The Uniqueness of Israel
Israeli Archaeological Sites You May Have Never Heard Of
Heading into your gap year in Israel, you will no doubt be expecting to learn a great deal about the history of the land. After all, there are very few, if any, places on earth with quite so much history. Israel is full of world famous historical sites, such as the Old City of Jerusalem and Masada. However, there are many lesser-known sites, a number of which you will no doubt visit during your gap year.
You have probably heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but not many people know a lot about the caves at Qumran where they were found. They are located on a cliff above the Dead Sea where a Jewish sect lived during the Second Temple era. While you cannot go into the caves, you can learn a great deal about the sect, the Essenes, at a museum there and explore a number of archaeological findings, such as communal buildings, pottery workshops, stables, and more. It is a fascinating place and well worth visiting in addition to seeing the scrolls at the Israel Museum.
If you are interested in caves then you should definitely visit the Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park. Nicknamed “the land of a thousand caves”, the park encompasses around 1,250 acres of hills where a network of manmade caves has been created over thousands of years. The caves have been used as quarries, for burial, storerooms, hideouts, and more over the years. One of the most famous locations within the park is Tel Maresha, where King Rehoboam of Judah built cities for defence. They were abandoned during the Roman period when Beit Guvrin was built nearby.
Slightly better known is the Tel Megiddo National Park in the Lower Galilee. Many Christians believe it is where Armageddon, the battel of the end of days, will take place. Tel Megiddo was a fortified city by the third millennium BCE and it later because a centre of Egyptian rule. King David conquered the city and it flourished under the rule of Solomon. Today, you can visit a fantastic museum and view models of what the city may have looked like. There is still excavation work going on there and they recently discovered a tomb from the Middle Bronze Age and remnants of vanilla in jugs from 3,600 years ago.
Beit She’an National Park is one of the country’s largest archaeological sites, but a surprising number of people have never heard of it. Visitors will be able to see the remains of a Roman theatre, a gladiator amphitheatre, Byzantine bathhouse, marketplaces, temples, synagogues, and far more. If you stay after dark, you can also enjoy an audio-visual show that brings the ruins to life with stunning projections. There is more than enough there to keep you busy for an entire day, and it is definitely worth a visit.
There are countless fascinating places to visit in Israel with many more amazing sites, such as the Herodium National Park, the Tzipori National Park, and the Avdat National Park. Hopefully during your gap year, you will get to visit all of these and more.