Sunday, July 25, 2010


One part of being in Tel Aviv is definitely partying. If you want a city in Israel to have a good time, Tel Aviv is the place. The one night we were there (which was not close to being enough time to experience the city) it was a White Night. Every store was open all night long, and my Aunt told me White Night refers to being tired the next day from being awake all night.

But Tel Aviv also has some historical points that are just as important as the nightlife there. Tel Aviv began as the Jewish suburb to Jaffa (Yafo), an Arab port city located on the coast. Jaffa is actually believed to be the oldest port city in the world, and I do remember memorizing its location for my map tests in my Ancient Israel class this last semester. In fact, it is believed trees from Jaffa were used by King Solomon to build the First Temple.

Jaffa itself has a lot of history associated with it for the Jewish, Christian and various other religions (There is a Greek Mythological association with the town) and despite my desire to list all of them here, since I did not visit the town this is not the time. So, we’ll have to save the Jaffa history lesson for when I do actually visit the city, or find another link to it.

Today’s history lesson is on Tel Aviv and the birth of the State of Israel. On May 14, 1948 the State of Israel was created, eight hours before the termination of the British Mandate.

What is cool about Independence Hall is the history the building had even before Israel became a state. The place chosen as the birthplace of a nation was the former home of Meir Dizengoff, the first mayor of Tel Aviv, and one of the founders of the city.

In the early 1900’s the Jews of Jaffa wanted to have a place of their own away from the Arab city, so they purchased the land out north in the attempts of establishing a suburb town there. In 1909, sixty-six families gathered to divide up land plots of what would become Tel Aviv. The city began to be built and Dizengoff led the way in trying to make the area independent from Jaffa, eventually winning and becoming the city’s first mayor.

In 1936 Dizengoff died, leaving his house as an art museum for the city of Tel Aviv. His home would play a crucial role in independence. On my tour to the location the tour guide asked why we thought the site was chosen as the place to sign the declaration of independence. The room is very small, probably only fitting 250 people tops, so why on one of the most important days in the countries history did they pick to sign in Tel Aviv, instead of Jerusalem, and in that place?

During the war of independence Jerusalem was under siege, and it was not an option as a place to meet. In fact, Jerusalem was originally lost to the Israeli’s and Jews were not welcome there until the city was reclaimed during the Six Day War in 1967.

Another point the tour guide made was that there was a war at this time, and the location is partially underground with small windows, almost like a bunker.

The decision to declare a state came two days before it happened, so the chairs used were borrowed form local coffee shops, and the microphones were borrowed from a shop. Interestingly (for a journalism major that is) the first advertisement of the country was a sign on one of those microphones for the store the microphone was borrowed from.

Visiting this site was a different change of pace from the ancient history usually associated with the region, and was definitely enjoyable to learn about. As always feel free to leave comments and enjoy the pictures I (and some of my other tour mates) took there.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Schwartz. This is the front of the building.

Photo Credit: Becca Drowos. This is a good look at the room where Israel became a state.

Photo Credit: Becca Drowos. Another view of looking at the room.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Dear readers, it is time for something I’ve been looking forward to all summer: posting about Israel. After a whirlwind 9 days (which should have been 10 but Delta canceled our flight out) I have returned to the states wanting nothing more than to return. The bottom line is if you want ancient history, go to Israel. Its position as the crossroad of the ancient world gave the area significant wealth to outside empires, and caused an extreme meshing of cultures. Layers of history are found in each different place because of the number of empires that have ruled the area over time and what they did to try and leave their mark on the land.

Within two hours of being in the country, my group was already staring at the meshing of cultures at Caesarea. This town has a modern area as well as ancient ruins, which have been put on display for tourists, and it is located in the northern area of Israel, on the coast and is probably about one hour north of Tel Aviv.

When the Emperor Augustus came to power he placed King Herod in control of Israel. King Herod is a figure that was responsible for many of the building projects in Israel during the Roman Rule. In fact, King Herod is so important I even spent a day studying him and what he did for Israel in my Roam Empire class.

King Herod built Caesarea for the same reasons other rules built: to try and boost the economy of their region. Over 12 years King Herod built the city into the grand city it became, complete with a deep-water port, aqueduct, hippodrome and amphitheater. King Herod named it Caesarea in honor of the Caesar of Rome, who at the time was Augustus.

Caesarea was not only important to the Roman population there; the religious communities of the region also found importance with the city. Prominent Christen leaders lived her; Pontius Pilate governed Caesarea during the life of Jesus and this is where Simon Peter converted the first non-Jewish Roman, Cornelius, to believe in Jesus.

In 640 CE Caesarea was the last Palestinian city (after the revolt in 70 CE the name of the region was changed to Palestine after the Philistines living there to punish the Jews) to fall to the Muslims. After this time period the city was neglected, and after several earthquakes was largely destroyed.

The area also has a rich religious history. When Caesarea was originally built King Herod dedicated a temple to Augustus, the Roman Emperor at the time. Later, Christian leaders Peter and Paul visited the city (recorded by the New Testament) and later it was the center of Jewish revolt against the Romans.

From my tour there I learned some really interesting information about the historical importance of the hippodrome in Caesarea. Our group was seated in the stands of the hippodrome, and we listened as our tour guide explained the importance of the site to Jews.

In the ancient times the stadium housed all of the chariot races and gladiatorial games in the area. As we were there and we were talking about the glory of the stadium during those days, our tour guide also told us a darker side of the area’s history. After the Bar Kochva Revolt all the religious leaders who participated in the revolt were brought to Caesarea. Once there they were forced to participate in the gladiatorial games, which became a fight for their lives.

Prior to the revolt, Rabbi’s urged the Jewish population to stay away from the gladiatorial games. But once they were fighting for their lives they recognized how important it was to have the crowd on your side, because it was also the crowd who determined if someone would live or die. So Jews began to attend the gladiatorial games to try and support those who were forced to fight for their lives.

The hippodrome is where Rabbi Akiva was killed. Rabbi Akiva was highly educated and systematized the material later becoming the Mishah.

Enjoy the pictures I took while I was there. I definitely was in history heaven, and I’m pretty sure everyone in the group knew how infatuated I was with history by the end of the tour. It’s ok; I think I surprised them all in a good way by the end of the trip with my knowledge!

Crusader Fortifications built by Louis XI of France who came during the sixth cursade during the 13th Century. This was aparently built on previously destroyed fortifications by Saladin in 1187, and Muslims described the city as a well-fortified city.

Byzantine Period Reservior

I believe this is what is left of the wall that used to surround the harbor. But I could be totally wrong.

This is a Dedicatory Inscription for Pontius Pilatus. Since it is written in Latin, this hints at the Romanization throughout the province and in Caesarea at the begining of the first century C.E.

This is the ampitheatre in Caesarea, and concerts are still held there today.

I have at least two other posts I would like to do from my trip. Be patient as I work to get them up, and leave comments if you wish letting me know how you like this one. And as always, happy history!