Jericho may not seem like much at first, but this is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, making it a major tourist attraction for anyone interested in history. Although you’ll need more than a passing interest in archeology to figure out the intricate layers on the tell (settlement mound), simply standing at the top to get your head around the massive history is an awe-inspiring highlight for most visitors. The road between Jerusalem and Jericho has been a major highway over the centuries, and the area here is dotted with interesting sights from the Jewish, Byzantine and Islamic eras. No history lover should miss a trip here.
1 Jericho Tell
Top of the things to do list here is Jericho Tell. Just 2.5 kilometers northwest of Jericho’s main square, opposite Elisha’s Spring (also known as the Sultan’s Spring) is the ancient 21-meter-high tell (settlement mound) of Jericho – also known as Tell al-Sultan . Archaeological investigations at this site began in 1860, but nothing of real importance was revealed until the British excavations of 1930-31. The real breakthrough came with Kathleen Kenyon’s research in the 1950s. She identified 23 occupation levels, with the oldest traces of human settlement dating from around 8,000 BCE.
To the casual visitor, the remains of this early period in human history do not seem particularly sensational. There are only meager remains of the famous walls of Jericho mentioned in the Bible. The most striking feature is that the wide trenches archaeologists cut across the hill to investigate the different levels of undisturbed ground. But the importance of this site in our understanding of human civilization cannot be overestimated. Jericho claims the title of the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. In the gully, you can see remains of the Neolithic city dating from about 7000 BC, consisting of part of the city wall and the nine-meter-high round tower built against it. On the east side you will see the entrance leading to 22 steps of a spiral staircase (the world’s oldest staircase) and an opening higher up. To the north of this is a shrine made by Mesolithic nomads, dating from 8000 BC.
2 Hisham’s Palace
This 8th-century palace was built by the 10th Umayyad Caliph Hisham in 724 AD, but never completely finished. The earthquake of 746 AD completely destroyed it and the site remained forgotten until British archaeologists excavated here in 1937. Numerous finds from the site, including the figurative representations of early Islamic art, are on display at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem. The palace is laid out in a square plan, with four ranges of buildings opening onto a courtyard and no exterior entrances. The north has a large bathhousewith a bare ceiling, which originally contained alternating male and female figures and had a roof on sixteen pillars. In the northwest corner of the bathhouse is a small room with an apse, undoubtedly a rest room or reception room for the caliph. It is famous for its fully preserved mosaic – a work of consummate craftsmanship depicting three gazelles under an orange tree, one of which is attacked by a lion.
Location: 2 kilometers north of Elisha’s Spring, Jericho
3 Mount of Temptation
Northwest of central Jericho, the Qarantal escarpment plays an important role in Christian tradition. This is a major point of interest for Christian visitors who know the hill as the Mount of Temptations, where Jesus Christ fasted after being baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. In 340 AD St. Chariton built a chapel on the top of the hill and another was built by the cave in which Jesus sheltered. The Greek Orthodox Church acquired the site in 1875 and in 1895 built the Sarandarion Monastery(the name refers to the 40 days of Jesus’ fasting) halfway up the hill. From the monastery a steep path leads up to the summit where you can visit the remains of the original chapel of St. Chariton. The view from the top over the arid hills is fantastic. For those not up for the hike, the Jericho Cable Car runs from Jericho to the top, with stunning views of the landscape along the way.
Location: 2.5 miles northwest of downtown Jericho.
4 Wadi Qelt
This lush valley is a tranquil slash of green amid the barren hills. It is a beautiful place with flowing freshwater springs and palm trees, and its soothing atmosphere has attracted ascetics for centuries. A number of monastic communities have settled here over the years and Herod the Great built an aqueduct, which was repaired during the British Mandate. The Romans also built a road along this ancient route between Jerusalem and Jericho. In early Christian times, hermits lived in caves in this wild mountain country, leading to the founding of St. George’s Monastery here. It’s a great place for a day hike or just to pack a picnic.
5 St. George’s Monastery
The Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. George clings precariously to the sheer north face of Wadi Qelt Gorge . The monastery, originally dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was founded in 480 AD. It was home to a thriving monk population until it was destroyed by the Persians in 614 AD and then abandoned. The current buildings were built in the late 19th century, and inside are some interesting pieces of religious art. A stony path leads to the main entrance of the monastery. Inside, the church dedicated to the Virgin Mary has beautiful icons and frescoes, while the Church of St. John and St. George preserves a sixth-century mosaic pavement. In a cave nearby are the remains of the monks killed during the Persian advance on Jerusalem.
Location: Jericho Road (20 kilometers from Jerusalem)
6 Qasr el Yahud
Right next to the Jordan is Qasr el Yahud; one of the sites competing for the title of Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist . Across the murky, narrow and shallow stretch of the Jordan River lies the other site in Jordanian territory, which has a much more solid title for its title after recent archaeological discoveries. Nevertheless, if you don’t plan to visit Jordan, this place will do just fine. It is popular with pilgrims who immerse themselves in the water. If you decide to enter the river, remember that you are not allowed to wade the three meters to the other bank. The Israeli and Jordanian armies keep watch on both sides.
7 Prophet Moses
The Islamic shrine of Nabi Musa (prophet Moses) is located in the desert south of Jericho.
Although there is no evidence that the prophet Moses was actually buried here (and Mount Nebo in Jordan also vies for the title of its burial place), an ancient tradition since the Middle Ages has claimed that this was Moses’ resting place . Saladin knew this place in the 12th century and the Mameluke Sultan Baibars built a mosque here in memory of Moses. The mosque is located in an impressive spot on a hill where there is also a large cemetery for Muslims who want to be with the prophet, even in death.
