For the record, I'm neither an academic nor a scholar, and admittedly, I've never been to many of the places posted here. So if someone should find a mistake, or believe I omitted something, please feel free to email me and I'll correct it.

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Sunday, February 21, 2021


ancient ruins at Ramla, courtesy, pokku/Shutterstock posted in
TotallyJewishTravel website
Ramla is a major city in Israel located approximately 12 miles southwest of Jaffa in the Central District, along the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Highway.  

During the time of Joshua, the site of Ramla was allotted to the tribe of Dan but the town itself was founded over two millennia later, in c. 715–717 CE by the Arab Umayyad governor and future caliph Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik. It became the only town in Israel founded by Arab Muslims. Although originally established for Arab Muslims, it had from the beginning a large population of Christians, Jews, and Samaritans. The increase of the Samaritan farming population on the outskirts of the town was due to the efforts of Hārūn al-Rashīd, the Abbasid Caliph in the late eighth century. Since the 10th century, Ramla often served as a place of refuge for the ruling geonim from Jerusalem, accompanied by his rabbinical assembly, at times when intense conflicts would erupt between the rabbinic authorities. At that time, a Karaite and a Rabbanite community, the latter divided into Palestinians and Babylonians, existed in the town; there were also synagogues for the Jerusalemites and the Damascenes. Ramla also became a major transit hub for caravans of Radhanites – Jewish merchants who travelled in convoy from France to China and back again. In the 11th century however, the flourishing communities of Ramla suffered from a series of blows: a disastrous Bedouin raid in 1025 and two devastating earthquakes in 1033 and 1067 (in the latter, 25,000 people reportedly perished). During the Crusader occupation, beginning in 1099, the Jewish and Samaritan communities were dispersed. However, some did return and when Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela visited the area in 1170–71, he recorded “…there are remains of the walls from the days of our ancestors, for thus it was found written upon the stones. About 300 Jews dwell there. It was formerly a very great city; at a distance of two miles there is a large Jewish cemetery." In the remaining years of the Crusader period, the Jews wandered away once again but by the 14th century, it was again the largest town in Palestine and a Jewish community was reestablished there. A tradition reported by Ishtori Haparchi (1280–1355) and other early Jewish writers is that Ramla was the biblical Gath of the Philistines but initial archaeological claims seemed to indicate that Ramla was not built on the site of an ancient city, although in recent years the ruins of an old city were uncovered on the southern outskirts. According to many scholars, there was a Gath which is believed to be Tell es-Safi outside of the city limits, and a Gath-rimmon or Gittaim, believed to be in or near the town itself. With the Ottoman conquest, Ramla once more declined, although most pilgrims passed through it on their way to Jerusalem. Throughout the 19th century, Ramla maintained a small Jewish community – so small, it numbered only 2 families at mid-century, although there was an intense social interchange with Jaffa throughout this period. In 1889, 31 Jewish worker families settled in the town.

At the end of the 1920s, Ramla became connected to wired electricity (supplied by the Zionist-owned Palestine Electric Company). During the Arab riots in 1929, most of the local Jews were ethnically cleansed from the town. Those that were left were, as well, ethnically cleansed during the Arabs riots in 1936. In 1947, when the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, Ramla was awarded to the proposed Arab state, but with the massive Arab assault on the Jewish state which started the War of Independence, Ramla was taken over by the Jews. At that time, the town had an Arab majority. Most, but by no means all, fled. After the war, Ramla was a mixed Jewish-Arab town. Poor Jewish refugees from “Arab” countries soon settled there. They were later joined by most of the Jewish community of Karachi, Pakistan. The Karachi Jews ultimately built their own synagogue named Magen Shalome, after the original Magain Shalome Synagogue in Karachi. Ramla also became the center of Karaite Judaism in Israel. In 1963, they established their own Karaite Synagogue on Yosef Klausner Street. In the 90s, the town received thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

From the end of the war and for the next two decades, Ramla was an economically depressed and crime-ridden town. It gradually acquired a very negative reputation in the eyes of the public. Five of Israel's prisons today, are located in Ramla, including the maximum-security Ayalon Prison and the country's only women's prison, Neve Tirza. In recent decades, attempts have been made to develop and beautify the city. New shopping malls and public parks have been built, and a municipal museum opened in 2001. The Ramla Museum is housed in the former municipal headquarters of the British Mandatory authorities. The building, from 1922, incorporates elements of Arab architecture such as arched windows and patterned tiled floors. After 1948, it was the central district office of the Israeli Ministry of Finance.

