Staying in Jerusalem for a few days, driving to sights in the area.
VALLEY OF AYALON (EMEK AYALON)
This is where Yehoshua and the Israelite army defeated a consortium of five Emorite armies in a battle in which two miracles took place.
“Hashem rained down great stones from heaven upon them�more died from these hailstones than did from the swords of the Children of Israel.” (Yehoshua 10:11)
But then came an ever greater miracle. The sun was setting as Yehoshua pursued his fleeing enemies, so he commanded the sun to halt. Never before or after did Heaven fulfill such a request by demonstrating that “Hashem wages war for Israel.” (ibid. 12-14)
The Valley of Ayalon also witnessed the battles of the Maccabees, the Romans, Arabs, Crusaders, and the British in World War One. Nearby Latrun was the scene of heavy fighting in the 1948 War of Independence. After the war, the settlement of Mishmar Ayalon was established in a deserted Arab village on a hill overlooking the valley.
Valley of Sorek (Emek Sorek)
Nahal Sorek (Hebrew: נחל שורק, lit. Brook of Sorek), also Soreq, is one of the largest, most important drainage basins in the Judean Hills. It is mentioned in the Book of Judges 16:4 of the Bible as the border between the ancient Philistines and the Tribe of Dan of the ancient Israelites. It is known in Arabic as Wadi es-Sarār, sometimes spelled Surar and by various names along different segments, such as Wadi Qalunya near Motza, Wadi al-Tahuna, and Nahr Rubin further downstream.
The Valley of Sorek begins in the highlands, a few miles from Jerusalem. It twists and turns westwards, descending down into the foothills (the “Shephelah”). At this point, the valley formed the border between the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. It keeps descending until it eventually hits the Coastal Plain, which is where the Philistines lived. At that point the land flattens out—it is a plain after all. The seasonal stream that runs through the valley continues across the Coastal Plain and eventually hits the Mediterranean. If the biblical text is referring to this seasonal stream, then Delilah could have lived anywhere along its course—from the highlands of Judah to the Mediterranean coast.
Led by passionate winemaker Eran Pick, Tzora Vineyards is at the forefront of the burgeoning Israeli wine scene centered in the Judean Hills. Eran is a winemaker to get excited about. Today, most Israeli winemakers have a scientific background and international experience before starting to work as full-time winemakers, and Eran has wine knowledge in spades. He graduated with honor from the University of California, Davis in 2006 with a degree in Viticulture and Enology where he studied with some of the more renowned winemakers in California today, and then spent some time in the California wine country. The California sensibilities learned at Davis combine nicely with the huge accolade that Eran received recently, when he became the first ever Israeli Master of Wine. The MW gives him knowledge of the wine world, styles, and trends as well as a super-focused tasting ability. About his background, Eran says, “both qualifications (MW and B.S. from UC-Davis) are helpful in being a good winemaker. Both complete each other.” He is a student and lover of wine. His palate, at the moment, is favoring Mosel Riesling and Northern Rhône Syrah, of which he says “I’m drinking anything I can get my hands on.”
Valley of Elah
The Valley of Elah, Ella Valley, “the valley of the terebinth” [ (Hebrew: עמק האלה Emek HaElah; Arabic: وادي السنط, Wadi es-Sunt), so called after the large and shady terebinth trees (Pistacia atlantica) which are indigenous to its parts, and best known as the place described in the Bible where the Israelites were encamped when David fought Goliath (1 Sam. 17:2, 19). It was near Azekah and Socho (17:1). On the west side of the valley, near Socho, there is a very large and ancient tree of this kind, 55 feet in height, its trunk 17 feet in circumference, and the breadth of its shade no less than 75 feet. It marks the upper end of the valley, and forms a noted object, being one of the largest terebinths in the area. Rising up from the valley on its extreme south-east end lies the hilltop ruin, Adullam.
The Valley of Elah has gained new importance as a possible point of support for the argument that Israel was more than a tribal chiefdom in the time of King David. At Khirbet Qeiyafa, southwest of Jerusalem in the Elah Valley, Prof. Yosef Garfinkel has discovered a fortified city from the Iron Age IIa dated sometime between 1050 and 915 BC. The fortifications have been said to support the biblical account of the United Monarchy at the beginning of Iron Age II. Others are skeptical and suggest it might represent either a Judahite or Canaanite fortress.
Avshalom Cave Nature Reserve AKA Soreq Cave or Stalactites Cave is a marvelous cave not far from Beit Shemesh. It is one of the Israeli hidden gems.
Inside Stalactites Cave, you are walking on a concrete path with fences around you. You are not allowed to touch the stones since it will ruin delicate chemistry. Once stalactites touched, they stop growing. Next to cave entrance there is a “pet corner” where you can feel several stalactites.
The air temperature in the cave is constant year-round at 22 Celsius and humidity range from 92% to 100%. High humidity together with light will create mold. And National Parks Authority does not want the stalactites covered with fungus (installed lights and flashlights used by guides are not regular ones). Thus, you are not allowed to use any lights including flashes.
British Park extends over some 10,000 acres of the Judean Plain, where you can see planted forests, natural woodland, archeological sites, breathtaking landscapes and a variety of flora and fauna of Israel