Tag Archives: Israel

5 November 2014
 Haifa, Israel: A Grand Mix

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Haifa is a mostly modern city with an ancient back story. Built on the green slopes of Mount Carmel, it has a waterfront with beautiful sandy beaches, and some of the best restaurants in Israel, a place where people very much enjoy their food.

Haifa’s skyline includes Jewish synagogues, Muslim minarets, Christian church spires, and the transcendent Baha’i gardens—the spiritual center of the Baha’i faith.

Haifa Bahai Shrine 01April2012 DSC_4112

From near the top of Mount Carmel, looking down through the Baha’i gardens to the port. Photo by Corey Sandler

The earliest known settlement in the vicinity was Tell Abu Hawam, a small port city established in the Late Bronze Age of the 14th century BC. Over the centuries, the city was conquered and ruled by Phoenicians, Hebrews, Persians, Hasmoneans (the Kingdom of Judah), Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans, the British, and the Israelis.

In the 9th century, after the Arab conquest of Palestine, Haifa established trading relations with Egyptian ports. Prosperity ended in 1100, when Haifa was besieged and blockaded by the Crusaders and then conquered after a fierce battle between the Crusaders and the Jewish and Muslim inhabitants. For the next 700 years, the small town went back and forth between Islamic and Crusader rule, eventually part of the Ottoman Empire from about 1596. With a few gaps, including a failed expedition by Napoleon, the town remained under Ottoman rule until 1918.


In 1909 Haifa became central to the Bahá’í Faith, when the remains of their prophet, the Báb, were moved to Acre and a shrine built on Mount Carmel. The Bahá’í Faith is a monotheistic religion founded in 19th century Persia. There are an estimated five million Bahá’ís in more than 200 countries.

In the Bahá’í Faith, religious history is seen to have unfolded through a series of divine messengers, each of whom established a religion that was suited to the needs of the time. These messengers have included Abraham, the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad and others, and most recently the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. In Bahá’í belief, each messenger prophesied of messengers to follow.

Humanity is understood to be in a process of collective evolution, with the goal of peace, justice and unity on a global scale. The Bahá’í Shrine in Haifa is one of the focal points of the city, with its golden dome and beautifully landscaped gardens on 19 acres. A promenade with fountains leads from the top of Mount Carmel to the shrine and down to its base.

Haifa Bahai Shrine 01April2012 DSC_4109 Haifa Bahai Shrine 01April2012 DSC_4125

The Bahá’í Shrine is an extraordinary oasis in a special place. Photos by Corey Sandler


Haifa’s German Colony was established in 1869 by the Templar Society (not the same as the Knights Templars), whose members arrived from Germany with the goal of settling the Holy Land and preparing residents for the arrival of the Christian Messiah. The Templars founded seven colonies around the country.

In recent years the German Colony has been restored, turning it into one of Haifa’s liveliest and most attractive entertainment centers. The district is centered around Ben-Gurion Boulevard, above the port.


Haifa German ColonyBet Haigefen  01April2012 DSC_4148

The German Colony is between the port and Mount Carmel. Photo by Corey Sandler


Acre, or Akko, about an hour north of central Haifa, was the main port of Palestine for the Arab caliphates in the 7th century. The port was captured in 1104 in the First Crusade by one of the more obscure figures of world history: King Baldwin I of Jerusalem. Baldwin was a Frenchman, born Baudouin de Boulogne.

Along with his brothers, he fought in Constantinople and then moved on to Jerusalem. He succeeded in taking Acre with the assistance of a Genoese fleet; it then became the most important port for the Crusaders.

After Acre was retaken by the Kurdish leader Saladin in 1187, there followed assaults by other European crusader forces including one from Pisa and then combinations of French, English, Swabian (Bavarian), and German armies. The Knights Hospitaller, which operated out of Rhodes and then Malta, took control in 1229. And then Acre went back to Egyptian control in 1291, falling again to the Ottomans in 1517.

On this visit we decided to spend the day in Acre, or Akko as it is also known. It was another chance to travel on time,  and also to experience some of the mix that is modern Israel.

The Old City of Acre today is mostly Arab and Muslim, within the Jewish state of Israel. It’s alleyways include mosques,  ancient synagogues,  and Crusader-era ChristIan churches.

Acre Akko BLOG 05Nov2014-8897

Acre Akko BLOG 05Nov2014-8913


Acre Akko BLOG 05Nov2014-8900


Acre Akko BLOG 05Nov2014-8914

Acre, Israel. Photos by Corey Sandler.


Nazareth—about 25 miles or 40 kilometers from Haifa—is considered by many Christians to be the childhood home of Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem near Jerusalem. Some scholars and sects, though, believe Jesus was born in Nazareth. Modern Nazareth is considered “the Arab capital of Israel.”

All photos by Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.

3-4 November 2014
 Ashdod, Israel: A Bridge Too Far

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

We arrived in Israel, fulfilling plans, hopes, and dreams; for much of the summer it seemed we would have had to go somewhere else…if there is a place worthy of substitution. But a tense cessation of hostilities is in place in Gaza and Jerusalem, with hope–if not promise–of peace.