During the years of the "al-Aqsa" Intifada beginning in 2000 a few synagogues were set on fire and the Jews tried to burn a mosque.

Other sites include: the Commonwealth War Cemetery, largest of its kind in Israel, holding graves of soldiers fallen during both World Wars and the British Mandate period; the Giv'on immigration detention centre; Nesher Israel Cement Enterprises flagship factory, Israel's sole producer of cement; Ramla Railway Station, originally opened in April 1891, making it the oldest active railway station in Israel, rebuilt in 2003; Open House, a preschool and daycare center for Arab and Jewish children which also runs extracurricular coexistence programs for Jewish, Christian, and Muslim children.

Sunday, February 14, 2021


Raanana city.JPG
view of Raanana, courtesy, Wikipedia
Raanana is a city in the heart of the southern Sharon Plain of the Central District of Israel. Bordered by Kfar Saba and Hod HaSharon on the east and Herzliya on the southwest, it had a population of 75,421 in 2019 and was designated a "Green City" by the World Health Organization in 2005. Raanana is one of the wealthier cities in Israel with a GDP higher than the national average. While the majority of its residents are native-born Israelis, a large part of the population consists of immigrants from the Americas and Europe including the United States, Argentina, Britain, France, the former Soviet Union, and South Africa.

During the time of Joshua, the area that is now Raanana was allotted to the tribe of Menashe, in the southwestern-most region close to the tribal territory of Dan. Long given over to swampland, in 1921, a plot of land was purchased in the area by the Ahuza Society branch in New York through the Palestine Land Development Company. On April 2, 1922, two wagons left the corner of Lilienblum and Herzl Streets in Tel Aviv carrying four "Ahuza" members, three laborers and two armed watchmen. After a five-hour journey, they unloaded their baggage at the place destined to become Raanana.

In its early days, the settlement was actually called "Ahuza Aleph – New York". The Arabs of the region called it "Little America" as most of its residents were English speakers who came from New York. Later it was renamed "Ra'anania" and finally, "Ra'anana" as its official name.

The settlement was built along, and around, Ahuza Street, its main thoroughfare. Initially there were many economic difficulties, but they were gradually overcome. Between 1925 and 1927, the Community House, which would house a variety of public institutions, including the secretariat, clinic, synagogue, meeting place for local committee meetings, assembly hall, culture room, school, kindergarten, clinic, and post office, was built. An attempt was made to raise cattle as the mainstay of the economy, later changing over to the citrus crop. In the latter half of the 20s going into the 30s, rich groundwater table was tapped, and middle-class immigrants of the Fourth Aliyah and later newcomers were absorbed. In 1931, Raanana elected its first mayor, Baruch Ostrovsky, a Ukrainian-born educator from the United States. He remained mayor throughout the British Mandate period and the early years of Israeli independence during which time, Raanana was given local council status (1936). 

With the crisis in citrus farming during World War II, the inhabitants changed over to mixed farming and made the first beginnings in industry. In the 1940s, two housing quarters for Yemenite and other immigrants were built with contributions from Zionists in the United States and South Africa. In 1947, Bessie Gotsfeld, an American Religious Zionist activist who had made aliyah in 1929, founded Kfar Batya children's village in the western part of Raanana for those children who had survived the Holocaust. By 1948, during Israel’s War of Independence, Raanana was a town of 3,000 residents but grew quickly after the war when ma'barot (refugee camp) inhabitants were given permanent housing. In 1958, the Loewenstein Hospital was established and became the only rehabilitation hospital operated by Clalit Health Services, Israel's largest health care provider.  

Raanana belonged to the outer ring of the Tel Aviv conurbation and developed various industries as well as agriculture. Over the years, most of Raanana's farmland became built-up areas. In 1981, it was declared a city.

There is an industrial zone in the north of the city, which is home to the Renanim shopping mall and many high-tech companies, including Emblaze, Hewlett-PackardNICE SystemsSAPNCR Corporation (formerly Retalix), ComverseRed HatWaze (prior to Google acquisition), Texas InstrumentsArm Holdings and ZoomInfo. In addition, Microsoft's head office in Israel and Amdocs are located in an office complex at the eastern edge of the city, close to Raanana Junction, where Highway 4 meets Ahuza Street.

