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New York of the Middle East

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine what the world looked like 5000 years ago? What did you see? Mammoths or perhaps ape-like humans brandishing clubs? Or maybe you envisioned hunters and gatherers. What did the Land of Israel look like? – Probably deserts and camels.

Well, erase all that, or at least some of it. The Antiquities Authority in Israel recently published archeological findings from the past two years, which uncovered an ancient Canaanite city, the largest in the world from that period. The city, covering 650 dunams (over 160 acres) of land includes impressive planning of residential areas, public and private areas, ceremonial areas and the roads passing through and dividing between them.

The reasons for building a city in ancient times did not differ greatly from modern times. First and foremost is a reliable source of clear water, and indeed in the area there are 2 natural springs. Presence of the springs ensures sustainable local agriculture for growing food in addition to natural growth, for trade and for grazing livestock. The second is location. The period in question marked the beginning of world trade. The Land of Israel was an important intersection for world trading being a geographic crossroad between Asia, Africa and Europe. Naturally on such a crossroad settlements will develop rapidly in order to provide food, accommodation and religious requirements for the many travelers. Major trading markets appeared in Israel, attracting traders from many countries, arriving to buy and sell their various wares. The beginnings of ancient international trade can be found here – in the ruins of this ancient city. You can imagine the traders walking through the main streets that divide the public from the private areas, envision the ceremonies held around the altar, with the liquids pouring into the perfect drainage basin found on the site, and the rows upon row of residential houses, much like today!

It is interesting to discover through the excavations an organized and well managed society, and even more surprising considering the size of the city. Stone and basalt statues of animals were found, as well as seals and other testimonies of daily life in the city. The city, as said, is divided into public and private areas, perfectly organized, suggesting there were authorities and giving rise to many questions on life in the Canaanite city – did they have architects? Mayors? Were taxes collected to maintain the city – and if so, were there "municipal workers"?

Moreover, the researchers continued in-depth digging, and uncovered layers 1.5 meters deep that revealed an urban settlement 7000 years old, preceding the Canaanite period!

There is no doubt that the question "Is man happy alone?" has been answered.

Pic: Israel Antiquities Authority (

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