Southern Coastal Plain Attractions
1. St George church (Lod)- Lod is a city which has been mentioned in the bible, 1 Chronicles 8:11-13: "By Hushim he had Abitub and Elpaal.
The sons of Elpaal: Eber, Misham, Shemed (who built Ono and Lod with its surrounding villages), 13 and Beriah and Shema, who were heads of families of those living in Aijalon and who drove out the inhabitants of Gath.".
We assume, according to excavations which we did there, that it was first founded 8000 years ago.
Today, Lod is a mix city of Jews and Arabs (75000 inhabitants). The main site to see there is St George church.
St George (Georgios by his original name), joined the army and ascended the ladder. By the end of his twenties, he had already risen to high rank and was posted to Nicomedia as a member of the personal guard of Emperor Diocletian. According to the stories of the saints, in 302, Diocletian issued orders to ban every Christian soldier in the army and require every other soldier to participate in the emperor's worship and make a sacrifice to the Roman gods. St. Georgios was ordered to take part in the oppression of Christians but instead confessed that he was a Christian and criticized the emperor's decision. Diocletian tried to convert Georgios' religion and offered him money and land to participate in Roman worship. Georgios refused and the emperor ordered him dead in torture as a traitor. After severe torture, Georgios was beheaded on the Nicomedia Wall on April 23, 303. Empress Alexandra and the Athenian priest who watched his suffering, became convinced of his devotion to himself and converted to Christianity, even though they knew they had been executed. Georgios's body was brought to Lod, the hometown of his family, where he was buried as a martyr.
The Church was first founded in the Byzantine time (4th century) and destroyed by The Sassans (Persians) in 614 AD. It was rebuilt by the Crusaders in the 12th century, but was destroyed again by Saladin in 1191. Then, it was rebuilt again by the Crusaders (2nd Jerusalem Kingdom), and destroyed by the Mamelukes in 1266 (tough neighborhood...).
The existing Church and the Monastery were built in 1872.
2. Ramla- Ramla is a city which was built by the Muslims in the 8th century. Like its neighbor -Lod, it also has around 75000 inhabitants.
The name Ramla, means in Arabic "sand", because it was built in the middle of the sands of the Coastal Plain. After it was built, it became the capital city of the Muslim regime in Israel for centuries.
Today, there several interesting sites to see in Ramla. I want to focus in three of them:
2.1. The market- The market of Ramla is known because of the special Jewish Iraqi food and spices, that they offer there. The market is open from Sunday to Friday, but in Wednesday it's very unique. The “Wednesday Market” is an Israeli food and clothes market which first took place in Ramla and Lod and then started to migrate all over the country.
In general, the market is located near the Mosque (Al-Omri), so, it's better to combine the visit in the market, with the visit in the mosque.
2.2. Al-Omri Mosque (The Grand Mosque)- The Grand Mosque is one of the only Crusader buildings in the country that has survived to almost complete extent. The building was erected in the middle of the 12th century as a Christian church, and the titles found in the mosque do correspond to the 12th century. The general plan of the building is three parallel halls, a main hall and two lounge areas. This is a classic basilica structure. The Mahrab shows the direction of Mecca, but in this mosque, the Mahrab is located at Western Wall. This Mahrab was originally an apse, which shows the eastern direction in Christianity. They built another Mahrab there, in order to hide the Christian symbols.
The name Al-Omri indicates that it was built as something else and undergoing conversion. With the Mameluke's occupation in 1266, the building was converted into a mosque, and a spire (Minaret) was added to the muezzin. At the entrance to the mosque there is an inscription containing a verse from the Qur'an, Surah 9a 18. It is also noted that Beavers built the mosque in 1268. Beautiful site!
2.3. The Pool of Arches- The most significant building left from the time when the Abbasid caliphs ruled in the Land of Israel is the Pool of Arches. The structure is a rare witness to the quality of construction and beauty of Moslem architecture, especially in view of the fact that the Pool of Arches has survived for 1,200 years since its construction (was built in 789 AD), despite a huge damage, caused by heavy earthquakes, that destroyed other parts of Ramla.