Raanana is also home to the Open University of Israel and Raanana College.

The park of Raanana is the largest urban park in the Sharon region. The Founders Museum presents the story of Ra'anana's original settlers until the city achieved local council status in 1936. Raanana Park Amphitheatre has been the venue for musical acts such as Backstreet BoysEvanescenceAlice CooperLauryn HillTori AmosChick CoreaIan AndersonZiggy MarleyThe CranberriesThe StranglersSealBrian WilsonRegina SpektorBlondie and Pet Shop Boys.

The main soccer club of the city is Hapoel Ra'anana. In basketball, the city is represented by Maccabi Raanana who play in the National League. The Raanana Roosters are the local rugby team, and the area is a center of the rugby union in Israel, with Rugby Israel being based there. With a large population of American expatriates, the Raanana Express is an inaugural team in the Israel Baseball League.

Sunday, February 7, 2021


King David's tomb + Last supper
David's Tomb, Mount Zion, courtesy,
Mount Zion is a hill in Jerusalem, located just outside the walls of the Old City. The term “Mount Zion” appears nine times in the Hebrew Bible first for the City of David (2 Samuel 5:71 Chronicles 11:51 Kings 8:12 Chronicles 5:2) and later for the Temple Mount, and now used as the name of ancient Jerusalem's Western Hill. In a wider sense, the term is also used for the entire Land of Israel.

During the time of Joshua, Mount Zion and the surrounding area was allotted to the tribe of Benjamin. According to the Book of Samuel, the mount was the site of the Jebusite fortress called the "stronghold of Zion" that was conquered by King David, then renamed and partially rebuilt by him as the "City of David", “Jerusalem”, where he erected his palace. The Tanakh reference to Har Tzion (Mount Zion) that identifies its location is derived from Psalm 48 composed by the sons of Korah the Levite as "the northern side of the city of the great king…from the City of David, which is Zion (1 Kings 8:1-2; 2 Chron. 5:2)". 2 Samuel 5:7 also reads, "David took the stronghold of Zion: the same is the city of David," which identifies Mount Zion as part of the City of David. Upon King David’s death, he was buried on the mount’s hilltop.  

In the second half of the First Temple period, the city expanded westward and its defensive walls were extended to include the entire Mount Zion area. In the first century CE, a small church was built on the southern end of the hill, identified as the Coenaculum, the "Room of the Last Supper". In 70 CE, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem including the buildings on and around Mount Zion. Josephus, the first-century historian who knew the city as it was before, identified Mount Zion as being the Western Hill, separated from the lower, Eastern Hill (Temple Mount), by what he calls the "Tyropoeon Valley". It must however be said that Josephus never used the name "Mount Zion" in any of his writings, but described the "Citadel" of King David as being situated on the higher and longer hill, thus pointing at the Western Hill as what the Bible calls Mount Zion.

In the year 333, toward the end of the Roman period, the well-known but anonymous Traveler from Bordeaux described a synagogue built at the entrance of David's Tomb. It was the only one spared by the Romans out of seven synagogues that had stood in the area since ancient times. It remained active throughout the period and was even repaired during the reign of Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate (361-3). However, the site was later abandoned and the exact location of David’s Tomb was lost.

In 636, the Arab conquerors allowed the Jews to resettle Jerusalem. Initially settling near Temple Mount, they later chose Mount Zion as their place of residence, and a Jewish neighborhood began to develop. In the late 8th/early 9th centuries, a neighborhood of Karaite Jews developed on the eastern slope of the mount, on the western side of the Kidron Valley. In the 10th century, the site of David’s Tomb was rediscovered and it became a place of Jewish pilgrimage ever since. In 1033 a strong earthquake shook Jerusalem resulting in the Jewish and Karaite communities leaving and migrating north, settling in what is now, the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. After the Crusader conquest in 1099, Jews were banned from Jerusalem but could briefly visit the Western Wall and the Temple Mount with special permission. Mount Zion was off limits but with the conquest of Jerusalem in 1187 by Saladin and the rise of Muslim Ayyubid dynasty, the Jews returned and settled in Jerusalem and Mount Zion in particular. But only a few individuals actually did return. In 1236, an Egyptian Jewish merchant had negotiated with the governor of the city to renew the Jewish settlement there. The negotiations were positive for the Jews resulting in the settlement of a man who went by the name of Baruch the Good and Beneficent. As a stable Jewish community developed, it was said that the Ramban would sometimes pray in the local synagogue. The community was later described by both Jewish and Christian travelers in the early 14th century. In 1335, the Franciscan fathers purchased property on the mount including the supposed “Room of the Last Supper”, and began to harass the Jews in the area. Jews also held property there, namely David’s Tomb. Eventually, the Mameluke authorities intervened and confiscated the Franciscan property. This caused a reaction from the Franciscans who accused the Jews of having dispossessed them of their share of the tomb, and in 1428 the pope issued an order forbidding the fleets of Italian towns to transport Jews to Israel. The dispute over the ownership of the Tomb of David continued for an extended period and resulted in great difficulties in Jewish immigration by sea and the renewal of the prohibition against transporting Jews in Christian ships (c. 1468).

