Holy Land Pilgrimage and Biblical Archeology



"AND when Abram heard that his kinsman was taken captive,  
            he led forth his 318 trained men…and pursued as far as Dan
                   GENESIS 14                                 

Holy Sites -- Gila's Highlights

Let's follow Abraham, all the way to Dan

Abra(ha)m’s nephew Lot, the only virtuous resident in the city of Sodom, had the dubious distinction of being the world’s first recorded hostage.  During a classic Middle Eastern squabble between the chieftains of the cities around the Dead Sea, Lot was seized as a way of testing Abram’s strength.  Abram chased the culprits as far as Dan in the north, nearly 200 miles from Sodom.  With 318 of his servants or soldiers, Abram crushed them at Hobah, north of Damascus.  He freed his nephew and recovered Lot’s possessions before he went south to Jerusalem to meet Melchizedek, king of Salem.

This passage in Genesis 14 indicates that Abram may have spent some time at Dan, which was actually called Laish during the patriarchal period.  Only some seven centuries later, when the tribe of Dan conquered Laish, did they rename it after “Dan their father who was born to Israel [Jacob] although the name of the city was Laish at first.” (Judges 18:29)

Map of northern Israel showing Dan by the northern boundary

Adapted from map on Internet for Learning site

Map of northern Israel showing Dan on the northern boundary


When the excavator of Dan, Abraham Biran, who died in 2008, one month short of his 99th birthday, would speak about Israel’s longest running archeological dig – from 1966 to the end of the 20th century – he would title his lecture “A Tale of Two Cities.”  In the lecture, Biran would tell the story of the discovery of one of his most spectacular finds -- a triple-arched mud-brick gate, dating from the Middle Bronze Age, 19th to 18th centuries B.C.

It was on the very last day of the season in 1979, as the excavators removed earth covering a mud-brick wall or tower, that the beginnings of an arch appeared.  Biran was dumb-founded.  He asked himself, “How could there possibly be an arch when we learned at school that the arch is a Roman invention?  We are excavating a city antedating by 2,000 years, Roman occupation of our region.  Yet, here in ancient Laish, an arch having a span of seven feet was constructed of sunbaked mud-brick!”

Biran wrote that they had to restrain their curiosity as it what it was, for a whole year until the next digging season.  When they returned the summer of 1980, their strategy was, “Follow the mud-bricks.”  To their astonishment, a gate complex with two towers flanking a recessed arched gateway was revealed.  Biran estimated that the mud-brick towers, preserved to nearly twenty feet, were almost at their original height.

18th century BC mud-brick gate at Tel Dan

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

18th century B.C. mud-brick gate at Tel Dan discovered in 1979

Several times I heard Biran say in lectures that he couldn’t imagine the king of 18th century Laish not going out to greet Abraham and inviting him into his city.  Laish was relatively large in area, and very well fortified.  If so, then Abraham may have entered through that very gate.

Group listening to Genesis 14 by Dan's Middle Bronze Age mud-brick gate

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Listening to Genesis 14:  the story of Abraham's chase by Dan's mud-brick gate

When I studied to be a guide in 1977, the triple-arched gate hadn’t yet been discovered.  As I began to tour Dan with my groups, I witnessed the painstaking removal of dirt from the northern side of the arch, while the archeologists constantly took precautions to minimize the danger of collapse.  I often saw Biran on site and he graciously answered my questions (even the dumb ones!) and always posed for a photo with my pilgrims.

In the beginning before the path was beaten out, the mud-brick gate was difficult to find. (More than once I was presented with a compass to gales of laughter at the final dinner, because I had gotten lost at Dan!)  Today, however, after two and a half decades of guiding at Dan, I can easily find “Abraham’s Gate.”

Gila explaining biblical geography at Dan

Photo:  Pastor Mike Clark

Gila's geography briefing before setting out for "Abraham's Gate"


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"Holy Sites: Gila's Highlights"

On your next pilgrimage, if you allow enough time at Dan (because there’s lots more to see and experience -- like the Dan springs, the high altar for the golden calf, Ahab's city gates and the pistachio tree lookout), I’d be happy to lead you to this spectacular find from the time of Abraham.

Overlooking the Israel-Lebanon border at Dan

Photo:  Rev. Darrell Mount

At Dan with the Israel-Lebanon border behind Gila


Gila Yudkin, who calls herself a Connecticut-born Yankee living now in King David's court, has been shepherding pilgrims in the Holy Land for over a quarter of a century. She hasn’t yet lost one stray – at least not permanently!  It’s recommended you contact Gila while you are planning your pilgrimage to ensure that your itinerary is feasible, inspiring and allows for biblical adventures.
More Biblical Archeology:

Let's find Herod's tomb at Herodion

Let's see where the Priestly Benediction was found

Let's visit Gezer, Solomon's wedding gift

Herod's Tomb   

Priestly benediction

Gezer & Solomon's dowry


Let's look for the clay tablet treasure at Hazor

Let's talk about Armageddon at Megiddo

Let's gather by Bethsaida's city gate

Joshua at Hazor

Megiddo / Armageddon


Follow Abraham to the Negev where he travels on his way to and from Egypt in
Let’s wander in the wilderness of Zin.”

Copyright 2008, 2012 Gila Yudkin.  Permission needed for any reuse.




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Holy Land Photography by Gila Yudkin