Category Archives: Israel

Antiquities “dealer” arrested with 3000+ coins

Earlier this week the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Police arrested a man living near Beit Shean (Bethshan) with some pottery and more than 3000 coins that he was illegally trying to sell. One report says the coins dated from the Roman period, the Bar Kochba revolt, the Byzantine period, and the Muslim period. The Roman coins included some from the time of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. These coins bear the title “Judaea Capta.”

Pottery and coins confiscated by the Israel Antiquities Authority near Beit Shean, Nov. 24, 2015. Photo: IAA.

Pottery and coins confiscated by the Israel Antiquities Authority near Beit Shean, Nov. 24, 2015. Photo: IAA.

The unnamed “dealer” had been digging up the coins and pottery in fields in the vicinity of Beit Shean. For additional information about Beit Shean see our post here.

There are legitimate dealers in antiquities, but there are others who take advantage of unsuspecting buyers. Many antiquities are destroyed by those who do not appreciate the value of the artifacts.

For a copy of the IAA Hebrew press release go here. For an informative English article with several photos see the article in The Times of Israel here.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Sunset from the eastern shore of Galilee

Over the past years I have posted several sunrise photos made from the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, but only a few sunsets from the eastern shore. I want to share this beautiful sunset view from En Gev.

Sunset from En Gev on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sunset from En Gev on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

If you look carefully you may see the Horns of Hattin and Mount Arbel on the western side. The sea is a little rough in this photo due to the afternoon wind that  comes in from the northwest.

Another mosaic uncovered at Lod

In the Old Testament Lod is listed as a town of the tribe of Benjamin (1 Chronicles 8:12), but it seems significant only after the return of the Jews from Babylonian exile (Nehemiah 11:25; Ezra 2:33).

In the New Testament the town is known as Lydda and the place where the Apostle Peter preached and healed a paralytic named Aeneas (Acts 9:31-35).

In modern times Lod is the location of Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport.

You might enjoy this account by the Israel Antiquities Authority about the discovery of another impressive mosaic in Lod.

While building the visitor center for the Lod Mosaic, which was exposed in the past and is considered one of the most spectacular in the country, another impressive mosaic was discovered at the site

This week the Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Lod municipality, invites the public for a unique opportunity to come see the new mosaic

An impressive mosaic revealed in archaeological excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority in Lod will be open for the first time this week, specifically for visits by the public, in cooperation with the Lod municipality.

In June–November 2014 a team of archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority directed a large excavation in the Neve Yerek neighborhood of Lod, in an area where a breathtaking mosaic that served as the living room floor in a villa some 1,700 years ago was previously exposed. The aim of the excavation was to prepare the ground for construction of a visitor center, to which the beautiful mosaic will be returned when it completes a series of exhibitions in museums around the world. Important artifacts were discovered in the new excavation, the most notable of which is another colorful mosaic (11 × 13 m) that was the courtyard pavement of the magnificent villa that had the famous mosaic in its living room.

A portion of the newly discovered Lod mosaic showing fish. Photo by Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority.

A portion of the newly discovered Lod mosaic showing fish. Photo by Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority

According to Dr. Amir Gorzalczany, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The villa we found was part of a neighborhood of affluent houses that stood here during the Roman and Byzantine periods. At that time Lod was called Diospolis and was the district capital, until it was replaced by Ramla after the Muslim conquest. The building was used for a very long time”.

The northern part of the complex, where the “Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center” will be constructed, was exposed when the Israel Antiquities Authority was inspecting development work being carried out in the early 1990s prior to the construction of Highway 90. The mosaic, which was discovered and excavated at that time by the late Miriam Avissar, is among the most beautiful in the country, and has been exhibited in recent years in some of the world’s leading museums, including the Metropolitan, the Louvre and the State Hermitage etc. It is currently on display at the Cini Gallery in Venice, Italy, and in the future it will be housed in the main building to be erected in Lod.

A portion of the newly discovered Lod mosaic showing fanimals. Photo by Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority

A portion of the newly discovered Lod mosaic showing fanimals. Photo by Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority

The southern part of the complex was exposed in the current excavations. Among other things, it includes a large magnificent courtyard that is paved with a mosaic and surrounded by porticos (stoas–covered galleries open to the courtyard) whose ceiling was supported by columns. According to Dr. Gorzalczany, “The eastern part of the complex could not be completely exposed because it extends beneath modern buildings in the neighborhood”. The scenes in this mosaic depict hunting and hunted animals, fish, flowers in baskets, vases and birds. Dr. Gorzalczany added, “The quality of the images portrayed in the mosaic indicates a highly developed artistic ability”. Numerous fragments of frescoes (wall paintings prepared on wet plaster) reflect the decoration and the meticulous and luxurious design, which are in the best tradition of the well-born of the period. In light of the new discoveries, this part of the villa will also be incorporated in the visitor center.

Archaeologists Hagit Torgë, Uzi ‘Ad, Eriola Jakoel and Yossi Elisha of the Israel Antiquities Authority participated in the excavation.

According to the press release: “Visiting hours: Tuesday–Wednesday, November 17–18: 8:00 to 16:00. Friday, November 20: 8:00 to 13:00. Driving directions: Come to Ha-Halutz Street in Lod, by way of Ginnaton Junction.”