From 1516, Israel now came under Ottoman Turkish rule. In 1524, the local Arabs turned the ancient Mount Zion synagogue into a mosque. Nevertheless, a Jewish presence was maintained there and the area became a place of Jewish burials as well as a place of pilgrimage.  

During the 1948 war, Mount Zion was conquered by the Harel Brigade and became the only part of the Old City to stay in Israeli hands until the armistice. At first it was linked to the Jewish neighborhood of Yemin Moshe across the Valley of Hinnom via a narrow tunnel, but eventually an alternative was needed to evacuate the wounded and transport supplies to soldiers on Mt. Zion. A cable car capable of carrying a load of 250 kilograms was designed for this purpose. The cable car was only used at night and lowered into the valley during the day to escape detection; it is still in place at what is now the Mount Zion Hotel.

At the end of the war, the mount remained in Jewish hands, overlooking the Arab occupied part of Jerusalem. David’s Tomb was turned back into a synagogue. Between 1948 and 1967, when the Old City was under occupation and Israelis were forbidden access to the Jewish holy places, Mount Zion became the closest accessible site to the ancient Jewish Temple. Until eastern Jerusalem was liberated by Israel in the Six-Day War, Israelis would climb to the rooftop of David's Tomb to pray. 

Important sites on Mount Zion that are of interest to Jews, aside from the Tomb of David are: the Chamber of the Holocaust (Martef HaShoah), the precursor of Yad Vashem; the Catholic cemetery where Oskar Schindler, a Righteous Gentile who saved the lives of 1,200 Jews in the Holocaust, is buried; the Protestant cemetery where a number of prominent individuals from the 19th and 20th centuries are buried including the architect Conrad Schick who, among his many works, helped build Mea Shearim, and the diplomat and social worker James Edward Hanauer who was of mixed Jewish and Swiss ancestry; Pope’s Way, the winding road leading up to Mount Zion, so named in honor of the historic visit to Jerusalem of Pope Paul VI in 1964. 

Sunday, January 31, 2021


family of Mustarabi Jews in Peki'in, 1930s, courtesy, Wikipedia
Peki'in is, today, a mainly Druze town with local council status in Israel's Northern District. It is located a few miles east of Ma'alot-Tarshiha in the Upper Galilee. In 2019 it had a population of 5,893.

According to tradition, the Jewish community of Peki'in has maintained a presence there since the Second Temple period, with an interruption during the 1936–1939 Arab riots. The antiquity, mystery, and wonder surrounding the Jews of Peki'in were added to by the presence of Jewish fellaheen and their claim of being the last group of Jews who were never exiled. These were part of the community of Mustarabi Jews who, along with the Samaritans of the Shechem area, were the true indigenous Palestinians.

In the time of Joshua, the site of Peki’in was allotted to the tribe of Naphtali. Since that time, the border between Israel and the neighboring Phoenician city states would often change. The village Baca in “The Jewish War is thought to be Peki'in and according to its author Josephus Flavius, it marked the border between the kingdom of Herod Agrippa II, and Tyre. According to the Talmud, Rabbi Joshua ben Hananiah headed a Beth Midrash there, and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his son Rabbi Elazar ben Shimon, hid in a cave from the Romans for 13 years. Shimon bar Yochai went on to teach in the city for many years thereafter. The Talmudic scholars Rabbi Abba Oshaya of Tiria and Rabbi Yose of Pekiin are buried in the town; their gravesites have become a place of Jewish pilgrimage ever since.

