Beth Shearim with Shalom Israel Tours

Visitors to Israel are often amazed by the juxtapositions of ancient and modern that define their tour experiences. With findings dating back to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries, Beit She’arim National Park definitely falls on the ancient side of the continuum. Located approximately 12 miles east of Haifa, Beit She’arim is best known for its range of intact burial sites. The most famous is the grave of Rabbi Judah HaNasi, the compiler of the Mishnah, a central Jewish reference text that is still studied today.

So impressive are the archeological finds at Beit She’arim that it appears on a tentative list for being recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Within the past five years, two new caves were opened to the public here, so that there are now more than 20 burial caves to explore.

The Beit She’arim burial caves are richly decorated with reliefs and paintings rich with Jewish symbols, including the shofar, which is associated with the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur holidays; the lulav and etrog, which are still used on Sukkot; and the Ark of the Covenant and a menorah with seven branches, which are symbols of the Temples in Jerusalem. Other images that are not specifically Jewish – such as boats, animals and geometric patterns – can be found here as well. Images of Greek gods in human form are also pictured. Inscriptions appear most often in Greek, but there are some in Hebrew, Aramaic and in the obscure Aramaic dialect known as Palmyran.

In addition to touring the caves, the top of park’s hill has many ruins of the ancient city of Beit She’arim to explore. Look for the bronze statue of Alexander Zayid, who was among the founders of two Jewish defense organizations in the early 20th century, including Hashomer. Literally, Hashomer means “the guard.” It was an organization of Zionist pioneers that defended and protected the nascent Jewish agricultural settlements in pre-state Palestine. Also on the hill is the tomb of the Muslim Sheikh Abreik, distinctive because of its double dome.

In 1956, a construction crew at this site unearthed what was eventually identified as a nine-ton piece of glass. When a furnace for glassmaking stood here, ancient Beit She’arim must have been home to a remarkable glassmaking operation.

Beth Shearim with Danny the Digger

Beth Shearim was an important Rabbinical center in the time of the Mishnah, and one of the Sanhedrin’s seats. Later, the site was abandoned, and even its location was forgotten. Rediscovered in the 1930s, today Beth Shearim is an important archaeological site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Located in the fertile plains of the western Jezreel valley, Beth Shearim (In Hebrew ‘House of Barley’) was a Jewish center in antiquity. In the 2nd century CE Beth Shearim housed the Jewish high court (the ‘Sanherdin’) and was also the hometown of Rabbi Judah ‘Hanasi’ (‘The Prince’).

During the Temple’s period, the higher court assembled in the ‘Hall of hewn stones’ which was on the Temple Mount. Later, after the destruction of the Temple, it resumed its activity in Yavne, and later it wondered between Usha, Sheferam, Beth-Shearim, Sepphoris, and Tiberias. The Talmudic-era Sanhedrin was disbanded by the Byzantine Christian Authorities in 425 CE, and was never resumed again. Read more about the Sanhedrin and a tour following the Sanhedrin here.
Bet Shearim was also reputed for its cemetery, where many Rabbis were buried in catacombs. But following the Galus rebellion, in 350 CE the site was abandoned, and eventually even its location was forgotten.

Beth Shearim was rediscovered by chance by Alexander Zaid, a Jewish pioneer who oversaw Jewish properties purchased in the Western Jezreel valley. He reported on the discovery of an ancient burial cave to the Hebrew University. An archaeological expedition dug the cave and its surroundings and discovered that it was part of an ancient cemetery (necropolis), adjacent to a city from Roman times. A Greek Inscription engraved over one of the tombs indicated the deceased was native of “Bisara” – the Greek name for Beth Shearim. Beth Shearim was finally re identified.

The excavations yielded evidence mostly of the city’s cemetery. Hundreds of burials, mostly in stone coffins (sarcophagi) were recorded in over 50 burial caves set like catacombs. Some of the coffins were well decorated, and some were found with inscriptions. It is estimated that many Jews wanted to be buried here, as it was the burial site of the famous Rabbi Judah Hanasi.

Of the city itself little in known, and most of ancient Beth Shearim is still waiting to be excavated. Nevertheless, two basilica-shaped public buildings found near the city’s walls are possibly ancient synagogues and perhaps even the Sanhedrin’s council building.

Visiting Beth Shearim
Today, Beth Shearim is a national Park and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is known mostly for its catacombs, now all lit up. One of the caves was developed to a museum that also includes an introduction video.

The site is children-friendly and can be a great adventure for kids fond of mystery caves.

A tour of Beth Shearim can be combined with in a day tour in the north.