HT: Joseph Lauer

Jesus rides a donkey from Bethphage to Jerusalem

Bethphage is mentioned in the New Testament in only one incident from the ministry of Jesus (Matthew 21:1, Mark 11:1; Luke 19:29).

And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.  When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples,   saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here.  If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.'”  So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them.  And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?”  And they said, “The Lord has need of it.”  And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. (Luke 19:28-35 ESV)

John records the event but does not mention Bethphage (John 12:12ff.).

The exact site of Bethphage is not known, but it certainly was not far from Kefr et Tur, the place of Byzantine traditions. The present Franciscan chapel was built there in 1883.

Franciscan chapel at Bethphage. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Franciscan chapel at Bethphage. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Roman road from Jericho to Jerusalem went over the Mount of Olives between Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives. Before reaching the top of the mountain a spur or bypass turned south to Bethphage and Bethany.

A colt at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A colt at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In a 1975 article in Biblical Archaeologist (Vol. 38, No. 1), John Wilkinson wrote about “The Way from Jerusalem to Jericho.” He and his party tried to trace out known remnants of the old Roman road between the two cities. This 12½ mile trip from Jericho up to Jerusalem took 7 hours and forty-nine minutes.

Fishing all night and the Galilee sunrise

Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret; Sea of Tiberias) evokes many memories of the ministry of Jesus and His disciples. No matter how many photos one takes, each one is unique.

I usually make these sunrise photos with two cameras, using multiple settings. The photo today is one that I especially like because I was able to catch the fisherman heading to harbor after a night of fishing.

Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee, May 17, 2015, 5:54 a.m. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee, May 17, 2015, 5:54 a.m. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Notice this text detailing the third appearance Jesus made to His disciples after the resurrection.

 1 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way.
2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together.
3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.”  (John 21:1-5 ESV)

Read the rest of the story and the miraculous catch of fish in John 21:6-14.

Plans to excavate Tel Shimron

Tel Shimron is located in the ancient territory of the Israelite tribe of Zebulun. There are only two references to the site in the Bible, both in the book of Joshua.

  • When Jabin, king of Hazor, heard of the successes of Joshua in the south of Canaan he sent word to the kings of the region to form an alliance. The king of Shimron was included in the group (Joshua 11:1).
  • The other reference lists Shimron as one of the cities of Zebulun (Joshua 19:15).

Location. Shimron is located about five miles due east of Nazareth at the intersection of highway 7626 with the main east-west highway 75. This is the NW side of the Jezreel Valley. The tel is 2.4 miles SE of Beit Lehem HaGelilit (Bethlehem of Galilee) which is also within the territory of Zebulun. See here and here.

Tel Shimron. Photo: Dr. Avishai Teicher, Pikiwiki Iserael.

Tel Shimron. Photo: Dr. Avishai Teicher, Pikiwiki Israel [CC BY 2.5 (, via Wikimedia Commons.

Word comes, through a combination of sources, that the Museum of the Bible (scheduled to open in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 2017), the Israel Antiquities Authority, Wheaton College, and perhaps the Albright Institute, will be working together on this project. See the Museum of the Bible announcement here.

Wheaton College will still be working at Ashkelon in 2016, but will conduct an archaeological survey and a Ground Penetrating Radar (GRP) survey of Tel Shimron in 2016, with plans to begin an excavation in 2017. The program leaders are Dr. Daniel Master and Dr. Adam Miglio. More information here.

A brief YouTube video (here) featuring Cary Summers, president of the Bible Museum, with Matthew J. Adams, Dorot Director of the W. F. Albright Institute, talking about the significance of Tel Shimron at the site.

I have been close, but never to Tel Shimron. The Pictorial Library of Bible Lands has one photo of the mound in the disc on Galilee and the North. has a nice collection of photos as well as maps and historical information here.

HT: Trent and Rebekah Dutton

Sheaves in the field

Joseph had a dream in which he was elevated above his brothers. It involved something common in an agrarian society — binding sheaves in the field.

Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. (Genesis 37:5-8 ESV)

The following photos were made in the region of Samaria, and near the ancient city of Samaria. The first shows sheaves that have been gathered in the field.

Sheaves in the field near Samaria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sheaves in the field near Samaria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo is a cropped closeup in which you can see the strings binding some of the sheaves.

Closeup to show the string around the sheaf of grain. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Closeup to show the string around some of the sheaves. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Possibly the best known instance of sheaves in the Bible is the story of the young Moabite woman named Ruth. She requested permission to pick up what was left after the reapers went through the field of Boaz.

She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.” Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women.
(Ruth 2:7-8 ESV)

And that’s how the story of King David begins…

Entrepreneurs take advantage of the Biblical stories. This store, which I did not visit, is located in the vicinity of the traditional Shepherd’s fields near Bethlehem. The salesmen are just waiting for the next bus load of tourists.

Boaz Field store in Bethlehem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Boaz Field souvenir store near Bethlehem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Since childhood I have loved to sing Knowles Shaw’s spiritual song, “Bringing in the Sheaves.” By the time of my childhood we already had a mechanized way of baling the hay, but the lesson was easy to understand.