The presence of a Druze community in the village in the early Mamluk period is attested by the geographer Shams al-Din al-Dimashqi (1257–1327). The Jews of Peki'in are first mentioned in the travel book of R. Moses Basola (1522). He refers to them as "fallaḥim" ("workers of the land"), engaged in agriculture and the breeding of silkworm. Responsa of the Safed rabbis of the 16th century dealing with mitzvot to be fulfilled only in the Land of Israel – the priestly tithes, the levitical tithes, and the Sabbatical Year, all of which concern Jewish farm workers in Galilee – also testify to the existence of Jewish agriculture in Peki’in. From time to time groups of Jews engaged in commerce and the leasing and tilling of lands; other groups engaged in the study of Torah and the Zohar "under the carob tree of R. Simeon b. Yoḥai." Peki'in was also a summer resort for urban Jews, especially for those from Tiberias. The Jews of the towns sought refuge there when plagues broke out. In the mid-16th century, Pekiin had a Jewish population of 79 households. It is said some Kohanitic families emigrated from Kafr 'Inan, possibly in the late 16th century, and also from Alma such as the well-known Almani family. In 1602 R. Joseph Trani of Safed visited Peki'in to instruct the local Jews, who were cultivating mulberries for silkworms. In 1742, the kabbalist R. ayyim Attar, who had just arrived in Israel along with his disciples, lived there for about two months. After the severe earthquakes of 1759, many of the victims from Safed fled there including the son of Rabbi Jacob of Vilna, who was from the group led by R. Judah he-Ḥasid, which had emigrated to Israel in 1700. The rabbis of Safed also established a yeshivah for some time in the village. R. Joseph Sofer, author of Edut bi-Yhosef, lived and died in Peki'in. R. Reuben Satanov, author of Ahavat Ẓiyyon, also lived and studied the Zohar there. In 1783 some members of the hasidic aliyah from Russia and Poland established themselves there after leaving Safed and Jerusalem. The ancient synagogue, in active use since the Second Temple period, was destroyed by an earthquake in 1837 but was rebuilt to its present state in 1873. In 1875, French explorer Victor Guérin visited the village and wrote: "The population at present number 600—Druzes, United GreeksSchismatic Greeks, and a few Jewish families, who descend from the ancient inhabitants of the country. Every year in the summer several hundreds of Jews come here from Tiberias to pass the hot season. Most of these Jews came originally from Europe, and are happy in finding here the last indigenous scions of the ancient national stock...". Peki’in and its Jews was also described in “Survey of Western Palestine” issued by the Palestine Exploration Fund.

During the Arab riots of 1929, Arab gangs often penetrated Peki’in causing all the local Jews, who had lived there since time immemorial, to flee, but they returned soon after. Between that time and the mid-30s, they occasionally sought work in the neighboring Jewish settlements. In 1936, a renewal of Arab riots finally ethnically cleansed the town of its Jews and they sought refuge in the town of Hadera. This time, most did not return after the violence, electing to remain in Hadera, calling themselves the “Hadera Diaspora”. Thus far, the Zinatis are the only family who returned, and this family has dwindled to one member. In the 1945 statistics, the Druze owned over 10,000 dunams of Pekiin land while the Jews managed to hold on to 189 dunams. In 1948 Peki'in was incorporated into Israel; part of the Arab inhabitants left, and Jews – new immigrants – were settled there. The ancient synagogue and the cemetery were renovated with the assistance of Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, second president of Israel, and are considered historical sites. The traditional tombs of R. Oshayah of Tiria and R. Yose of Peki'in were also repaired. In 1955, the moshav Peki'in ha-Ḥadashah ("New Peki'in") was established above Ein Tiria. The new settlers arrived from Tangier, Fez, and Marrakesh. In July 2006, Peki'in was hit by Katyusha rockets launched by Hezbollah, causing significant damage to homes and orchards.

In 2011, the Israeli government approved an aid program of NIS 680 million ($184M) for housing, education and tourism upgrades in Peki'in and other Druze communities in northern Israel. The Druze Youth Movement in Israel, a movement with 19 branches around the country and a membership of 12,000, has its headquarters in Peki'in. The founder of the movement is Hamad Amar, an Israeli Druze member of the Knesset from Shfaram, who established it to pass on Druze heritage to the younger generation while developing a sense of national Israeli pride. Margalit Zinati, presently the last Mustarabi Jew in the town, has remained there to keep alive the memory of the town's vanishing Jewish heritage. 


