Tag Archives: world heritage site

World Heritage sites in Israel

The Sunday issue of The Jerusalem Post reports here that the Beit She’arim tombs in Western Galilee have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Beit She’arim, located in the Western Galilee about 20 km. southeast of Haifa, contains a necropolis filled with a series of catacombs built as early as the 2nd century C.E. The site served as the primary burial place outside Jerusalem following the failed second Jewish revolt against the Romans and boast “a treasury of artworks and inscriptions in Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew,” the World Heritage Committee said.

“Beit She’arim bears unique testimony to ancient Judaism under the leadership of Rabbi Judah the Patriarch, who is credited with Jewish renewal after 135 C.E.,” the committee added.

Beit She’arim is not a biblical site, but it illustrates the strength of Judaism in Galilee following the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70, and the failed Bar Kochba revolt in A.D. 135.

Facade of the "Sarcophagi Cave" at Beit She'arim. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Facade of the “Sarcophagi Cave” at Beit She’arim. Excavators recovered 135 sarcophagi from this cave, according to Azaria Alon in Israel National Parks & Nature Reserves. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nine Israeli cities are now included on the World Heritage List.

…Masada; the Old City of Acre; the White City of Tel Aviv; the biblical tels of Megiddo, Hatzor [Hazor], and Beersheba; the incense route of desert cities in the Negev; Baha’i holy places in Haifa and the Western Galilee; and mostly recently, Beit Guvrin National Park

Bethany Beyond the Jordan (Al-Maghtas), the traditional place where John the Baptist worked, was also added to the World Heritage List this year.

These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. (John 1:28 ESV)

I have visited Bethany Beyond the Jordan four times since 2002, and have seen the various church buildings multiply. In May, when we visited the Jordan River on the Israeli side, we were traveling by car and were able to stop for photos almost anywhere we wished. As we left Qasr el-Yahud and began to ascend from the Jordan River valley (the Zor), we turned to see a nice photo of the Jordanian side and a glimpse of most of the new religious buildings. The buses are parked on the Israeli side and the river is not visible. The two prominent buildings seen near the middle of the photo are near the bank of the Jordan River on the Jordanian side.

Baptism site on the Jordan River. View east to Bethany Beyond the Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Baptism site on the Jordan River. View east to Bethany Beyond the Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The last photo will provide some perspective. It was made from the Israeli side of the River with a view east toward the Jordanian side. You can see the two prominent religious building mention in the photo above.

View from Israeli side of the River to the Jordanian side. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins

View from Israeli side of the River to the Jordanian side. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Petra is also on the World Heritage Site list in Jordan.

How many of these sites in Israel and Jordan have you visited?

Looting and vandalism in Petra

Looting and vandalism of historic or archaeological sites is nothing new. We have reported on vandalism in Israel, but especially in the war-torn countries of Syria and Iraq.

Heritage Daily has an article here on looting and vandalism at Petra. Petra was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. Archaeologists from Brown University have been working in Petra since 2009. They have been able to photograph excavated area each year. Now they report on signs of recent vandalism. The article says,

The damage caused by looting is nothing new and some of the more iconic buildings at Petra bear witness to this. A giant urn carved above the entrance to the Monastery bears the marks of hundreds of gunshots. The local Bedouin tribesmen living in and among the ancient ruins say the damage was caused when local men would open fire with rifles, seeking the loot thought to be inside the urn which is actually made of solid stone.

Heritage Daily has established from sources at Brown University that they are lobbing for additional security at the site and robust investigation to target the individuals concerned. However lack of funds for the Petra Archaeological Park and the isolated rugged area is hindering this work.

There is a considerable amount of natural wear over the centuries. In some cases we must imagine how the stones looked when they were carved by the Nabateans who lived in the area.

Nabatean Djinn blocks at Petra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nabatean Djinn blocks at Petra. Some sources refer to these as god-blocks.Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I have noticed erosion in the structures cut from the beautiful sandstone at Petra since my first visit in 1967. Some of this may have been caused by those who fill little bottles with the various colors of sand to sell to the tourists.

Natural erosion is evidence in these structures cut from the beautiful sandstone structures of Petra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Natural erosion is evidenced in these structures cut from the beautiful sandstone structures of Petra. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This territory was once inhabited by the Biblical Edomites, but the structures we see today were carved from stone by the Nabateans who inhabited the area from about the fourth century B.C. to the early second century A.D.

One of the most famous Nabatean rulers was Aretas IV (about 9 B.C. to A.D. 40). It was during his reign, which extended at far north as Damascus, when Paul escaped Damascus (2 Corinthians 11:32-33). See here.

HT: Jack Sasson