On to letter B of my Israel alphabet

Jenni Ho-Huan
5 min readApr 21, 2023
mosaic of city of Jerusalem in a Byzantine church in Madaba, Jrodan
Mosaic from Madaba, Jordan detailing a cardo/street in Jerusalem


I must say I know next to nothing about the Byzantines, with vague ideas of its association with Rome, the Orthodox church, the iconoclasm controversy, incense-filled churches, and the Crusades. I know better now and will attempt to share some of it here.

Important land tracts and strategic locations are always fought for and Israel was no exception, although it wasn’t always Israel. Israel is part of a larger land area known as the Levant which encompasses modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. This region was populated by many nomadic tribes and had multiple cities dotted across its landscape. So when we think of vast empires, it is also important to remember that existing groups would live within the political ambit of these empires, and some can create great instability that can end the reign of an empire. That is what indeed happened to the Byzantine Empire, with many intricate details historians continue to pore over.

The Byzantine Empire for most of us is about large ornate basilicas and a form of Christianity that feels foreign and even weird. Well, the empire had its beginning in 330AD when Emperor Constantine split the Roman Empire into a western and eastern half. The Western half’s capital was Rome, and the eastern had Constantinople. While the western side fell to marauding Visigoths and…