Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tell es-Safi or Tel Zafit or Gath

I had been putting off going to visit Tell es-Safi or Tel Zafit or "Gath of the Philistines" (Arabic, Hebrew and biblical names of the place) for a while. For some reason I was under the impression it was hard to get to and that I needed a 4x4 - maybe this had something to do with Google maps missing the paved road that goes right up to the site. The entrance to the site is off the 383 near the Sorek Interchange, it is well labeled (in the Haruvit Forest) and the roads are excellent. So this morning, post seder, the nephew and I took off to give it a visit. The rest of the family was recovering from a difficult night, post seder.

It is an excellent place and very much worth a visit. There is a spectacular (and well marked) 3Km path around the tel and there is tons to see. Of course, we were the only people awake at this time, except for a lone biker - with whom we exchanged Boker Tovs.

Gath was one of the five Philistine city states (along with Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gaza). The tel has a wonderful view and its strategic placement means it has been settled from the Chalcolithic (around the 5th millennium BCE) until the modern Palestinian village of Tell es-Safi was abandoned in 1948. It is best known as the reputed home town of Goliath of biblical David and Goliath fame.

In the strata dating to the 9-10th century BCE a lot of Philistine material culture was uncovered that helped research into the Philistine way of life. There is a clear destruction layer dating to the late 9th Century BCE. This could be related to King Hazael's (king of Aram Damascus) siege of Gath as mentioned in II Kings 12. There will be another season of digs this summer - you can read much more here.
This the view of the tel from the parking lot. So you can drive right up to the base of the tel and the well marked path takes you around the whole site. It is well worth going to see. Trust me. We made our coffee and ate left over Seder potato kugel for breakfast.
The limestone (I think it's limestone) cliffs surrounding the tell are spectacular and there are many caves and fissures into the rocks.
This is one of the more interesting caves. I wonder what those indents near the roof are for?
A nice view of the tel with some of the informative signposts. More on signposts later.
These are some of the impressive walls that been uncovered in excavation.
The views from the top of the tel are breathtaking, you can see all the way to the coast.
Really spectacular.
So what is that in the middle of the dig? I am so clueless.
More excavations. This is a large site with a lot of excavations and a lot to see. I wish I had someone who know more about it to show me around.
Add ImageThe trail around the tel is dotted with signposts that include choice verses from the bible. There are dozens. While it's nice that someone would take so much trouble as to make nice metal signposts with quotes, wouldn't it have been a lot more informative to use these signposts to tell us more about the site, its surroundings and history? While there are a few strategically placed explanatory signs, there are many more of these signposts with a few lines of biblical text. I just hope they were a donation and not our tax shekels at work.

A nice way to start the Chag.

1 comment:

Jozie said...

Looks lovely. DMS. Should have gone with you.