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Move over King David, we need another high-rise

The wanton and frenetic construction of ultra-Orthodox housing is bulldozing precious archeological history

In the hills surrounding Beit Shemesh, cradling the verdant Elah Valley, sits history so rich and so deep that new discoveries are shaping our understanding of the times of King David and beyond.

An ancient Canaanite inscription including a name shared with a biblical rival to King David was found by archaeologists on a pot unearthed at a site in the Elah Valley, west of Jerusalem, researchers said Tuesday. One of them described it as a “once in a lifetime” find…The inscription on a large clay storage jar found at Khirbet Qeiyafa dates to the Iron Age, from around 1020 to 980 BCE…

The discoveries in this site — believed to be where David camped before battling Goliath — are just beginning.

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The site of Khirbet Qeiyafa in the Elah Valley. (Skyview Company/ courtesy, Hebrew University and Israel Antiquities Authority) from TOI

 

But the hills are slated for destruction.

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This tree was marked for preservation– Gimel 1

The city of Beit Shemesh has decided this area, its history, culture and beauty is better served paved.

It is slated for destruction to build 10 new neighborhoods, all to serve the ultra-Orthdodox population. The municipality has stated over and again that the valley, its treasures, historical and environmental significance is of no concern to them.

The 2000 year old mikveh, with its adjacent olive press and grape press, which probably provided olive oil and wine for the Second Temple, have already been destroyed.

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Standing on Lupine Hill looking at the beginning of the construction planned for the entire ridge

Beyond the history and unprecedented archaeological finds are the beauty, the nature, and the ecosystem of this area.

The Elah valley is a vital deer migration corridor and home to a wide array of indigenous wildlife– including some that are endangered.

These hills are treasured. They contain bike trails, hiking trails, wildflowers, secret places and hidden dreams.

Families hike here.

Kids breathe here.

 

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beauty resides here
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it belongs to all of us
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and none of us

The building that is rushing forward is severely lacking in accountability, infrastructure, green space, public facilities, or any true long term planning. It is wanton and frenetic with only one goal and one interest in mind- creating a new Bnai Brak (a very crowded ultra-orthodox city) in the heart of one of Israel’s most treasured natural spaces.

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endless construction

There is no question that people need space to live- this is certainly as true for ultra-Orthodox families as it is for all of us. There is also no question that there is a housing shortage in this country.

However, irresponsible, unethical and rampant destruction for construction based on political interests is not what this country needs.

It needs wise planning, long term thinking, and a balance between local and national interests, human need and preservation of land, culture, history, beauty, and wildlife.

If building our houses destroys our home, what good are we doing?

Concerned residents have begged the municipality to alter the plans in order to preserve significant parts of the valley, include green spaces and provide proper infrastructure.

If you want to see the beginning of what is in store for the valley, you can come and see the new neighborhood of Gimmel that is now spreading across four hilltops and over precious historical finds — directly on the spot where a national park was slated to be established.

Or see the pictures below.

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These were hills of intense beauty, trails, history and wildlife.
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dozens of bulldozers work daily to clear the land
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like this for miles
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Residential towers- no schools, few open spaces

 

There is a terrible short sightedness to the madness that fuels this destruction and once it is done- it can never be undone.

Here is the valley now.

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Current View of the hills slated for destruction with Gimmel 1 growing on top and historical sites circled

 

Here is what they plan to do with it.

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The full plans for 10 neighborhoods across the historical and nature sites.

 

I took this video July 1 and did not manage to get all of the building in it. This is only Gimel 1. Imagine 10 of these.

Gimel hosts minuscule green space, a severe lack of infrastructure, and towers ominously over the verdant Elah Valley telling of what is to come if we do nothing.

BUT

WE CAN STOP THIS

We have one last chance to force the municipality to build responsibly. For residents, for all citizens, for our history and for our future.

After 8 years of legal battles, the fight is at a critical point.

Our appeal is being heard by the High Court (Bagatz) at the end of July. The court costs are tremendous.

It is time for each of us who love this land to step up.

WE NEED YOU 

SERIOUSLY, EACH OF YOU

Buy a tree, a rock, a hiking path–

Invest in our land, in our future in our kids…

TO DONATE CLICK HERE AND HELP SAVE THE ELAH VALLEY!

We need your help, please give generously, share this post and add your voice to ours.

 

About the Author
Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll is a writer and an activist. Cofounder of chochmatnashim.org She loves her people enough to call out the nonsense. See her work at skjaskoll.com
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