I recently visited Israel. In only 5 days time, I saw Caesarea, Acre/Akko, Nazareth, Tel Dan in the Golan Heights, Capernaum and the Sea of Galilee, Beit She’an, the Dead Sea, the Caves of Qumran, Massada, and numerous sites in Jerusaleum. I saw layers upon layers of civilization, and heard the countless stories of various cultures and religions that have inhabited the area. It was an amazing experience!
Layers of other cultures and invaders show in the remnants of a Crusaders Castle (1101 – 1265) in Caesarea.
In the Old City of Acre I saw the Citadel and then went underground into the “belly”of the Crusader city where I experienced the Knights Halls with it’s monsterous pillars, arches, crypts, and the Templar’s Tunnel. Above ground (or above our heads) stands the Muslim quarter and markets with Khan El Qmdan.
In the Golan Heights, I visited the headwaters of the River Jordan, Tell Dan, and Capernaum where Jesus and Peter lived. Everywhere you saw rocks and more rocks, layers and more layers. Several years ago I did a series of monoprints called Natural Abstractions, and rocks and layers were the major theme.
Nearby in Beit She’an (where only 1/10th of the 400 acre site has been excavated) I marveled as I walked through the Hellenistic and Romanesque baths, pillars, and temples. In the background was a another huge tell (first inhabited in fifth milllennium BCE) with more layers of history to be uncovered, so we naturally climbed the tell to get a better look from above. Looking back at the excavation we could see the signs of a modern industrial city on the top layer.
Old Jerusaleum with its four ancient quarters again reiterated the theme of layers. Its impossible to explain in a blog all the buildings throughout history that were built and destroyed, rebuilt and destroyed, in Jerusaleum. One religion ontop of another, anywhere you went. For example, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built over the site of a temple of Aphrodite. And the infamous Muslim Dome of the Rock sits ontop of the Temple Mount, which was the site of the Second Temple of the Jews. The rock walls are part of the Western Wall complex that is a sacred site for Jews. Temple Mount is the most contested religious site in world. Trying to keep track of what was where when was very difficult.
One of the highlights of the area was the Western Wall Tunnels Tour which opened recently.
Israel is a land of layers, one civilization built on top of another. Visiting Israel shows you the story… a modern and ancient land in one. I was above ground, under ground in tunnels and caverns and cisterns, and everywhere in between.
An excellant book to read about Israel and its layers of civilization is The Source by James Michener. Most of the sites that I saw were in the book, and seeing them made the story more visual. Read my blog about the book and its relevance to some of my artwork.