Topics: archaeology

In the Footsteps of the Philistines

Join us for an excursion to Tel Tzafit National Park, identified by many as the biblical city of Gath

Where the Philistines once roamed.
Ayala Shalmayev

The weather last Shabbat was not great, but we decided nevertheless to go explore somewhere new, Tel Tzafit (תל צפית) National Park near Beit Shemesh. All the family came together for what we knew would be a lovely Shabbat walk in this historic place.

Among other things, my husband explained to us that Tel Tzafit was called “Gath” in biblical times. If you know the biblical stories then you know that one of the most famous of all makes reference to this place, Gath.

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It is written that the giant Goliath came from Gath. During excavations, a Philistine temple was found, among other things, which confirmed the assumption that this place was Gath, the largest Philistine city at the time. So we stood before this mighty tel (archaeological hill) and listed attentively to my husband as we tried to visualize the events that occurred here.

At the time of King Saul and King David there were four other great Philistine cities besides Gath.

The signs indicate the names and directions of these cities: Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Ekron. Gath is located in the Elah Valley, Emek Ha’Elah (עמק האלה). Of course, this place was not chosen by chance, but was of great strategic importance due to its location. Gath was situated midway between the sea and Jerusalem, and from there one had a commanding view in all directions.

It is also a fertile region. The Elah River flows nearby, and the entire valley remains to this day very important to Israel’s agriculture.

It was a wonderful excursion and another chance to learn even more about the history of this land. Israel might be small, but even a full lifetime wouldn’t be enough to explore all it has to offer.

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