The underground water reservoir was built in 789 AD, in the days when the famous Caliph Harun al Rashid ruled from Baghdad. The year of its foundation is chipped into the plaster of the pool’s wall, saying, “In the name of Allah and with Allah’s blessing, the agent of the Emir of the faithful ordered construction, may Allah lengthen his days, in the month of Haj in the year one hundred and seventy-two.” at winter time, its waters overflow and are pumped off. The Pool of Arches offers rowing boats to be used by adults and children to enter the magic historical space. Marvelous experience!
3. Chaim Weizmann House- Weizmann was the leader of the synthetic Zionist movement. In 1917 he was elected President of the Zionist Federation of England, and was an influential factor in the debates that led to the Balfour Declaration at the end of that year (The declaration of the British Government, which recognize the rights of the Jews to establish Jewish homeland in Israel). In 1920 he was elected the fourth president of the Zionist Organization.
Alongside his political and Zionist activities, Weizmann was a biochemist. In 1916, while serving as a lecturer senior at the University of Manchester returned to England, use the Weizmann bacterium Clostridium Acetobutylicum (sometimes referred to as "the Weizmann organism" in the name) as biochemical tools, to produce acetone, ethanol and Butanol from starch. On the basis of the method invented, a military emergency industry was established. Actually, this invention overwhelmed the results of WW1.
In 1936, alongside his work at the Zionist enterprise, Weizmann devoted himself to scientific work at the Ziv Institute in Rehovot, which he founded in 1934, and in 1949 was named the Weizmann Institute of Science.
In 1948 he was elected as the 1st president of Israel. He died in 1952. His house tells you the story of one of the most important person in the world, in the first half of the 20 century. The house also honors his wife Vera, which was a very impressive person. Very interesting!
Link to Weizmann House website is: https://shimur.org/sites/weizmann-house-rehovot/?lang=en
4. Ayalon Institute- Ayalon Institute, An underground project for the production of a bullet and slick defense organization in Givat Kibbutzim. It located in the northern foothills of the city of Rehovot, which began operating during the British Mandate. Until the declaration of the country was produced at the 2.25 million bullets 9 mm, ammo This was the most essential first step fighters of the War of Independence. The factory which employed 45 young men and women, worked in complete secrecy from 1945 until the end of the Revolutionary War, and during this period were produced at over 4 million ammunition balls.
The building was declared by the Council for the Preservation of Heritage Sites in Israel as a building for preservation and is currently a museum.
For people who interest in Israel Modern history, to people who love the undergrounds' Genre, it's a wonderful place to visit. Link to Ayalon Institute website is: https://shimur.org/sites/ayalon-institute-bullet-factory-rehovot/?lang=en
5. Ashkelon National Park- Ashkelon National Park is a fascinating antiquities site, a park in which to spend time in the heart of nature, and a wonderful bathing beach – all in one.
Eight peoples ruled the city - Canaanites, Philistines, Phoenicians, Hellenistic kingdoms, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and Crusaders - and all left their mark on the site.
Ashkelon exist for more than 9000 years, but it became a city only by the Canaanites 4000 years ago. The reason that it grows in that time was the naval knowledge that the Canaanites got in this period.
So, around 2000 BC, Ashkelon became one of the important ports in the Mediterranean Sea.Among other things, can be found on the site a unique wall and gate rising to a height of 15 m, from 1800 BC (!), Roman basilica from 3rd century AD, Antilia
wells from the Byzantine period, and bathing beach and Natural sand dune for use in Summer. Nice place.
link to Ashkelon National Park website is: https://www.parks.org.il/en/reserve-park/ashkelon-national-park/
6. Kibbutz Yad Mordechai- Kibbutz Yad Mordechai is not an ordinary one because of several reasons. It was founded in 1943, few months after the Jews in Ghetto Warsaw, revolt against the Germans, and died as heroes.
Because of that the founders decided to call the Kibbutz on the name of one of the leaders of this revolt- Mordechai Anilevich. In addition to that, they decided also to build a museum which tells the story of Ghetto Warsaw.
another thing which unique this Kibbutz, is the battle against the Egyptian Army in 1948. In May 15 1948, the Egyptian Army invaded to Israel. It was a Blitz attack, and the Egyptian army "swept" into Israel, for a distance of 30KM.
