Tel Megiddo is a well-known tourist attraction, overlooking the Jezreel Valley. It has been made a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its unique historical and biblical significance. Numerous excavations have revealed over 20 different layers containing the remains of around 30 different cities.
Archaeological digs are still going on under the auspices of Tel Aviv University. If you are interested in joining the dig, click here for the official Megiddo Expedition website where you can find details of how to apply.
The Bible tells us that King Solomon built an impressive citadel here and from 7,000 - 500 BCE, it was one of the most powerful cities in Canaan and Israel. Situated near to the fertile Jezreel valley, it had abundant water supplies and occupied a strategic position over the Via Maris - the main trade route connecting Egypt to the once great empires of Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia.
According to the New Testament (Revelations 16:16), this will be the place where the armies of God and Satan will fight the world's last battle - Armageddon. This name comes from a corruption of the Hebrew word for mountain (har) and the Aramaic word for Megiddo (Megiddon).
Because of it's strategic importance, several bloody battles took place here in ancient times. More recently, it was the site of one of the last great cavalry battles fought in World War I. The Allied forces led by General Edmund Allenby defeated the Ottoman army. The Turks signed an armistice which put Palestine under British control and Allenby was given the title Lord Allenby of Megiddo.
Pope Paul VI met here Israel's President Shazar and Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol in 1964. This historic occasion was the first time a pope had visited the Holy Land.
Megiddo was also the inspiration for the book, The Source, by James Michener.
Stephen J. Kramer is the author of Encountering Israel, a book he wrote about his travels around the country. I particular enjoyed the description of the guided tour he took with his wife, Michal to this archaeological park. Their guide was their friend Dr Norma Franklin, an archaeologist who is the coordinator of the Megiddo Expedition. With the author's permission, here is an excerpt for your reading pleasure ...
"Our friend Norma had us jumping from century to century while exploring the more than twenty layers of the various time periods in the park. On one level we could have been standing next to a ruin from 3,500 BCE, while a few feet to the left and a few feet higher up, the period could have been a thousand years later. Norma explained how the shifting of the levels by natural phenomena, such as earthquakes, makes the identification of the ruins uncertain. The tell is complex and although it was continuously inhabited throughout the millennia, some areas were more densely occupied than others, which can easily confuse visitors.
Tel Megiddo has been undergoing excavations since 1903, prompting Norma to say she could have given us a three-day tour instead of one lasting only several hours. She gave us explanations of how earlier archaeologists were at odds over some of the findings. Today, modern archaeological methods rather than the biblical references are the main identifying criteria used.
Perhaps the best part, especially on a hot day like that of our visit, was exploring the enormous water system. We descended 30 meters down a steel stairway to a rocky platform. Then we walked through a tunnel large enough for several of us to traverse at a time. We marveled at the ancient technology that created this engineering feat with human-powered tools. While the Chicago archaeological excavators who discovered the system in 1925 dated it to the Late Bronze period, around 1300 BCE, Yigal Yadin dated it five centuries later, during King Ahab's reign. Norma thinks it might date back to the Middle Bronze period, around 1600 BCE.
Many people regard Megiddo as the most important biblical period site in Israel. Its mighty fortifications, sophisticated water installations, impressive palaces and temples, and commanding height over the Via Maris highway assured its position as the "queen of cities" in Canaan and Israel. As we looked down from the heights of Tel Megiddo onto the modern highway which crossed the Jezreel Valley from Wadi Ara northwards - on the very route of the Via Maris - it wasn't hard to understand Megiddo's prominence in the ancient world."
Has this excerpt left you with a taste for more? You can order a copy of Encountering Israel for just $19.95! For full details, just fill in the form below.
Other cool things to see and do in the area:
Gilboa Ski - Artificial ski slope and other attractions.
Hot air ballooning - Watch the sunrise over the Jezreel Valley.
Makom B'Sejera - Kosher restaurant for foodies.
Dag Dagan - Great Israeli restaurant for all the family.
Hemdatya - Green lodging for eco-tourists.
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by Stephen J. Kramer
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