Friday 21 March 2014

Tel Arad

The Hebrew 'high place' in Tel Arad... the only one surviving

A view of the city from the citadel of Tel Arad


The well of Tel Arad - which used to be a depression gathering water, around which the city grew
We set out for Tel Arad through the Cremisan checkpoint and the road to Hebron. Just outside the checkpoint Vernet pointed out the many towers dotting the terraced hills: such watchtowers are mentioned many times in the bible. A little further along, the beginning of Wadi Khariton; then the settlement of Efrat or Ephrathah (not Illit Bethlehem or whatever!), and Kibbutz Eleazar, in honour of Eleazar the Maccabee. Eleazar met his death on the nearby plateau: he made a charge against the chief elephant of the Seleucids, managed to bring down the animal, but was crushed when it fell upon him.

The Valley of Berakah remembers the Israelite victory over the Edomites.

Hebron also has marks of Herod: the Tomb of the Patriarchs was built by him, as was a memorial at Mamre, where the angels appeared to Abraham. Hebron is called El Khalil by the Muslims: El Khalil means The Friend of God - a reference to Abraham. A road branches right from the highway, leading to Macpelah, the Tomb of the Patriarchs, sacred today to both Jews and Muslims.

Harhul is the highest point in Southern Judea, more than 1000 m above sea level. The Muslim tradition honours here the tomb of the Prophet Gad, who appears in the David saga.

The southern part of Judea used to be Idumea after the Exile. Here David with 600 men was a fugitive from the vengeance of Saul. It contains also the desert of Ziph. Here also is the Carmel of Judea, where the wise and prudent Abigail spared David from dirtying his hands with the blood of her husband Nabal.

The town of Aristobolias was founded by Aristobulus, the son of Alexander Jannaeus and Alexandra; his brother was the peaceful John Hyrcanus.

Kirioth is reputed to be the birthplace of Judas Iskariot, the only apostle from Judah, but according to Vernet this is not likely.

Extremely fertile lands, and quite green after the recent rains.

And finally, we come to Tel Arad. Tel Arad is an ancient city in Southern Judea, unique because it is the only place in Israel which still has a 'high place' - the only one not destroyed in the reform of Hezekiah and Josiah. These kings were enforcing the Deuteronomic doctrine: all worship should be only in the Temple in Jerusalem, no more high places. The city, in the heart of the desert, is from the early bronze, and existed for 500 years. It has some houses, a Canaanite temple, the high place, and the walls.





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