They left behind them, "pockets" of Israeli forces, mainly- several Kibbutz's. One of them was Yad Mordechai. After six days of fighting (few defenders against hundreds of Egyptian soldiers), they decided to withdraw from the Kibbutz. It was the first time in the Independence war that we had to evacuate (after the established of the state of Israel in May 14 1948). Few months later we took it back, but this event remain an open wound in our National memory.
In the Kibbutz you can see 3 things:
6.1. A small holocaust museum- mainly focus on Ghetto Warsaw story.
6.2. The story of the Battle which took place in 1948, Including battle simulation, as it was, on the fields that surround the Kibbutz- very interesting to people who love the genre.
Link to Yad Mordechai website is: http://tym.co.il/%d7%90%d7%aa%d7%a8%d7%99-%d7%9e%d7%95%d7%a8%d7%a9%d7%aa/
7. Surround Gaza Strip- A surround Gaza Strip tour, is known for Israelis as a whole day tour. There is so many places to see there, Historical, Archaeological, nature sites, unique farms, restaurants, Pubs which produce their own beer, and so on...
I'm going to focus on three sites only, but again; you can write me regarding other sites you are interest with.
7.1. Maon's synagogue- We do not know the exact date, but it is clear to us that some 1,500 years ago, the Jews of the town of Maon stood and inaugurated their synagogue. It was not an independent settlement of its own, due to the fact that the Byzantines then ruled the land. Still, Maun Jews, like the Jews of the entire country, did not give up their spiritual independence. The most important manifestation of spiritual independence was the synagogue, which left behind the glorious mosaic floor.
The synagogue was discovered in 1957. For lack of proper conditions for displaying the mosaic in its natural place, the government remove it from the site and keep it in the IAA (Israel Antiquities Authority) warehouses. Recently, the Jewish National Fund dedicated to Sandy Glatt's contribution to restoring the synagogue floor and restoring it to its original location. A new shed protects the site and the mosaic, which has been restored and maintained by the Antiquities Authority Conservation team. Really beautiful mosaic! Link to Maon's synagogue website is: https://www.eyarok.org.il/Trip.aspx?id=139
7.2. Horbat Madur is situated in the Barry Forest, which serves as a shade and green space on the side of the Gerar stream and the western Negev in general. The JNF (Jewish National Fund), broke through and marked here the "water facilities road" leading from a parking lot to Horbat Madur and Barry Forest sites.
The road is not an archeological site in the usual sense of the word, but a chain of Water related sites. The earliest Water related sites have survived to the present day since the Byzantine period and it is likely that the later installations now seen here have replaced the old ones.
Archaeologist Dan Gazit, who surveyed the area, believes that until the Byzantine period there was no permanent settlement here. But then a large town was established here, one of the chain of towns that existed at that time in the western Negev.
On World War I, the village of Mandor is permanently mentioned. Here was one of the British point of organization in their second attempt to occupy Gaza. The British fell victim to sophisticated ambushes of the Turks and failed.
Horbat Madur's water cisterns are the most fascinating remains in the area. Because the settlement is built on loess and Kurkar infrastructure, it was impossible to carve the pits in the rock, as the residents did elsewhere. The inhabitants of the settlement built pits of stone and plastered their walls so that their stored water would not seep and lose ground.
During the First World War, the British stabilized their fortifications in the area of the Grar stream. They suffered from severe water shortages. To overcome the problem, they refurbished the Byzantine pits and filled them with water that they brought on camels and mules. Interesting place combine with Unique nature.
7.3. Tel Gamma (in Arabic: Tel Aljama) is a large mound in the northwestern Negev, on the southern bank of the Besor stream. Archaeological finds found in Tel Gama are: a kiln, an ancient grain barn, a brick building, a pool of remains and some Byzantine-era tombs.
Archaeologist Sir Flinders Petrie, who excavated at Tel Gama, mistakenly believed that this was the Biblical city of Gerar.
However, we identify this place as the city of Yurza, which is mentioned in Egyptian documents from the 1st Temple time, (also mentioned in Greek and Byzantine documents). From the mound, there is a beautiful observation to Gerar stream, Besor Stream, and Gaza Strip area. A lot of stories are connected to this place, and it is interesting to hear them.