The indigenous people of North Africa, the Berbers, or more properly, the Amazigh, have long suffered under the yoke of Arab supremacism. Often referred to as the "Maghreb", the Amazigh, instead, refer to their ancestral homeland as "Tamazgha", presently under Arab occupation. For more information on the indigenous people of Tamazgha, see postings under Algiers; Algeria; Atlas Mountains; Cyrenaica; Fez; Djerba; er Riadh; Libya; Casablanca; Morocco. More Berber postings to come.

Monday, January 25, 2021


banks of the Euphrates near Nehardea, courtesy,
Nehardea was an ancient city in historic Assyria, today, Arab-occupied “Iraq”. Today, archaeologists and historians have identified the town of Anbar as being adjacent or identical to Nehardea, lying a short distance from the present-day town of Fallujah, formerly the Babylonian Jewish center of Pumbedita.

Nehardea was originally known as Misiche and dates back to at least 3000 BCE as was evidenced by the archaeological research of the local artificial mound Tel Aswad. As a major crossing point of the Euphrates, at or near the junction with the Royal Canal, and occupying the northernmost point of the complex irrigation network of the Sawad, the town was of considerable strategic significance. Nevertheless, it was conquered several times in ancient history - by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Parthians. Centuries, later, it became one of the earliest centers of Babylonian Judaism and headed by an exilarch. As the seat of the exilarch, the local Jewish community traditionally has traced its origin back to King Jehoiachin of Judah who was brought over during the Babylonian Captivity in 586 BCE. According to Sherira Gaon, 10th century gaon of the Talmudic Academy in Pumbeditha, Jehoiachin and his coexilarchs built a synagogue at Nehardea, for the foundation of which they used earth and stones which they had brought from Jerusalem, in accordance with the words of Psalms 102:15.  Centuries later, in the early 1st century CE, two Jewish brothers Anilai and Asinai, natives of Nehardea, founded a semi-autonomous state on the Euphrates, under the Parthian government. The site of Nehardea played a role in the Roman–Persian Wars of the 3rd–4th centuries. As the western gate to central Mesopotamia, it was fortified by the Sasanian ruler Shapur I (r. 241–272) to shield his capital, Ctesiphon, from the Roman Empire. After his decisive defeat of the Roman emperor Gordian III at the Battle of Misiche in 244, Shapur renamed the town Firuz Shapur, "victorious Shapur" and maintained an intense interaction with the Greeks and Romans. The granaries in the city’s citadel were internationally well-known. The city was fortified by a double wall, possibly through the use of Roman prison labor. It was later sacked and burned after an agreement with its garrison in March 363 by the Roman emperor Julian during his invasion of the Sasanian Empire. It was rebuilt by Shapur II. By 420, the garrison in Nehardea/Firuz Shapur was manned by Persians. But as the indigenous Assyrian/Syriac Christian community was the dominant, it was attested as a bishopric, both for the Church of the East and for the Syriac Orthodox Church. The names of fourteen of its bishops of the period 486–1074 are known: Narses fl. 540, Simeon fl. 553, Salibazachi fl. 714, Paul fl. 740, Theodosius, John fl. 885, Enos 890, Elias fl. 906-920, Jaballaha fl. 960, Sebarjesus, Elias II fl. 987, Mundar fl. 1028, Maris fl. 1075, and Zacharias fl. 1111.

The city fell to the Arab Rashidun Caliphate who occupied and colonized the whole of Mesopotamia in July 633, after a fiercely fought siege. The Arabs then renamed the site, “Anbar”, a Persian word for granary in reference to the famous granaries in the citadel. About a century later, beginning in 752, Anbar briefly served as capital of the Abbasid Caliphate, maintaining that status for ten years until the founding of the Arab settlement of Baghdad in 762. By the 12th century, and according to medieval Arabic sources, many of the inhabitants of the town migrated north to found the city of Hdatta south of Mosul.

Al-Khaldiya in the area of Nehardea was founded in 1969 as a settlement for Assyrian Christian families who were displaced as a result of the closure of RAF Habbaniya, though it is now predominantly populated by Sunni Arabs.

