style columns standing upright support a beautifully structured building is testament to the fact that Jews continued to live in the Holy Land even after the brutal suppression of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 135 CE.

Hebron is an ancient city that is mentioned 87 times in the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible. Genesis 23 speaks about how Avraham purchased a burial tomb within Hebron for his wife Sarah. Known today as the Tomb of the Patriarchs, Avraham, Yitzhak, Rivka, Ya’akov and Leah are all buried there. Jewish tradition also maintains that Adam and Eve are buried in the same location. Hebron was also one of the first places that Israel’s patriarchs resided upon arrival in ancient Canaan. This implies that Hebron hosts the oldest Jewish community on the planet and the Tomb of the Patriarchs is one of the most ancient burial tombs on earth. It is another ancient treasure that belongs to the Jewish people.  Not too far away from the Tomb of the Patriarchs is the Avraham Avinu Synagogue, which was built in 1540. Its existence testifies to the fact that Jews have also continued to live in this wonderful ancient city throughout the generations except from the horrendous 1929 Hebron massacre to the conclusion of the Jordanian occupation in 1967.

Rachel’s Tomb, located in the northern outskirts of Bethlehem, about 400 yards south of Jerusalem, is the third holiest site in Jerusalem after the Temple Mount and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. For the past 1,700 years, the site has been identified as the burial place of the Jewish matriarch Rachel and Jews were known to pray at the site for the past 3,000 years. Rachel, the beloved wife of the patriarch Ya’akov, died during childbirth as the family was traveling to Hebron. Whenever the Jewish people faced sorrows, throughout the generations, they would traditionally pray for Rachel to cry for them at Rachel’s Tomb, believing that her tears to G-d have special powers. It is another wonderful ancient treasure that the Jewish people possesses.

Caesarea, a coastal city that sits on the Mediterranean that was once the site of a Phoenician port, was rebuilt by Herod the Great in honor of Caesar Augustus. Over a span of 12 years, Herod the Great transformed the city into being one of the grandest in the country during his era.  It was from this city that the Great Jewish Revolt against Rome began and after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, they made Caesarea their provincial capital city.  The remnants of this magnificent city remain for all to see to date. Ancient amphitheaters, Roman columns and other antiquities testify to the ancient glory that the city once possessed.

Another ancient treasure in the Land of Israel is Tzipori, a well-preserved archeological site in the Galilee that highlights the environment in which the historic legal text known as the Mishna was compiled. The Mishna is considered the second most important text in Judaism after the Torah and the city where it was written in is well-preserved complete with ancient synagogues, mikvah baths, mosaics, Roman pillars and a theater due to the fact that their leadership decided to lay low after the disastrous destruction the city endured following the First Jewish Revolt. Antipas, a son of Herod the Great, rebuilt the city afterwards and his city remains surprisingly well-preserved.  Its ancient glory together with the nearby Daher Al Omer Crusader Citadel highlight Israel’s glorious past and its connection to the times we live in today.

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