Abe was visiting Israel for the first time. As soon as his plane landed, he got a taxi to take him to his hotel. The taxi driver was very friendly and told Abe all kinds of useful information. Then Abe asked the driver, “Say, is Israel a healthy place?” “Oh, yes, it really is,” the driver replied, “When I first came here, I couldn’t say even one simple word, I had hardly any hair on my head, I didn’t even have the energy to walk across a small room, having to be helped out of bed each day.” “That’s a remarkable story, truly amazing,” Abe said, “so how long have you been in Israel?” “I was born here!” 2017 was a record-breaking year for tourism in Israel with over 3.6 million visitors. This was a 700,000 increase over 2016’s total and brought with it some 20 billion shekels ($10 billion Canadian) into the Israeli economy, providing 225,000 jobs for Israelis. Just over half (54%) of those visiting were Christian pilgrims with the top five countries being: America, Russia, France, Germany and England. A young woman from Romania was the 3,000,000th visitor. At the airport, she and her husband were walked down a red carpet flanked by balloons, and were given flowers – being greeted by the Israeli tourism minister who took them by limousine to a luxury suite at the Dead Sea, a helicopter tour of the country, and a meal at the home of Israel’s top chef. And finally, the two were given a private tour of Jerusalem by Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. With a 91% tourist satisfaction rating, it is hoped that in 2018 “Up to Jerusalem” will mean up to 4,000,000 tourists taking the walk.
HONEY IN THE ROCKS
Twenty times the Bible describes ancient Israel as a land flowing with “milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). However, for years, archaeologists and historians have claimed that if there ever was honey, it was the product of dates or figs and not bee hives. But now, archaeologists, led by Hebrew University professor Amihai Mazar, have uncovered a near 3,000 year-old ancient honey bee industry in northern Israel. The well-preserved clay hives, thought to be the oldest in existence, are each 2.5 feet long and 1 foot in diameter. They were stacked three-high in orderly rows. 180 have been found and these would have the capability of producing 3 tons (6,000 pounds) of honey per year. Dr. Mazar says, “You can tell this was an organized industry, part of an organized economy, in an ultra-organized city.” The hives are so well preserved, that old beeswax and the remains of bees could be analyzed; including workers, drones, pupae, and larvae. The industry itself was very sophisticated. Each hive had a removable plug at one end for honeycomb extraction and a small hole in the other for the bees to enter and exit. Carbon dating of grain found near the hives posits them to the time of Israel’s divided kingdom. They were discovered in Tel Rehob (Joshua 19:30) two miles west of the Jordan River in the area where the prophet Elisha lived. Also, an altar to fertility goddesses was found alongside the hives, opening a window into the idolatry of Israel’s northern kingdom as described in the Bible (II Kings 17:7-23). But most of all, it confirmed Ezekiel 27:17 which says that Israel sold honey to the Phoenicians – Judah, and the land of Israel, they were thy merchants: they traded in thy market wheat…and honey, and oil, and balm. The discovery will become another fascinating stop on the tourist itinerary in the Holy Land.