Anbar is listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see of the Chaldean Catholic Church, and  established as titular bishopric in 1980. It has had the following incumbents: Titular Archbishop Stéphane Katchou (1980– 1981), as Coadjutor Archeparch of Bassorah of the Chaldeans; Titular Bishop Ibrahim Namo Ibrahim (1982– 1985), as Apostolic Exarch in the United States; Titular Bishop Shlemon Warduni (since 2001), Curial Bishop of the Chaldean Catholic Church.

The area is now entirely deserted, occupied only by mounds of ruins, whose great numbers indicates the city's former importance.

Sunday, January 17, 2021


Zin Valley, Negev Desert, courtesy, Wikipedia
The Negev is the desert and semidesert region of southern Israel. Its largest city and administrative capital, located in the area’s northern half, is Beersheba (pop. 209,687) (also see posting on Beersheba). At its southern end is the Gulf of Aqaba and the resort city of Eilat (also see posting on Eilat). It contains several development towns, including DimonaArad and Mitzpe Ramon, as well as a number of small Bedouin towns, including Rahat, Tel as-Sabi and Lakyah. There are also several kibbutzim, including Revivim and Sde Boker; the latter became the home of Israel's first Prime MinisterDavid Ben-Gurion, after his retirement from politics. The Negev covers roughly half of Israel, approximately 4,700 sq mi. It forms an inverted triangle shape whose western side is contiguous with the desert of the Sinai Peninsula, and whose eastern border is the Aravah valley. The Negev’s unique geological features including the craterlike makhteshim (box canyons), which are unique to the region: Makhtesh RamonHaMakhtesh HaGadol, and HaMakhtesh HaKatan. The Negev Hills compose the northern and central hill regions, the Paran Plateau, and the Eilat Mountains.

A small population of Arabian leopards, an endangered animal in the Arabian peninsula, survives in the southern Negev. Other carnivora found in the area are the caracal, the Arabian wolf, the golden jackal and the marbled polecat. The Aravah mountain gazelle, a subspecies of the mountain gazelle, manages to survive but the dorcas gazelle is more numerous with some 1,000–1,500. Some 350 to 500 Nubian ibex live in the Negev Highlands and in the Eilat Mountains. The Negev shrew is a rare species of mammal found only in Israel. The Negev tortoise is a critically endangered species that currently lives only in the sands of the western and central Negev Desert. Animals that were reintroduced after extinction in the wild or local extinction respectively are the Asiatic wild ass, the Persian fallow deer, and the Arabian oryx. The Negev is the only place where the Arabian oryx can flourish because nowhere else in the Middle East can poaching be controlled. 

According to the Book of Genesis chapter 13, Abraham lived for a while in the Negev after being banished from Egypt (Genesis 13:1,3). During the Exodus journey to the Promised Land, Moses sent twelve scouts into the Negev to assess the land and population (Numbers 13:17). During the time of Joshua, the northern part of the Negev became the southern extent of Israelite settlement in Canaan and the area was allotted to the tribes of Judah and Shimon which was an enclave of Judah in the southwest. Kings Saul and David fended off the Amalekites in the area. The entirety of the Negev was later part of the Kingdom of Solomon, who, as with his successors as kings of Judah, set up fortresses to guard the routes to Elath and Egypt. In the 9th century BCE, development and expansion of mining in both the Negev and Edom coincided with the rise of the Assyrian Empire. In the 8th century BCE, Beersheba became the region's capital and center for trade. Uzziah made the greatest effort to develop the Negev, maintaining the communications with Elath through this region, and, apart from extending agriculture (ii Chron. 26:10), built large fortresses at Kadesh (see posting on Kadesh Barnea), Arad, Ḥorvat 'Uza, and other sites. After the return from Babylonian exile, Jewish connections with the Negev in the post-biblical period were tenuous. The region’s northern part was held by King Alexander Yannai (Jannaeus), a Maccabee of the House of Hasmon.