Ashdod is Israel’s largest cargo port, bringing in about 60 percent of the nation’s imported goods. Ashdod is in the southern district of Israel, about 40 kilometers or 25 miles south of Tel Aviv and 53 kilometers or 33 miles west of Jerusalem. And to the south: about 40 kilometers or 25 miles to Gaza.

I’ll write more about Ashdod later in this blog.

Ashdod 02Apr2012 P1070119

The port of Ashdod. Photo by Corey Sandler


Jerusalem is a truly inspiring city—for Jews, Christians, Moslems, and anyone who appreciates history and culture.

The Old City is the walled core of Jerusalem. About a third of a square mile, or one square kilometer in size, it is home some of the most important sites of the three Abrahamic Religions:

The Temple Mount and its Western Wall, for Jews

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians. And, the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims.

Jerusalem Sepulchre 02April2012 P1070070

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo by Corey Sandler

Jerusalem Dormition 02April2012 DSC_4170

The Church of the Dormition in Jerusalem. Photo by Corey Sandler

Traditionally, the Old City has been divided into four uneven sections: the Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Armenian quarters.

Eleven Gates to the City

During the era of the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, there were four gates to the Old City, one on each side. The current walls, built by Suleiman the Magnificent, have a total of eleven gates, but only seven are open. Until 1887, each gate was closed before sunset and opened at sunrise.

The Damascus, Lions’, Dung, Zion, and Jaffa gates were each built about 1540. The New Gate is from 1887. Herod’s Gate may be from about the same time.

The phrase “Twelve gates to the city” from the Book of Revelation and in the gospel-like song refers to Biblical Jerusalem, but the gates of present-day Jerusalem are much younger.

Jerusalem 02April2012 P1070105 Jerusalem 02April2012 P1070062

The Via Dolorosa, and an ecumenical gift shop in the Arab quarter of Jerusalem. Photos by Corey Sandler

Jerusalem 02April2012 P1070039

Within the Armenian Church. Photo by Corey Sandler

Western Wall

One of the most important Jewish holy sites is the Western, or Wailing Wall.

Solomon’s Temple was said to have been built atop the Temple Mount in the 10th century BC, and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC.

The Second Temple was completed and dedicated in 516 BC.

The exposed section is about 187 feet or 57 meters. Other portions are concealed behind structures running along its length; there is also a small section in the Muslim Quarter.

It has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage from at least the 4th century.

Jerusalem 02April2012 DSC_4202

At the Western Wall. Photo by Corey Sandler

As if we needed any further demonstration of the complexities of the Middle East, all you need do is look up above the Wailing Wall to the Temple Mount, home of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

Al-Aqsa is the third-holiest site for Sunni Muslims. Al-Aqsa means the Farthest Mosque, believed by Muslims to have been built in the seventh century.

Muslims believe Muhammad was transported from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to al-Aqsa during what they call Night Journey.

The Dome of the Rock is a separate shrine on the Temple Mount. It was first built in 691, a few decades after the death of Mohammed, and renovated many times.

Somewhere on the Temple Mount, perhaps within the Dome of the Rock, is the Foundation Stone, believed by some to have been the location of the Holy of Holies in the Jewish Temple.

Tradition views it as the spiritual junction of heaven and Earth, the holiest site in Judaism. And it may exist inside Islam’s third holiest mosque, after Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia and Al Masjid an Nawabi in Medina, Saudi Arabia.

Nothing shows more clearly the interlinking and complexity of religion, and by extension politics, in Jerusalem and the rest of Israel and the Middle East.


We zipped up to Tel Aviv for the day, wandering the market and the Yemeni Quarter and on to the sea front before turning inland to the heart of the city.

Tel Aviv seems to us a place where no one walks; every is at a near full trot. We absorbed a bit of that energy, and a lunch of lamb schwarma with hummus and tahini.

Tel Aviv BLOG 03Nov2014-8886

Tel Aviv,  old and new. Photos by Corey Sandler

Tel Aviv BLOG 03Nov2014-8887


Ashdod is built on the site of an ancient city, but today exists mostly because of its port–the largest in Israel or anywhere else in the Middle East.

We set off in search of a monument–not an ancient one, but one of great importance to modern Israel: the Ad Halom Bridge.

Ad Halom. which means “up to here”. was the northernmost point reached by the Egyptian army in Operation Pleshet in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The Egyptians were headed for Tel Aviv, but were stopped here.

In today’s Israel, Ad Halom has come to mean the last line of defense that must not be breached.

As part of the Camp David Accords in 1978, Egypt was given permission to erect a memorial obelisk to their fallen soldiers. It stands today, an almost forgotten memorial in a place of great importance to the State of Israel.

Ashdod BLOG 04Nov2014-8889

A piece of Egypt in modern Israel.

All photos by Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.


Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order a copy for immediate delivery:


Henry Hudson Dreams cover

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)