Ella Valley

The Ella Valley is one of those delightful places—not uncommon in Israel—where you can relate the scenery to a specific biblical text and confirm the maxim that once you've visited this country, you'll never read the Bible in quite the same way again. Beyond the junction of Route 38 with Route 383, and up to the right above the pinewood slopes of Park Britannia, is a distinctively bald flattop hill, Tel Azekah, the site of an ancient Israelite town. The hills are especially delightful in March and April when the wildflowers are out; hiking paths are plentiful.

In the Ella Valley, the southernmost of the great valleys that cut from the Judean highlands toward the coast, Route 38 crosses a usually dry streambed; 200 yards beyond is a place to pull off and park. If you have a Bible, open it to I Samuel 17 and read about the dramatic duel between the Israelite shepherd David and the Philistine champion Goliath. The battle probably took place close to where you're standing:

And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the valley of Ella, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them.

Look east up the valley to the mountains of Judah in the distance and the road from Bethlehem—the same road by which David reached the battlefield. The white northern ridge, a spur of the mountains of Judah, may have been the camp of the Israelite army. The southern ridge (where the gas station is today) is where the Philistines gathered. The creek, the only one in the valley, is where David "chose five smooth stones." The rest, as they say, is history: Goliath was slain, the Philistines were routed, and David went on to become the darling of the nation and eventually its king.

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