Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Herodion 1: Givat HaArba

Well, the week of Pesach is over, and I'm back to blogging! It was a wild and crazy Pesach, and I was darting all over the country on tours. One of my favorites was a tour to the Herodion, one of the most significant archaeological finds dating to the period of Roman rule.
To get our bearings, we first went to Givat HaArbah, "The Hill of the Four," which was once a Jordanian position a few meters across the "Green Line," the 1949 armistice line between Israel and the Jordanian occupied territories. The hill got its name from four Israelis who strayed too close to the border and were killed by Jordanian sentries. Today, it provides a commanding view of the surrounding area.

TO the north is Kibbutz Ramat Rachel. This Kibbutz was founded in 1926. As was true for the entire country, the facts on the ground set the borders of the state. Because the Kibbutz was able to survive the Jordanian invasion of 1948 through to the end of the war, the "Green Line" was drawn to include it. The border ran right through the valley in between them (shown below.)

Olive groves in the border of Kibbutz Ramat Rachel
The fight to capture Givat HaArbah in 1967 was tough and bloody. Soldiers who tried to capture it by direct assult were gunned down in the fields. Eventually, the Air Force was called in and bombed out the bunkers.

Bombed out Jordanian bunkers.

Closer Up

To the west is the "contraversial" building project of Har Homa. This hill, which was across the border, housed the remains of a Byzantine era defensive fortress. The only clearly visible remain from a distance was the "Wall," or "Homa," in Hebrew. Israeli soldiers guarding the border looking across aptly named it "Har Homa," "Wall Mountain," and the name stuck. Recently, construction of a massive new Jewish neighborhood has been continuing apace, and Prime Minister Olmert incurred the wrath of his American handlers when he approved a few hundred additional housing units there last month.

Har Homa

Har Homa up close

To the south, is Beit Lechem, "The House of Bread," also known as Bethlehem. The birth village of David Hamelech, King David, it is today firmly under the anarchic realm of the Palestinian Authority.

Olive groves and terraces, on what is probably some of the most expensive real estate in the country, and Bethlehem.

The spires of churches in the old city of Bethlehem peeking up ober contemporary buildings. Today the city has been largely Islamified, and it seems likely that it will have been completely de-Christianized in the coming decades.

A large concrete wall shelters civilization from the Palestinian Authority.

And off in the distance is the Herodion. It's clearly artificial top, and the lowered top beside it, make it an obvious landmark.

Next stop... the Herodion.

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