If you’ve already toured most of the popular sites in Israel, or if you are a fan of Biblical stories – this tour is for you! This specially designed private tour follows the story of the Ark of the Covenant, from the battle leading to its capture by the Philistines, to its return to the Israelites at Beth-Shemesh. We will visit battlefields, archaeological sites, and crawl into a big underground cave.
So fetch your Indiana Jones hat and whip, and let’s go!
Tracking the Battle Site of Eben Haezer
We start at Izbet Sarta, believed to be related to the Israelite camp site before the battle at Eben Haezer. It is on a hill opposite Aphek-Antipatris, where the Philistine camp was said to be. Up on the mountains, we will see Shiloh in the distance, where the Ark was retrieved from. The site bears some early Iron age structures. One of them being where the ark was possibly kept, before it was taken by the Philistines.
Following the Ark in Philistine Captivity
Defeating the Israelites, the Philistines captured their holiest object and took it to Ashdod, and later to Ekron. Ancient Ashdod was dug up in the 1960’s and later all covered back up.
Ancient Ekron was intensively excavated in the 1980’s-1990’s. Most of the site is also covered back up. However, a rich presentation of the finds made at the site can be seen at “The “Philistine Street” in a kibbutz near the mound. It is also possible to visit the perimeter of the biggest Philistine city, Gath, now finally identified at Tel Tsafit. In recent years, the city gate and a unique altar were uncovered there.
Spotting the Ark’s Location in Beth-Shemesh
The ark was sent back to the Israelites from Ekron and recieved in the town of Beth-Shemesh. Biblical Beth-Shemesh has been excavated since the early 20th century.
Recently, a sensational discovery made at the site links to the ark’s presence the site. A big flat slab of stone, found in a room behind an animal sacrifical area, may have been the very spot where the ark was kept.
Seeking for Kiryat Yaarim
The Bible indicates that soon after, unfortunately, the Ark had to be moved again, as it had inflicated a plague. It was taken from Beth-Shemesh to Kiryat Yaarim. This site is suggested to be on the hill above the Arab village of Abu Ghosh. In the 19th century a church was built at its hilltop, called Notre Dame de l’arche d’Alliance. In recent years an archaeological expedition is digging around the church. They hope to find remains from the Biblical account time frame mentioning to the Ark. The site also provides stunning views of the Jerusalem Mountains!
In Search of Solomon’s Temple
Finally, we get to Jerusalem. Here, according to the Bible, the Ark was permamently placed in Solomon’s Temple. Unfortunately, today there isn’t a single stone that can be attributed to Solomon’s temple with certainty.
Nevertheless, veiwing the Temple Mount from Mount of Olives Viewpoint, we will conclude the day by assessing the theories about the fate of the ark.
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The Ark of the Covenant and Beth-Shemesh The book of Samuel mainly documents the struggles of the tribes of Israel against the Philistines, a struggle that eventually led to the kingdom by Saul and David, and the creation of Jerusalem as their capital. According to the Bible, the most sacred object of the tribes of Israel was the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Tablets, the instructions of the God of Israel how to worship it. Given to Moses at Mount Sinai, the tablets in the ark were carried through the wilderness, and once the Israelites of conquered the “Promised