The Archeological Park at Ramat Rachel
Ramat Rachel’s Archeological Park lies at the heart of a historical and scenic walking tour of an ancient hilltop that became a modern kibbutz. The site contains visible traces of 3,000 years of habitation, stretching back to the period of the First Temple and Judean Kingdom. Visitors can sense the presence of the civilizations that dwelled here over the course of three millennia: “A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever” (Ecclesiastes 1:4). They can touch the original walls of the palace and surrounding fortress that once dominated the landscape. All around them are the fascinating remains of the Persian and Byzantine cultures that followed.
Of particular interest are ritual baths from the Second Temple period and an opulent villa built by the 10th Legion of the Roman garrison. A community of thousands of monks and crusaders occupied the site in the Byzantine era, working mainly to grow and harvest olive trees and vineyards. It was in this latter period that construction flourished, and the remnants of a large church, a dining hall, storerooms, homes, oil presses, and other structures are clearly visible. There are also traces of construction from the First Muslim Period to the mid-8th century C.E. At this stage in history, and for centuries thereafter, the site was abandoned, except for occasional use by farmers in the region. Then, in 1926, the Jerusalem division of the Labor Battalion named for Joseph Trumpeldor passed through the city to settle and establish Kibbutz Ramat Rachel. A large water storage facility, which also offered a panoramic view of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, was built in 1952 on the site where the palace stood. Four years later, the Jordanian army attacked the facility as scientists participating in an Israel Antiquities Authority conference were touring the nearby ruins; four were killed and 17 injured. In the not too distant future, the water tower will serve as a museum and archives documenting the history of Kibbutz Ramat Rachel.
The path threading through the archeological site leads visitors to Mitzpeh Yair, a unique monument erected in memory of Yair Engel, born on the kibbutz as the grandson of two of its earliest members. Its base is the fortress walls of centuries ago, and it rises to what is estimated to be the height of that ancient structure. The monument is therefore a striking link between the time of the Judean Kingdom and our own era. The site also offers a breathtaking view of Jerusalem, old and new. Clearly visible is the hillside road used by pilgrims traveling between Bethlehem and Jerusalem’s Old City. Mitzpeh Yair lies midway along this historical route that connects the birthplaces and burial sites of Jesus and King David.
Planning and Design: Ran Morin, artist
Photography and Text: Yosef Avi Yair Engel (Jucha)
The park was constructed with funding by the Government Tourism Company, the Jewish National Fund, the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Kibbutz Ramat Rachel.
For further information, contact the Ramat Rachel Hotel, tel. 02 6702555