Historical Israel


Some places to sing at ... and see!

  • Bet Guvrin archaeological dig
  • Caesarea — ancient Roman city
  • Crusader castles and outposts
  • Jerusalem's City of David, Southern Wall Excavations, and Western Wall Tunnels
  • Kebara Cave on Mt. Carmel
  • Masada — King Herod's desert palace and fortress
  • The Herodium (or Herodion) — King Herod's fortress on a man-made mountain, and site of his newly discovered tomb
  • Tel Dan, and the springs and waterfalls of the Banias
  • Click here for sample itinerary

Prehistory

With thanks to Dani Barkai

The earliest human settlement known to us in what we call the Land of Israel dates from approximately 1.4 million years ago. The prehistoric finds in Ubeidiya in northern Israel represent the earliest hominid remains outside of Africa, and tell us a great deal about the Pleistocene migrations of Homo erectus out of Africa and into Eurasia. Excavations in many of the caves in the slopes of Mt. Carmel, south of Haifa — perhaps most notably the Kebara Cave — have provided ample evidence of prolonged habitation by prehistoric cave dwellers.Among the many items uncovered in the Mt. Carmel caves were tools, weapons, and the bones of a wide variety of species of hunted animals.

Remains of modern human beings (Homo sapiens or Cro-Magnon) were found in the in the upper layers of the 12 archaeological strata excavated in Kebara, but perhaps the most noteworthy find there was the discovery, in the oldest stratum, of the 60,000-year-old skeleton of a Neanderthal cave dweller (Homo neanderthalensis) — one of the most intact skeletons of its kind ever found — neatly buried in a manner that was obviously intentional. The pelvis of this skeleton provided valuable information that changed our understanding of the way Neanderthals stood and walked. But the most intriguing part of the skeleton was the hyoid bone, whose slender shape offered conclusive evidence that the human ability to utter speech sounds had already developed 60,000 years ago. Undoubtedly, these people could also sing!

The birthplace of monotheism

Human existence in what we call the Land of Israel began almost as far back as you can go, long before the earliest beginnings of civilizations, cities, written records and alphabets, and long before the rise of monotheism and the Biblical period. But it's the role of this country as the cradle of monotheism and the wellspring of the Bible that makes it so special and so fascinating. To Jews it is the Promised Land, to Christians the Holy Land, to the Druze it's the Homeland. Haifa and Akko house the World Center of the Baha'i International Community and the holiest shrines of the faith. And for Muslims, Jerusalem is al-Quds ("The Holy"), "the Choice of Allah of all his lands."

Empires that came and went

Historically the Israelites and their Jewish descendants were, for all intents and purposes, the only people to regard this land as their sole national home and Jerusalem as both their national and spiritual capital. This was true, at least, until the twentieth century. Nevertheless, as the narrow land bridge and crossroads linking the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa, this tiny country was conquered and colonized by a long list of powers and empires. Jerusalem is thought to be about 4,700 years old, and it has changed hands no fewer than 25 times in just the last 2,000 years! Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, Hellenists, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Mamelukes, Turks, British … They all came and went — some of them more than once — and in some way or another, they all left their mark on the culture.

Israel, the Jews, and international affairs

The greater part of the Jewish nation was exiled from its historical homeland for some 2,000 years, but the inextricable link between the people and the land was always an essential element of Jewish life, no matter where it was taking place (see Judaism). Thus, critical chapters in the history of the Land of Israel actually occurred outside its boundaries. There is perhaps no better example of this than the Holocaust; although the calamity that upended the Jewish world unfolded mostly on European soil, its effects still resonate in Israel today, and will continue to do so for many years to come.

 Similarly, many of the events leading up to the miraculous creation of the State of Israel in 1948 took place in foreign lands (including the first twelve Zionist Congresses, from 1897 to 1921, which were all held in Europe). In the years before Israel gained its independence, decisions made in smoke-filled rooms in Europe often exacerbated the Arab-Israeli conflict, and geopolitical forces today continue to influence events in our region.

Conversely, the struggles between Israel and the Arab world in general, and between Israelis and Palestinians in particular, seem to always be at the forefront of international affairs, and consistently command a disproportionate amount of attention at the United Nations. In short, just like in ancient times, over the last century or more, the history of the Land of Israel has encapsulated world history at large.

Archaeology, music, and modern life in Israel

Much of the history of this country and the remnants of the successive civilizations that ruled the region remain imprinted in the rich archaeological heritage. But history is more than just stones and bones and archaeological artifacts. In Israel you'll find history in the living cities, towns, and villages, in the kibbutzim and in the natural scenery, in the sights and in the accompanying sounds, fragrances, flavors, and textures. Most of all, you'll experience it in the melodies. More than anything else, it's the music that makes Israel's history come alive.

In the Land of Israel, history is never static; it's dynamic and ever-changing, being endlessly revised and re-interpreted. To begin with, we're constantly broadening our knowledge. For instance, in Jerusalem's City of David, recent discoveries have given us a whole new understanding of the life and times of King David, and today's concepts are entirely different than those of four or five years ago; nowhere in the world are the stories of 3,000 years ago changing as rapidly as they are here! And in Israel, today's events keep altering the way we view the historical events of the past centuries and millennia.

SingIsrael

SingIsrael will show you a lot more of Israel than the eye can see. By exploring the country, by hearing its music, and by lending your own voice and your own melodies, you'll be more than just a witness - you'll be an active participant. It'll be a hands-on experience, in music and in other fields. If you're interested, give us a couple of hours and we'll let you take part in an active archaeological dig in Bet Guvrin. Or if you're in the mood for something really different, you can put on scuba gear in Caesarea and explore the world's only undersea archaeological museum (See Nature and Outdoors).

Come with us and be a part of a history that's as old as the dawn of humanity, and often as recent as this morning's front-page headlines in the New York Times!

Sample Itinerary

Clicking here will take you to a sample itinerary, showing just some of the sites and sounds you will experience in Israel. After reviewing it, we encourage you to visit our Contact page and begin the no-obligation process to discover just how accessible and affordable a visit to the Holy Land truly is. We look forward to helping you experience the most incredible journey of your life. Thank you for choosing SingIsrael.

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