Location in Israel
The county of Mateh Yehuda is located in the foothills of Jerusalem, on the historical site of the biblical tribe of Judah (Yehuda, in Hebrew)-roughly, the geographic center of Israel. The region spans 520,000 dunams and stretches from the outer suburbs of Jerusalem in the east to the coastal plain in the west. The largest city in the region is Beit Shemesh-located 30 kilometers from Jerusalem and 43 kilometers from Tel Aviv. The convenient location, abundant employment opportunities in the Jerusalem/Tel Aviv corridor, relatively inexpensive housing, a pleasant climate, and beautiful countryside combine to make the region attractive. The county includes 57 villages, kibbutzim (cooperative settlements), and farms. The region is home to two Arab villages and a unique Arab-Jewish community that is based on principles of coexistence, called Neve Shalom - Wahat Al Salam. The region is considered the "green lung" of Israel as it is blessed with many forests, national parks and some of the most beautiful countryside in Israel.
There are approximately 130,000 residents of Beit Shemesh-Mateh Yehuda (90,000 in the city of Beit Shemesh and 40,000 in the county of Mateh Yehuda). Ethnically, the area is very diverse. It is home to immigrant communities from Kurdistan, Morocco, Yemen, Tunisia, India, Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union, and North America. Recently-arrived immigrants constitute 10% of the region's population. Half of the region's population is under 21 years of age. The population of the city of Beit Shemesh quadrupled since 1991! There are ambitious plans for growth, and the region's population will likely exceed 200,000 residents in the near future. The local government attributes great importance to the preservation of the heritage and traditions of the residents, and invests resources to maintain and encourage folklore, culture, dress, and culinary traditions of each and every ethnic group.
Today the Bet Shemesh - Mateh Yehuda region continues to welcome new immigrants from the four corners of the world - Africa, Europe, Asia, North and South America, Australia who come to raise the next generation and give their children the best there is to offer. The "jewel in the crown" is the warmth, caring and feeling of family new comers feel upon arriving in the region.
History of the Region
Throughout history, the region has been the locus of many tumultuous changes. Its pastoral green scenery has been witness to dramatic historic events-including Samson's war with the Philistines (Biblical book of Judges), the rebellion of the Maccabees (origins of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah), and the Bar Kochba Revolt against the Romans (after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem). The archaeological sites in the region attest to thousands of years of history and settlement by different groups-from Biblical to Byzantine times, the ancient city of Beit Shemesh was an important trading station linking Jerusalem to the coast.
Beit Shemesh is listed 19 times in the Hebrew Bible. Several well-known Biblical events took place in this region:
o Samson meets Delilah
o Judah meets Tamar
o David slays Goliath
o The Holy Ark of the Covenant is recovered after the Philistine Captivity and transferred from Beit Shemesh to Jerusalem
The modern city of Beit Shemesh was founded in 1950 as a transit camp for immigrants from Romania (who were refugees from the Holocaust) and Jews from North Africa and Kurdistan (fleeing persecution in their countries). The first homes were tent villages and the furniture was made from shipping crates. By 1952, permanent accommodations were built (some of these early homes still stand in the city and many artifacts from these pioneers days are on display in the community's first synagogue building called Shaarei Tefila.) The city and the region's villages continue to absorb many immigrants.
The picturesque landscape has witnessed hardship and tragedy in recent decades. Most of the villages and agricultural cooperatives were founded in the 1950's by immigrants from Asia and Africa. Local agriculture based on growing fruit and vegetables and raising poultry floundered for many years before almost completely collapsing in the 1980's. Moreover, the area borders on the Hebron and Bethlehem districts of the Palestinian Authority and there have been several fatal terrorist incursions in recent years.
The region of Beit Shemesh-Mateh Yehuda is home to companies working on: cutting edge solar energy technology , development of jet engine technology and component manufacture, production of veterinary medicine, a number of hi-tech startups including Vringo (mentioned in the book Startup Nation) and Iskoot (now part of Qualcomm), a water purification plant and Israel's finest chocolates - Max Brenner. Aside from these and other medium sized factories, the economy consists of mostly small businesses - many them tourism-related such as wineries and art galleries. Farming communities around the city produce some of the country's finest wines, olive oils, herbs and cheeses. The region also has plans to develop a base of "cleantech" businesses.
To learn more about local business check the region's Business Guide:
The Arts & Sport
o The region has two active music conservatories with international competition winning musicians
o Renowned Anadalusian traditional orchestra
o Active high school and ethnic dance and music groups including "Ben HaShemashot" girls choir which recently performed in the United States at the NASA ceremonies in Florida.
o The area is popular for mountain biking and hosts the annual Tour de Beit Shemesh race and Cross-Yehuda Cycling Marathon
Prospects for the region have never looked so promising! Beit Shemesh is slated to become one of three of Israel's "cities of the future". Three villages in Mateh Yehuda have won the "Council for Beautiful Israel Award." Plans to develop the region's tourism infrastructure will increase employment opportunities. Not only are the region's residents no longer leaving for better conditions elsewhere, but new immigrants and veteran Israelis alike are moving into new homes. As the region expands at a rapid rate, the local government is concerned that weaker sectors of the population must not get trampled underfoot. Much must be done to alleviate social and educational deprivation among some of the city's founding families and the many immigrants must be helped to integrate into Israeli society.
The motto of the region is based on the Biblical verse: "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity!" (Psalms 133:1).
For a map of the region go to:
Tourism - Highlights: Features- Attractions of the area include: -
The Soreq Stalactite Cave -www.parks.org.il/BuildaGate5/portals/parks/imagesFILES/Advanced1184151806.pdf
Beit Gemal Monastary:
Tel Beit Shemesh - the site of the ancient city of Beit Shemesh
Tel Azeka-where David fought Goliath
Tel Kaifa - recent uncovered site from King David period
Hirbat Madras - Byzantine Church and Cave
There are many quality festivals held in the region each year including a Wine Festival in October, Food Festival in February-March, Music Festival for Jewish Rock and Soul during the Succot holiday, the Bible Festival in July-August. and many other exciting events. For additional information on festivals contact the Yoav-Yehuda Tourism Association at email@example.com
Our region is heavily travelled by cyclists all during the week and especially on the weekends. Bikes can be rented in the region and terrific guides can be found for a day of on or off road travel. For more information contact: Eitan Hevrony: firstname.lastname@example.org; 050-6238266 or Renee Halpert: email@example.com; 052-350-6592
The "Wine Route" in the region boasts 30 wineries from boutiques to large wineries. Many of the wineries can host wine tasting tours on appointment. The most well-known wineries are Kastel, Flam, Ella Valley and Tepperberg.
For more contact numbers of the wineries go to:
to see their websites go to:
Authentic Rural Ethnic Cooking
The Beit Shemesh-Mateh Yehuda area is also blessed with fabulous home-catering of ethnic food. One can order a meal Kurdish, Yemenite, Moroccan, Indian or Middle Eastern cuisine and dine in the home of the cook (from groups of 10 or more).
For lists of wineries and ethnic home hospitality go to:
The Beit Shemesh-Mateh Yehuda area also hosts numerous artists including painters, sculptors, jewelers, quilt artists and more, who run galleries out of their homes. For a list of art galleries go to:
To coordinate a visit to the local art gallery contact:
Barak Katz: +972-547641667