New York, NY- November 3, 2006: For a country small in size, Israel is extraordinarily rich in history and has been awarded World Heritage status for six extraordinary sites – with more than twenty others under consideration. "We are delighted that so many of the sites that have thrilled and inspired millions of visitors to Israel have been added to this rich and diverse international treasury," says Consul Arie Sommer, Israel Tourism Commissioner, North and South America.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Israel
OLD CITY OF JERUSALEM: The holy city for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Jerusalem was originally built by King David three thousand years ago and has held enormous symbolic significance to the world ever since. Today capital of the reborn State of Israel, its wide ramparts, seven gates, 34 towers, the citadel, its four residential quarters, the Western Wall, the Via Dolorosa, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock, and over 200 other historic monuments are eternal landmarks that stand, incredibly, all within the confines of a mere square mile.
MASADA: a 90-minute drive from Jerusalem, Masada is a rugged natural fortress of majestic beauty in the Judean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea. This is the site of the last stand of Jewish patriots facing the Roman army siege almost 2,100 years ago. It was built as a palace complex in the classic style of the early Roman Empire by Herod the Great, King of Judea, who reigned two thousand years ago. The camps, fortifications and assault ramps that encircle the monument constitute the most complete Roman siege works surviving to the present day.
AKKO (ACRE): 20 minutes from Haifa, Israel's northernmost city, Akko is an historic walled port-city and was the original link between Egypt and Phoenicia over 4,000 years ago. Today one can see Ottoman 18th and 19th century iconic citadels, mosques, inns and baths. Capital of the medieval Crusader Kingdom from 1104 to 1291, much of medieval Akko, remarkably, exist today almost intact, both above and below street level. Akko provides an exceptional "snap shot" of Crusader architecture.
TEL AVIV's "White City": Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 as a garden suburb of ancient Jaffa. Construction of the area known today as "The White City" was begun in the early 1930's mostly by German-Ã©migrÃ© architects who had studied Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe's "functional aesthetic" at the Bauhaus in Dessau.
Eventually called the "International Style," it is characterized by flat roofs, small horizontal windows, shade-providing columns, curved balconies, minimal ornamentation, reinforced concrete construction and white-washed exteriors.
Today, Tel Aviv has the largest number of Bauhaus/International-style buildings of any city in the world.
DESERT CITIES: The four ancient Nabatean towns of Haluza, Mamshit, Avdat and Shivta in the Negev Desert define the spice and incense routes that ran millennia ago from south Arabia to the Mediterranean Sea. These towns flourished for over 500 years until the second century. Today the remains and excavations of fortresses, sophisticated irrigation systems, forts, and inns bear witness to the way in which the harsh desert was settled for trade and agriculture.
BIBLICAL TELS: A Tel is Hebrew for a pre- historic settlement mound – and Israel is home to more than two hundred. Those at Megiddo, Hazor and Beer Sheba are enormous outdoor treasuries of biblical artifacts. They present extraordinary examples of the dense urban community life in the Iron Age –fifteen centuries ago, complete with amazing details of the agriculture, water-collecting, government, commerce and domestic life thousands of years ago.
Additional sites in Israel nominated for coveted UNESCO World Heritage status are:
Tel Dan & Sources of the River Jordan
Early Synagogues in the Galilee
Sea of Galilee & its Ancient Sites
Israel's Baha'i shrines
White Mosque in Ramle
"Inconvenient truths" about our planet abound and we can no longer ignore the glaring fragility of the earth and its treasures. The protection thus conferred by UNESCO (the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to certain cultural/historic properties has become vitally important. UNESCO currently lists 830 properties world-wide that possess outstanding, universal "World Heritage" value, each of which must be shielded from the ravages of over- commercialization, war, weather, and the terrible tyranny of time.
Other UNESCO World Heritage sites include: historic centers of cities such as Prague, Vienna, Dubrovnik, Venice, Florence and Paris, the great cathedrals and castles of France and Germany, the Vatican and Forum in Rome, the Acropolis in Athens, the city of Havana, the Medina of Marrakesh, the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids, Petra, the Great Wall of China, Stonehenge, the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon…and Auschwitz."
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