An Archeological Presentation
Photo: Tania Susskind
At the KKL-JNF offices, which are located about 200m north of Givat Yeshayahu Junction on Highway 38, there is an archeological learning center operated jointly by KKL-JNF and the IAA. The center offers youth and adults the opportunity to participate in excavations being done in Adulam Park, and exhibits archeological artifacts that were discovered in the area, which shed light on the way people lived in the area in ancient times. The center is open from 08:00 to 16:00, including weekends.
Geography, Flora and Fauna
Adulam-France Park is situated in the heart of the Judean Plain south of Beit Shemesh. Nahal Ha'ella (Highway 375) marks the northern boundary of the park, and Nahal Guvrin (Highway 35) defines its southern boundary. The Beit Guvrin – Beit Shemesh Road (Highway 38) defines the park on the west, and the “green line” marks its eastern limit.
Adulam-France Park covers an area of 50,000 dunams, and together with British Park and American Independence Park, creates the green expanses of Central Israel. The northern part of the park is in the drainage basin of Nahal Ha'ella, while its southern part is in the drainage basin of the Nahal Guvrin. Both of these watercourses are tributaries of Nahal Lachish, which flows into the Mediterranean Sea near Ashdod.
Adulam Park is comprised of low chalkstone hills up to 400m above sea level. Chalkstone is soft and easily hewn. Throughout history local residents took advantage of the softness of the rock and dug innumerable caves in the hills for a great variety of purposes.
Photo: Yossi Zamir.
For the most part, the white chalk rock is overlaid with a harder layer of gray rock up to two meters deep. This layer is nari stone. The hills are covered with Mediterranean woodland, sometimes dense and sometimes sparse. These areas are not suitable for farming and are therefore used mainly for grazing. On the edges of the park, there are forests that were planted by KKL JNF, north near Aderet and south near Nechusha.
Between the hills there are low and broad vales that are suitable for agricultural cultivation, mainly vineyards and unirrigated crops. These vales have been farmed at least since the Byzantine period, if not earlier, as their ancient agricultural terraces indicate.
Remnants of ancient settlements have been found on almost every hill. Scores of archeological excavations cover the hilltops, which mainly feature the Jewish communities of the second temple period, the days of the Bar Kochba revolt and the era of the Mishnah and the Talmud (concurrent with the Byzantine period).
The natural woodland that covers the hills of Adulam is comprised primarily of carob trees with large mastic bushes between them. They are often accompanied by low growing buckthorns and oaks. In places where the natural woodland has disappeared, and on the steeper slopes where the hard nari stone has eroded and vanished, low brush prevails, primarily poterium. In winter and spring the open meadows are covered with beautiful wildflowers, and there are magnificent Atlantic terebinth trees near the ruins of Adulam.
Israel’s larger mammals are well represented in the park. These include the gazelle, the golden jackal, the fox, the wild boar, the badger and the hare. One may also find their rodent friends, the hedgehog, the porcupine and the gerbil, and many other rodents and birds.
A Gift from KKL-JNF to Israel at 60
Amud Caves. Photo: Gidi Bashan.
Just before Israel’s 60th Independence Day, KKL-JNF presented the State with a unique gift, the Adulam biospheric park. The park was presented by KKL-JNF to the prime minister and the people of Israel at a gala ceremony in April 2008. On the occasion of the ceremony, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert toured the Etry Ruins and the ancient synagogue, after which he signed the Declaration Scroll of the park, which was initially named Adulam Caves Park. He was accompanied by Minister of the Environment Gideon Ezra; Ruhama Avraham Balila, Minister appointed to preside over the 60th Independence Day celebrations; KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler; and Director General of the IAA, Shuka Dorfman.
“There could be no more precious gift presented to the State of Israel,” declared the Prime Minister, “than this splendid Adulam Park, which was a densely populated Jewish area in the time of the second temple. Slowly and surely we are renewing our connections to the past. This is our land, no doubt about it. If anyone is uncertain, we can bring him here to see how Jews lived here over two thousand years ago. Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, the Jewish National Fund, has always been dedicated to the redemption of the land. I am proud to possess a blue box, and I believe it will be possible to sense the magic of the past on the bicycle paths here.” Prime Minister Olmert deplored the phenomenon of antiquities theft, which is frequent in Adulam. “The Antiquities Authority,” he said, “is combating this phenomenon of people who are trying to steal the past and traffic in our history.”
At the ceremony, KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler said, “Adulam Caves Park is part of the biospheric expanse of the Judean Plain, a green belt that crosses the country, where we are working to maintain the character of the terrain and the balance between development, agriculture, nature and open spaces. We see this green strip as an important contribution to the quality of life of the population of Israel. The hundreds of thousands of people who visit this region annually prove that this is not a luxury but an existential necessity. KKL-JNF invites the public to a giant festive event on Independence Day for the inauguration of the park and to celebrate sixty years of statehood.”
“Here, in the Judean Plain,” said IAA Director General Shuka Dorfman, “was the heart of Jewish settlement of the land of Israel. This pastoral location was thriving with life in those days. We found one of the oldest synagogues in Israel here, and underground tunnel systems that Jews constructed before the great revolt, and here we are today, two thousand years later, celebrating sixty years in the State of Israel. We are a point in time in the continuum of history, and it is our duty to continue and transmit our heritage to the next generations.”