Map of the major and minor land routes of Canaan and Israel: Eretz Israel's geography can probably be best described as a spine of mountain ridges running from north to south, with desert to the east, and sand dunes mixed with swamps (at least until recent times) and the Mediterranean to the west. The road system was a vital factor in the geography having a notable effect on the local population, often a pawn between the roving armies of ancient powers.

The Lachish region encompasses the south of the country, extending north east along the border of the Negev desert. The major road runs from the port city of Gaza through Gath, Lachish, Maresha, Beit Guvrin, Azeikah, the Elah Valley and the Ayalon valley before turning east  through the Beit Horon Ascent, to the Hill Road and Jerusalem. There is a break-off road which also runs from Maresha to the Hill Road at Hebron.

 

 

 

Interior of Beth Govrin caves, believed to be result of ancient quarrying: After the destruction of the Temple the local Jewish population was depleted, but not entirely eradicated. Some people succeeded in holding on to their farms although taxes were exorbitant. As some towns declined others took their place. After the destruction of Mareshah in 40 BCE by the Parthians, Bet Guvrin which was until then a small village increased in importance. It is referred to by Josephus as one of the important towns taken by the Romans in 68 CE. Jews remained in Bet Guvrin and the general region at least until Byzantine times. Benjamin of Tudelah found a few Jewish families there on his visit in 1171. Many people moved to Ashkelon and Gaza on the coast, thus ensuring a Jewish presence throughout the Arab invasions up until the Crusades.

Relief from Nineveh depicting King Ashurbanipal and his queen feasting in their garden, attended by servants and musicians: Most of us may think of the walls of Nineveh when we hear the name Lachish. Although the historical pictographs of Sennacherib's battle of Lachish have been preserved in the famous Walls of Nineveh, the history of Lachish predates the Israelite arrival by centuries.

The city was an important Canaanite fortified town since the 2nd  millennium before the common era. Its first inhabitants date back further, probably to the early Bronze Age. Our first encounter with Lachish is through the Tel Amarna letters, two of which were written by local rulers Zimreda and Yabniilu. The entire area was apparently not traversed by our forefathers, who knew it as Eretz Gerar (the Land of Gerar).

 

The Ela Valley in the Judean Foothills. The mound in the center is that of Azeqa, one of King Rehoboam's fortresses. This is the site of the battle between David and Goliath: Of all the biblical stories, none illustrates the theme of pitting  the weak against the strong as graphically as the story of David and Goliath (I Samuel 17). David was living at home with his father in the Bethlehem area when his brothers were mobilized to do battle. The Philistines were camped in Azeikah which controlled the road from Lachish to Jerusalem. On the other side of the dry bed of the Elah was the Israelite encampment. It is easy to imagine the story when you walk in the wadi and see the smooth stones on the ground.

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

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23 Jul 2007 / 8 Av 5767 0