High Ways of Torah’s goal is to introduce readers, based on explicit references, and textual connections, to places in the Land of Israel with which they might not be familiar, as well as re-acquaint readers with better-known towns. Please see this map for the locations of the places mentioned.
1) Ben-Shemen (yellow on the map) – Many people know the town of Ben-Shemen due to its location at the interchange of Highways 1 & 6, one of the most heavily traversed interchanges in the country. The town’s name comes from Isaiah 5:1, which reads: “אָשִׁירָה נָּא לִידִידִי שִׁירַת דּוֹדִי לְכַרְמוֹ, כֶּרֶם הָיָה לִידִידִי בְּקֶרֶן בֶּן שָׁמֶן / Let me sing of my well-beloved, a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard in a very fruitful hill (ben shemen; lit. “full of oil”). The oil is what connects Ben-Shemen to our Torah portion, as God commands Moses: “And you shall command the children of Israel, that they bring to you pure olive oil beaten for the light…” (Exodus 27:20). Moshav Ben-Shemen was founded in 1905 at the behest of Prof. Boris Schatz, the founder of the art academy in Jerusalem, Betzalel. In 1923, one of the trial farms which split off became the new moshav of Kerem Ben-Shemen. Ben-Shemen suffered damage during the 1948-49 War of Independence, and in 1952, Romanian immigrants joined the town.
2) Beit Zayit (orange on the map) — Continuing on the theme of olives from Exodus 27:20, we next travel to Beit Zayit (“Olive House”), located just west of Jerusalem, at the junction of Highway 1 and the future Highway 16. Founded in 1949, Beit Zayit originally attracted immigrants from Yugoslavia. Located in the “Jerusalem corridor,” which, between 1949-1967, was a narrow piece of land in between Jordanian-controlled territory on its north and south sides, Beit Zayit served to defend this entrance into the capital.
3) Kefar Zeitim (green on the map) — Our last olive-themed stop is Kefar Zeitim (“Olives Village”), located in the Lower Galilee, just west of Tiberias. It was founded in 1950 by Yemenite immigrants. It houses an ORT-sponsored vocational school for ultra-Orthodox teenage boys, whose subjects include computers, carpentry, electricity, and agriculture.
4) Odem (red on the map) — Parashat Tetzaveh describes the magnificent breastplate (choshen) worn by the High Priest in the Temple. The choshen had twelve stones, representing the twelve tribes. One of these stones was the red-colored odem (probably carnelian). Exodus 28:17 states: “וּמִלֵּאתָ בוֹ מִלֻּאַת אֶבֶן אַרְבָּעָה טוּרִים אָבֶן, טוּר אֹדֶם פִּטְדָה וּבָרֶקֶת הַטּוּר הָאֶחָד / And you shall set in it settings of stones, four rows of stones: a row of carnelian (odem), topaz, and smaragd shall be the first row.” The communal town of Odem is located in the Golan Heights, north of Mt. Bental. It was originally founded on the remains of a former Syrian military base in 1975, but due to the difficult weather conditions, most of the original residents left. Those who remained were joined by a new group in 1981. Odem’s industries are manufacturing plastic for furniture, and optics for protective lenses and safety goggles.
5) Bareket (blue on the map) – We return to the center of the country, and stay with the High Priest’s breastplate, as we visit Bareket, located just east of Ben-Gurion Airport. The end of the above-cited verse reads “טוּר אֹדֶם פִּטְדָה וּבָרֶקֶת הַטּוּר הָאֶחָד / And you shall set in it settings of stones, four rows of stones: a row of carnelian, topaz, and smaragd (bareket) shall be the first row.” Bareket is also identified as the emerald, another green stone. Since Bareket’s founders in 1952 worked in quarries, they felt that it would be fitting to name their new town after a hewn stone. They were members of the HaPoel HaMizrachi movement, and came from southeastern Yemen.
6) Shoham (black on the map) – We stay in the area of Ben-Gurion Airport, and move down to the fourth row of the breastplate (Exodus 28:20) – “וְהַטּוּר הָרְבִיעִי תַּרְשִׁישׁ וְשֹׁהַם וְיָשְׁפֵה / and the fourth row: a beryl, and an onyx (shoham), and a jasper…” Shoham was founded in 1993, as part of the 1991 Seven Stars Plan to establish Jewish towns along the west side of the Green Line (1949 armistice line).
7) Even Sapir (purple on the map) – For our final stop, we return to the Jerusalem area, and move up to the second row of stones in the breastplate. Sapir means sapphire, as Exodus 28:18 states: “וְהַטּוּר הַשֵּׁנִי, נֹפֶךְ סַפִּיר וְיָהֲלֹם / and the second row: a carbuncle, a sapphire (sapir), and an emerald.” Located just west of Hadassah Hospital – Ein Kerem, Even Sapir’s founders came from Kurdistan, and established the town in 1950. One opinion says the town was named for the eponymous book, written by R’ Yaakov HaLevi Sapir in the 19th century, while another view says it was named for former Israeli finance minister Pinchas Sapir, who strongly encouraged foreign investment in Israel during the 1950s and 60s.
See you next week, as we continue to travel the land, exploring the High Ways of Torah. Until then, as God told Abraham in Genesis 13, “Up, walk about the land, through its length and its breadth, for I give it to you.”
Many insights are based on Mapat Shabbat/מפת שבת, by Amos Safrai [Jerusalem: Eliner Library, 2012].