Off the Beaten Path in the Galilee

A unique tour covering amazing and exciting sites that have yet to be discovered by everyone. As their popularity is rising, they are excited to offer a very authentic experience for all, such as Beit Shearim – The city of Dead, a winery with social values, and the most beautiful mosaics in the Holyland in Zippori. Rich history, exciting archeology, great wine, and a funky guide all combined in one tour. I love guiding, I love the land of Israel and nothing makes me happier than to share this love with others. I present very rich and informative guidance while presenting the information in a very vivid manner.

Masada 4X4

Transcend upon the Judean Desert as we explore Masada. Enjoy a light breakfast and learn about the fascinating story of the Kanaim rabbles. We’ll also go offroading on Maale Yair, a trail named after the paratrooper elite commander who discovered the trail, and then take in panoramic views of the Dead Sea and Jordanian mountains, followed by a late and delicious lunch.

Masada, Ein Gedi, and Dead Sea From Tel Aviv or Jerusalem

Leaving Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, we’ll travel south through the beautiful Judean Desert to the foot of the Masada fortress, which stands beside the Dead Sea. You’ll take a cable car to the top of the fortress, enjoy the special views, and explore the archaeological ruins. We will then continue to the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, an oasis in the desert, for a short hike and the unique opportunity to float in the waters of the Dead Sea and immerse yourself in the famous mud.

Masada is one of Israel’s most important archaeological sites and greatest tales of Jewish heroism. The excavated ruins are fascinating to explore, while the remarkable location high above the surrounding desert and Dead Sea makes this an impressive and unique experience. You’ll ascend to the top of Masada via cable car. After leaving Masada, we’ll travel the short distance to the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. Surrounded by desert, this beautiful reserve offers a beautiful hike alongside the cool waters which flow from the spring. Stop and cool off beside one of the pools that can be found along the way, before heading to our final stop of the day. The lowest place on Earth, the Dead Sea, is a lake with water so salty one is able to float. Read your newspaper whilst floating in the water and immerse yourself in the therapeutic Dead Sea mud, which is sold around the world as beauty products. Finally, return to Tel Aviv having enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you’ll never forget.

Our Masada, Ein Gedi, and Dead Sea tours are unique and designed for independent travelers. No other tour combines these three beautiful sites while allowing one to hike up to the top of the fortress, an important part of any visit!

Along the Dead Sea

We’ll start descending from the Jerusalem Mountains into the Judean Desert full of breathtaking views. Here, over 2000 years ago ancient Jews built two present times World Heritage sites, which we’ll visit today – Masada and Qumran. ​Our first stop will be a National Park Qumran, a two-thousand-year-old communal village of the Jewish Sect “Yahad”, which is also known as “Essenes”. This is also the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the surrounding caves. ​Our way will further lead along the shores and breathtaking views of the Dead Sea to Masada Fortress. Masada, a dramatically located site of great natural beauty overlooking the Dead Sea, is a rugged natural fortress on which the Judaean King Herod the Great constructed his complex palace. One of the most exciting and frequently-toured places in Israel, Masada represents a story of perseverance and power, faith and surrender, ambitions, and finally – a tragic end. On our way back you may also enjoy a swim in the Dead Sea, one of the most exciting and unique experiences in one’s life. ​Price excludes relevant entrance fees.

Old and New Jerusalem Full-Day Tour Operated by Bein Harim Ltd

Take in the panoramic views of Jerusalem from the top of Mount Scopus. Then, travel down the mount passing the Biblical Garden of Gethsemane, Church of All Nations, and Kidron Valley that holds monumental Jewish tombs. In the Jewish Quarter, we see the Cardo; the Byzantine-era main street of Jerusalem. We stop at the sacred Western Wall to place a prayer note between the ancient stones of the wall. The tour follows part of the Via Dolorosa to the stunning Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Here, we see the site of Christ’s crucifixion and his burial tomb. After a lunch break and walk through the Old City bazaar we travel to new Jerusalem. Driving through the modern city we reach Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum. The museum’s exhibits include authentic artifacts, original documents, photos, and video testimonials of Holocaust survivors. Hotel pick-up is additionally offered and available to anyone on the tour.

Osijek Jewish Cemeteries Tour

From the late 19th ct. till 1941 Osijek had 2 very prosperous Jewish Communities – the Upper Town and the Lower Town community (Osijek lies on the Drava river coast, streched 9 km in length so these city parts are far away). Therefore there were 2 cemeteries and 2 synagogues. Unfortunately, the Upper Town synagogue was burnt down in 1941 and the remains removed by the communist authorities in early 1950es. The Lower Town synagogue remained but, due to the lack of money and very few surviving comunity members, it was sold to the Pentacostal church and turned into the Church of Joyful News, maintaining all the Jewish symbols inside and outside. Luckily, not even the Nazis dared to destroy the cemeteries.