8 Inn of the Good Samaritan
On the road between Jericho and Jerusalem, the Inn of the Good Samaritan commemorates the New Testament story of a bereaved traveler under the wing of a passing Samaritan, who takes him to a roadside inn to care for his wounds. Excavations here have discovered a Jewish temple and a Byzantine church on this site, and the museum next to the ruins is full of well-preserved mosaics and other finds from the site. It makes a good stop when traveling to or from Jerusalem.
9 Hasmonean Palace
Excavations here have revealed a large palace with clear signs of Hellenistic influence. It is believed to have been built by the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 BC) and occupied by the last Hasmonean rulers, and then by Herod, who enlarged and embellished it. Although the palace at Masada was intended as a private residence, this palace was designed for formal and official occasions. The palace stood in a park with terraces and water channels and was built on a symmetrical plan around a spacious courtyard. Among the structures identified are a large audience chamber, rooms decorated with frescoes, Roman baths and Jewish ritual baths. The most striking feature, however, is a large swimming poolMeasuring 32 meters by 18 meters and 4 meters deep, archaeologists believe it was the bath in which Herod drowned his 18-year-old brother-in-law Aristobulus, just a year after he himself appointed him high priest.
Location: 1.5 miles west of Jericho
10 Jericho Mosaic Center
For anyone interested in the artistry of mosaic work and its cultural preservation, a stop at the Jericho Mosaic Center is a must. This center is dedicated not only to the preservation of mosaic works, but also to teaching a new generation of mosaic artists the traditions and skills of this art form to keep the Palestinian mosaic heritage alive and thriving. In the center you can see mosaic artists at work on both conservation and new mosaic pieces and purchase new creations. It’s a worthy nonprofit to support if you’re looking for a mosaic to take home as a souvenir.
Adres: Jerusalem Street, Jericho
11 Russian Museum and Tree of Zacchaeus
The Russian Museum has a number of interesting exhibits of finds and mosaic pieces from archaeological excavations in the grounds of the property. There is also an excellent collection of old black and white photographs of Russian pilgrims on their journeys in the Holy Land during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The grounds surrounding the museum itself are pleasantly landscaped and are home to the famous Tree of Zacchaeus, the plane tree which local myth claims is the same tree from the New Testament story of Zacchaeus, who climbed its branches to see Jesus.
Address: Ein es-Sultan Street
Descendants of the Mesolithic hunters who first established a sanctuary in the spring of Jericho made remarkable progress. Over a period of time, which the carbon-14 evidence suggests is about a thousand years, they made the complete transition from a wandering to a settled existence in what must have been a community of considerable complexity, for the imposing defenses are proof of an efficient common organization. The inhabitants of Jericho during this period had a cult of fertility and of the dead. They covered the skulls of their dead with a layer of plaster and stored them in their houses. After the city’s destruction, either by war or during an earthquake, the site was destroyed in the 6th millennium BC. Occupied by men of another race, who had mastered the craft of pottery, but built very simple houses. In the Chalcolithic period (5th millennium BC) the settlement moved west to the mouth of the Wadi Qelt, perhaps because the source had changed its position, but it soon returned to its original location. Square houses were now built into a strong outer wall.
The period around 2000 BC is represented by earthenware vessels in the shape of human faces. In the Hyksos period (18th-16th centuries BC) a new city wall was built of rammed earth, with a pronounced batter. This city was destroyed around 1400 BC.
The Bible gives a detailed account (Joshua 2-6) of the conquest and destruction of Jericho by the Israelites coming from east of the Jordan. This event used to date back to the 15th century BC, but the 13th century (the time of Pharaoh Ramses II) is now considered a more likely date. In the division of territory after the Israelites occupied the Promised Land, the Jericho area was assigned to the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:21). During the reign of King Ahab of Israel (9th century BC), the destroyed city was rebuilt. During this period, the prophet Elijah and his disciple Elisha came to Jericho (2 Kings 2). That is why spring is known as Elisha’s spring.
In 586 B.C. The Babylonians took the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, who had fled from Jerusalem, as a prisoner in Jericho, blinded him and carried him off to captivity in Babylon (2 Kings 25:7). During the Persian period, the account of Jericho was again abandoned as it had been in the 5th millennium. After 332 BC, the Hellenistic city of Jericho was built further south, at the mouth of the Wadi Qelt. In 30 BC, Octavian (the future Emperor Augustus) gave the oasis to Herod, who made it his winter residence, built the Fortress of Cyprus (named after his mother) to defend it and died here in 4 BC. His body was then transferred to the Herodeion in a beautiful procession. The Hellenistic/Herodic city of Jericho was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Later a settlement grew up on the site of the present town, southeast of the tell. A number of churches and a synagogue have been identified as dating from the Byzantine period. A new era began in 634 with the Arab conquest. The Umayyad Caliphs, who ruled from Damascus, built a fortress and a mosque, and in 724 Caliph Hisham built a palace (Khirbet el-Mafjar). After that, Jericho gradually lost importance and declined into a modest village. The Umayyad Caliphs, who ruled from Damascus, built a fortress and a mosque, and in 724 Caliph Hisham built a palace (Khirbet el-Mafjar). After that, Jericho gradually lost importance and declined into a modest village. The Umayyad Caliphs, who ruled from Damascus, built a fortress and a mosque, and in 724 Caliph Hisham built a palace (Khirbet el-Mafjar). After that, Jericho gradually lost importance and declined into a modest village.
Under the British Mandate, between the two world wars, the old Roman road through the Wadi Qelt was replaced by a modern road from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea and Jericho. In 1940 the town had 4,000 inhabitants, who lived from the sale of bananas and citrus fruits grown in the oasis. The population has now risen to 7,000.