The Bible, although a religious book, is also perhaps, one of the original historical treatise and a travel guide to the Land of Canaan including Israel. When we visited Israel, we had the opportunity to explore some of the Biblical cities, ports and places that still exist and charm us travelers and the pilgrims alike , even today
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Jaffa or Joppa or Yafo
Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. ACTS 9:36
Jaffa, originally known as Joppa, is said to be from the name of Iopeia mother of the beautiful Andromeda (Greek Mythology). We stand looking at the spot purported to be the place where Andromeda was chained to the rock.
The story played back in mind and I almost saw Perseus in his Pegasus swooping down to rescue Andromeda. So even Greek Mythology seems to have played out here.
Several biblical stories of Jonah, Solomon and Saint Peter is associated with the port city of Jaffa. It has been more or less continuously inhabited for over 9000 years and probably known as Jaffa for 4000 years During the biblical times, this port was used to import construction materials, including cedar from Lebanon to build Solomon’s temple. After this was destroyed a second temple was built at the same place, again Jaffa port was used to ferry the materials. The second temple was extant during the time of Christ.
The location of the temple is believed to be Temple Mount where the Dome of rock is situated in Jerusalem, which is about 65KM from Jaffa. The Dome of rock is a Muslim shrine and Jews are not allowed inside. Hence Jews pray outside the western wall of the compound of this temple.
Back to Jaffa! During the time of St Peter, he is said to have brought back Tabitha (See the bible quote above) to life in Jaffa.
We can see that this port was most used for centuries as the gateway of economy. When we saw the Jaffa from our hotel in the dawn, knowing the above story, it had a strange look to it.
Caesaria Maritima (Caesarea by the sea)
At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household. ACTS (10:1)
The city of Caesarea, located about 50 KM north of Jaffa, was one of the most important cities during Christ and a few centuries after too.
The magnificent little city was the eastern capital of the Roman Empire. Augustus sent Herod the great to oversee the construction of the city and the port at the same place as the Phoenician city of Strato’s Tower. What Herod created was an architectural wonder spread over more than 100 acres. There was a big amphitheatre and a hippodrome for entertainment. We are told that the horse races are held in the hippodrome to re-enact the era.
On one side lies the long Aqueduct to bring water from the nearby Mount Carmel. It is said the labourers cut a 6 KM channel through the rocks of Mt. Carmel to the spring and built another 6KM long Aqueduct to get the water to the city. The city was protected by a moat and wall. We saw a movie that showed the humungous effort by the Romans and the locals to build this city.
Also inside the city walls, on top of a rock, was the house of the Roman prefect of the province of Judaea, Pontius Pilate. Pontius Pilate would later gain notoriety for his actions in the New Testament. We saw the replica of the stone artifact bearing his name.
The imposing amphitheater still stands the test of time and as witness to the millenniums gone by.
Akko or Acco or Ptolemais or Acre
Neither did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Accho, nor the inhabitants of Zidon, nor of Ahlab, nor of Achzib, nor of Helbah, nor of Aphik, nor of Rehob. JUDGES 1:31
This quote refers to the tribe of Ashers who failed to hold the city of Acco.
Acco, located about 60 km north Caesarea, was later conquered by the Crusaders in 1104 AD and displaced Jaffa as the biggest port. The city fell again and rebuilt again. The excavations show the intricate labyrinth of tunnels still in existence. It was a strange feeling when we walked through the tunnel that was once used thousand years ago by the crusaders. In fact most of the old town of Acco is still buried under and cannot be excavated as it is believed the new city will cave under if any more explorations are undertaken.
It was also again a strange feeling to be sharing the same ground on which Gen Moshe Dayan, Israel’s Military and political leader and also the defence minister during the 6 day war. You see, Moshe Dayan was held a prisoner here in 1939 by Jordanian forces!
Sea of Galilee or Lake Tiberias or Kinneret
And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. MATTHEW 14:25
Sea of Galilee is not a sea but a large freshwater lake. It is located 180 km north of Jerusalem and is about 200 Metres below sea level. In the ancient times there were, according to legends 16 ports for use by travellers, traders and fishermen. This is where Christ is credited to have performed several miracle including walking on water. (See quote above)
It is here, where He appointed four of his apostles. In the bible it says “One Lord, one faith, one baptism”. The place where Jesus was baptised is just south of Sea of Galilee on the banks of River Jordan.
Now the Sea of Galilee’s shoreline has changed considerably because of tourism and the natural coastline has been changed to manmade water fronts and walkways. Now only few ports that are still being used and mostly by tourists, pilgrims and fishermen.
Readers, do let us know if you know of any more biblical cities and ports that still exist in Israel.
Useful Information on Biblical Ports and Places in Israel
Guided tours in Israel
Where to stay in Israel
More Stories on Israel for You
- Hitchhiking in Turbulent Israel
- A complete guide for a 2 Days in Jerusalem Itinerary.
- Yoga in Israel
- Yemenite Art in Israel
- Our First Impression of Israel
- The baptismal site, the Jordan River bank where Jesus was Baptised!
- Exploring the Pastoral beauty of Tiberias
- Celebrating Yoga Day
- An enjoyable jaunt around Jaffa
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Note: Updated with fresh content on 12-Oct-2020