JEWISH CEMETERY, ST. LEOPOLD BOGDAN MANDIĆ STREET – UPPER TOWN JEWISH CEMETERY
The Jewish cemetery in the Upper Town has existed since 1850, and a smaller Jewish cemetery also exists in the Lower Town.
The Jewish cemetery in the Upper Town, near the city centre, is still in use. The first Jews were buried here in 1852 (the first was Marcus Pfeiffer, then the teacher Moritz Löbl and a child named Adolf Herbst), which is also considered as the year of establishing the Funeral Society of Chevra Kadisha. It has a historicist-styled chapel with ceremonial hall (‘the little synagogue’). Its 500-600 tombs are reminders of the prosperity of the pre-war community. The gravestone architecture in the Jewish cemetery is marked by the inscriptions written in Hebrew, German, Hungarian and Croatian language, but designed with distinctive Jewish ornamental motifs linked to the traditional Jewish iconography. The curiosity of the cemetery is that all the graves face north, in the rows directed from east to west. This is a cemetery without a single wooden tombstone. In the multitude of monuments, from plain stone, over marble obelisks to marble rectangular memorial panels, the most famous is the Adler family tombstone. It was made in the form of an open book made by Osijek native and world famous sculptor Oscar Nemon for his mother’s forefathers. It is the only old cemetery, out of about ten in total in Osijek, with many available burial places, and the only one where there are no buried members of other religions. Many eminent Osijek citizens, especially doctors, lawyers, merchants and craftsmen, were buried in the cemetery. there is the grave of the Adler family, the prominent Osijek industrialists, pioneers of Osijek chemical industry. The grave was created by a world-famous artist Oscar Nemon, born as Oskar Neuman in Osijek, who later moved to Vienna and Belgium, finally having settled in the United Kingdom, where he created his famous series of Winston Churchill bustes and sculptures and also of the entire British royal family. The Adlers were his mothers’ family so he sculpted the gravestone in the form of a book for his grandfather Leopold (Lavoslav) Adler, whose greatest passion was reading. Later, Oscar’s sister Bella was buried here. Almost his entire family, both the Adlers and the Neumanns, were killed in the Holocaust, which was, tragically, the typical fate of almost all Osijek Jews.

The Lower Town Jewish cemetery in Osijek was founded in 1888 and is still in use. It is located in the south-eastern outskirts of the city. The base of its ground plan is a rectangle of elongated shape. There is a wire fence with a gate around the cemetery. The main entrance, located on the northern part of the plot, makes access to the main longitudinal communication line – an earthy and grassy path, surrounded by a cypress alley ending on the south side in front of the ceremonial hall building dating from 1927. Behind the ceremonial hall, on the south side, there is a cemetery. The positioning pattern of individual graves reflects the planning approach of the space organisation. The small cemetery chapel was slightly damaged during the 1990s war, but it has been repaired. The cemetery contains around 150 mostly well-preserved and around 30 hardly readable remains of graves, with the inscriptions in Hebrew, German, Hungarian and Croatian.
It is, unfortunately, also in rather bad condition and hard to access because it is not open for visitors. There is only 1 active grave there, the one of once very prominent Osijek Jewish family – the Herman(n)s.

Jewish Tour of Lisbon

Our private Jewish sightseeing tour takes you to three of the four old Jewish quarters in Lisbon. We start out in the Alfama Jewish quarter, where you will discover the most ancient and traditional neighborhood in all of Lisbon. Wander with us through the narrow streets and local small squares – truly an experience not to be missed.

Next, we visit the quarter known as Old Jewry, where you will see the majestic Manueline door of the Old Conception Church and learn about the rich history of the ancient Palace Square.

From there, we head to the heart of Lisbon, where we will see many shops, cafes, and artists. We walk on one of the most beautiful streets in Lisbon – Augusta Street – and see Rossio Square, with its famous Theater D. Maria II, previously known as the Palace of Estaus – the Inquistion Headquarters. Here you will visit the Jewish Memorial, known as Largo de Sao Domingos. This memorial to the victims of the 1506 Jewish Massacre was erected on April 19, 2006, the 500th anniversary of their slaughter. Then, we will enjoy Lisbon’s official drink, a ginjinha, a cherry liquer.

Our afternoon begins with a tour of the Lisbon Synagogue, Shaare Tikva (opened in 1904), the first synagogue to be built since the destruction of Portuguese Jewry in 1497, and the only synagogue left in Lisbon. We are now in the third and final Jewish quarter on our tour, the Judiaria da Pedreira, located in the Largo do Carmo Square in the Barrio Alto. The narrow streets and lively squares of the Barrio Alto make it one of Lisbon’s most famous neighborhoods.

Next, it’s off to the Belem quarter to visit the Jeronimos Monastery, Belem Tower, and the Monument to the Discoveries.

Our day ends with an internationally known delicacy – the “pastel de Belem,” Lisbon’s delicious custard pastry, and our thanks for visiting Jewish Lisbon.