Saturday, May 2, 2009

Tel Gezer

This morning's excursion was to Tel Gezer (check out the link to the parks board site, it's in Hebrew unfortunately, but very informative). I "called Martin's bluff" and he and Dean met me at 6am and off we motored to Karmi Yosef. The instructions off the web were spot on. We drove through the Moshav and parked on the dirt road that leads to the Tel. It looks unassuming from the road , which in ancient times was the junction of the main coastal highway connecting these lands to Egypt and Jerusalem (about 30km to the east). Gezer's history in a nutshell: Strategically placed with a view of the whole Shefelah (plain), it was initially conquered by Joshua. It was then under Philistine rule and was conquered by King David. According to the Bible, Pharaoh (probably Merneptah) first destroyed the city then gave it as a dowry to one of Solomon's wives. There are something like 26 layers of civilization at the site. Most of the site was dug in 1902 by R. A. Stewart Macalister, who carted off all the good finds to the British Museum and The Museum of the Ancient Orient in Istanbul.

The views are amazing. On one side you can see as far as Tel Aviv and the sea . On the other side is the Ella Valley, leading to Beit Shemesh, hazy in the early morning light .

Their most interesting find was the "Gezer Calendar", a giant replica of which is displayed at the site (the original is limestone, 11x7cm) . It's one of the oldest known examples of Hebrew writing, dating back to the 10th Century BCE and is believed to be a schoolkid's memory exercise.

There is much evidence of strong walls and big buildings , store rooms, guard towers and "Solomon's Gate" . Shards of pottery and ceramics are everywhere. Dean found this "proof", a piece of a handle to a ceramic pot, lying on the path . Of course, we returned it to it's resting place.

We saw some storks , and beautiful spring flowers of all shapes and colors and sizes .

Most interesting is the 10 monolith temple, with stone basin which is believed to be the venue where Gezer and nine neighboring cities forged an alliance. The basin may have served as a container for "blood libation" (according to the sign). Their water system is also particularly impressive. From this entrance they dug 40 meters into the rock till they reached ground water.

After walking the ring path around the Tel we made our way back to the car. Then, we had a "only in Israel" experience. Below one of the houses bordering the road, we met a man watching the bee-eater birds through his binoculars. He asked where we had been and we explained that we explored the Tel. He offered to show us something remarkable in his house. He leads us through his yard, past all sorts of interesting stones, into a gallery . Gershon Harel, our host, has been sculpting (obsessively) for three years. He makes figures out of clay. But, that's not all. He tells us that when he built his house he discovered an ancient (3000 year old) burial crypt in his basement (that's Dean being brave going down the stairs). Macalister and his archeologists removed anything interesting, but Gershon has set it up as a display area. Check it out: , the alcoves and the shadows make it all seem unreal . He certainly has been busy, there are armies of figures . The whole thing is awesome.

Gershon was friendly, intelligent and happy to share his knowledge. There was no overt selling, he was happy for us to just look in wonder. I should have bought some of his owls though.

We were home by 10am. Thanks Mart and Dean for an excellent time.


mart said...

We had a great time BPO. Thanks, you can call my bluff anytime.

I got shat on at home that I did not wake Kim up so next time it will be 2 kids joining us.

Dan Pride said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan Pride said...

f you want to keep up with the dig go to

The lastest and in Great Detail, easily accessible.