The Shfela  (Lowlands)

Southwest of Jerusalem, the Shfela is a region of gently rolling hills made of soft chalk and "Mediterranean scrub-lands", evoking deja-vus of Biblical shepherds.  From the dawn of history, various civilizations have quarried the hills for building material, underground olive presses, dovecotes, cisterns, burial chambers, and hideout tunnels and caves.

Like every region in Israel, the Shfela offers "too many" things to see and do.  Let's start with the caves......

 Bar Kochva Hideout Caves:  Who's up for the most adventurous of the Shfela caves?  

From 132 - 135 CE, Shimon Bar Kochva led the Jews to rebel against the cruel Roman Emperor Hadrian.  Extensive rabbit-like tunnels and caves were dug to hide from the Roman Legions.  Some of them have been excavated for us to explore today.  With flashlights, we intrepid explorers crawl through pitch black tunnels on hands, knees, and stomachs to roomy caves, and we are filled with awe at what our ancestors accomplished and endured.

For adult readers with furrowed brows-----KIDS LOVE THIS!  Any uncertain grown-ups can wait for us outside and enjoy the scenery.  But many parents do come in with us.

 Twin Cave:  A short trail in a dry riverbed leads to a cavernous black cave.  The group is briefed on the marvels of bats so that everyone enters in awe (and not hysteria) of the shadowy forms flitting high on the ceiling, incessantly squeaking about heaven-knows-what.     (Come on ----This bat is cute!)                    After exploring the depths of the cave, we continue up the trail to a natural rock slide, which kids love.  (Note:  The bats and the rock slide are secrets until the kids arrive there.)

Beit Guvrin National Park:  Surrounded by pristine Shfela hills, Beit Guvrin has a trail leading to every kind of cave mentioned above. Also, for 3 hours of surefire fun and fascination for all ages, one can sign on to be an archaeologist with "Dig for a Day".  You are brought to a roomy cave, and told how to dig and sort out what you find.

C'mon, this bat is cute!

 Luzit Caves:  These are huge white chalk bell-shaped caves connected to each other, unmarked in the countryside, filled with soft daylight and shadows.

 Adullam Cave:  Fabled to be one of David's hideouts from King Saul, this cave is tucked into a silent lonely hill across from the Biblical Ela Valley, blanketed with rural fields, and Hebron ridge, studded with Arab villages.

Emerging from caves in the Shfela.......

Latrun Armored Corps Memorial:  A visit to one of the hundreds of war memorials is usually included on any Israel trip.  One of the larger ones is Latrun:

  • A memorial for the 4,965 fallen soldiers in Israel's Armored Corps
  • The site of the famous 1948 Battle of Latrun
  • An open air museum of about 100 kinds of armored vehicles (mainly tanks) that kids love to clamber up upon

 Tel Bet Shemesh:  A small excavation of the Biblical city in the area where Sampson roamed, and where the Ark of the Covenant returned from the Philistines.

Tel Azeka:  From atop this hill, we see the Valley of Elah below, and we recount the story of stories------David and Goliath.

Itri and Borgin:  Two small hilltop excavations of 2000 year old Jewish villages.

Kakadu:  This isolated-in-nature art studio creates many common household items, such as cup holders, floor mats, toilet seats, and trays made of wood, and painted with bright colors and whimsical designs, inspired by aboriginal art.  

Tel Tzora:  A small ruin of a Byzantine farm with a "360 view" of the Shfela unfurling westward to the Mediterranean and eastward to the Mt. Hebron range; perfect for a sunset picnic and listening to unseen howling jackals.  Also a good point from which to hike to a Bar Kochba cave.

Wineries:  Many wineries are in this area----at least 7------some posh and elegant, and others more home-spun and earthy.

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