Exploring in the Hills of Bet Shemesh
"You can take the Yorkshireman out of Yorkshire, but you can’t take
Yorkshire out of the Yorkshireman."
One of the main reasons we moved to Bet Shemesh, was the lure of the green hills.
They remind me of my upbringing in Harrogate, Yorkshire, a small town in the rural
Yorkshire dales; we would walk out of our home and into
the surrounding fields – the rolling
landscape peppered with Swaledale sheep and Friesian cows, trickling streams, bedecked with the lush deep green grass – stretching forever.
Israel, if you crave green, you either need to
go to the Galilee in the North, or Beit
Shemesh in the center.
The hills around Bet Shemesh are verdant. In Spring they explode with blankets of shimmering flowers. Seasonal fruits and herbs grow wild – first come, first served! Migrating and resident birds of every hew and species. Occasionally, deer will sprint to new cover. As night falls, the coyotes howl like the wolves of yesteryear.
Ancient buildings, wells, cisterns, presses and mills attest to millennia of peoples living on these hills. Terracing can be as old as recorded history.
In over a decade of strolling these hills, I have found surprising ‘finds’ every time – without fail.
This past week my son Ariel and I took a short walk, equipped with small torches we could strap to our heads.
Ariel encouraged me to snoop off the track in a particular direction, and we found several ruined buildings, and a cluster of caves, wells and threshing floors – all previously unknown to us.
Judging from the thick undergrowth blocking the entrances of the caves, and the lack of signs of life inside – we seem to have been the first people to visit these caves in many years.
While not exactly Indiana Jones - we did feel a genuine thrill of connecting to Eretz Yisrael and discovering new (to us) ancient artifacts.
In recent months, with the bulldozers and massive building projects of Ramat Bet Shemesh Gimmel cutting out huge swathes of our hillsides, I am getting wistful about the disappearing hills.
It is a small price to pay for the miracle of our mass-return from our exile (kibutz hagaluyot) – and the accompanying housing needs.
But a price, none the less.