Since the Arab conquest in the 7th century and especially since the Crusader conquests in the 12th and 13th centuries, the region was almost abandoned and became a desert wasteland save for the major coastal cities and major Jewish centers of Gaza and Rafiah (see posting on Gaza) and a few scattered Bedouin tribes. In later centuries, other Bedouin tribes migrated to the Negev area, some were of Jewish ancestry such as the el Huzayel clan. At the earliest stages of the modern Jewish return to the land, the Negev was visualized as a possible area of settlement by men like Z.D. Levontin, who aimed at founding a settlement south of Gaza (1881–2). Like other Jews at the beginning of the 20th century, however, they had to abandon attempts at purchasing holdings, mainly because Bedouin vendors could not produce title deeds entered in the land registry for the tracts they offered. Attention was again directed to the Negev when Theodor Herzl took up Davis Trietsch's proposal of the El-Arish Project (1903), and a daring plan for a Jewish-Bedouin alliance was also put forward. After World War i, veterans of the Jewish Legion tried to settle on state land offered by the British authorities near the tell of Arad, but they despaired when no water was found.

Although historically, the Negev area south of Beersheba, was part of a separate region, it was added to the proposed area of Mandatory Palestine, on July 10, 1922, having been conceded by British representative St John Philby, British representative of Eastern Palestine (aka Trans-Jordan). After the end of the 1930s, the Jewish National Fund took over, securing and enlarging scattered holdings in the Negev which had been acquired beforehand by Jewish individuals. Thus the three "observation villages"–Gevulot, Beit Eshel, and Revivim–were set up in 1943. In 1946, in response to the British-created Morrison–Grady Plan which would have allotted the area to an Arab state, the Jewish Agency enacted the 11 points in the Negev plan to begin local Jewish settlement. Four more communities were established preceding the outbreak of the War of Independence in December 1947. All these outposts were modestly supplied with water from two pipelines drawn from the Nir Am and Gevar'am wells in the southern Coastal Plain. As a result, the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine allotted a majority of the area to the Jewish State which later became Israel. During the War of Independence, Israel secured its Negev allotment and then some. The one exception was the area in and around Gaza City, which became known as the Gaza Strip. Since the end of the war in 1949, the region’s population has grown exponentially. In the early years of the state, it absorbed many of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries, with the Israeli government setting up many development towns, such as AradSderot and Netivot. Whereas the Negev Bedouin population, of which about 15,000 remained in the Negev after 1948, and increased to about 27,000 in 1969, Jewish settlement was the principal factor causing the population density especially in the Beersheba subdistrict to increase. Deep well drillings in the 1960s yielded water in previously unsuspected quantities.

In the late 60s, a group of African-Americans from Chicago who claimed to be descended from the ancient Israelites, settled in Dimona. Today, the Hebrew Israelites are a vibrant community, living mainly in Dimona, who contribute greatly to Israeli society in spite of the many obstacles the Israeli government puts in their way. In the past two decades, the Negev has also become home to many of the Israel Defense Forces' major bases. Blueprint Negev is a Jewish National Fund project introduced in 2005. The $600 million project hopes to attract 500,000 new Jewish residents to the Negev by improving transportation infrastructure, establishing businesses, developing water resources and introducing programs to protect the environment. A planned artificial desert river, swimming pools and golf courses raised concerns among environmentalists. As of 2010, the Negev was home to some 630,000 people (or 8.2% of Israel's population).

In October 2012, global travel guide publisher Lonely Planet rated the Negev second on a list of the world's top ten regional travel destinations for 2013, noting its current transformation through development.

Today, the Negev is home to such institutions as Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, whose faculties include the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research and the Albert Katz International School for Desert Studies, both located on the Midreshet Ben-Gurion campus adjacent to Sde Boker.

Other sites include: Ben-Gurion National Solar Energy CenterAshalim and the Ashalim Power Station, the Rotem Industrial Complex outside of Dimona, the Negev Nuclear Research Center and reactor, Yatir Forest and Winery, Carmel’s boutique winery at Ramat Arad, the Tishbi Vineyards at Sde Boker, the Barkan Vineyard at Tel Arad, Carmey Avdat - Israel's first solar-powered winery, the Ḥaluẓah, Shunrah, and Agur dunes, Ne'ot HovavḤaẓevah, Avronah, Yotvatah, Sa'īdiyin, Wadi el-Na'am, Naḥal Besor, Naḥal Be'er Sheva, Naḥal Ḥevron, Naḥal Gerar, Naḥal Paran, the Dead Sea (see posting on the Dead Sea), Mt. Ramon, Mt. Sagi, Mt. Loẓ, Mt. Arif, the Sheluḥat Noẓah ridge, the Edom Mountains, Zin Canyon, and the Sedom salt flats.