July 30th 2015
The Via Maris, literally “Way of the Sea” in Latin, was a trade route in the ancient world that connected Egypt with greater Syria and Mesopotamia. The “crossroads,” or hub of that trade route is a great place to visit and tour for the day – Tel Gezer National Park, located at the foothills of Judea between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Among the attractions on display here are archeology, natural beauty (the views and flowers in particular), and the mysterious grouping of standing stones that look like a miniature Stonehenge.
Gezer was an important trade post for thousands of years, and archeologists have identified 25 layers of settlement – and that’s only one small section of the 32-acre park. Among the important artifacts discovered here is the “Gezer Calendar,” a small limestone tablet with an inscription from the tenth century that is the oldest Hebrew document of its kind discovered thus far. A replica of the tablet is displayed at the site for you to see when you arrive.
Other archeological remnants include an ancient water system and a gate from the wall that surrounded the ancient city. Discoveries dating to the Middle Bronze Age, as well as the time of King Solomon, have also been found, the latter serving as testimony to the tradition that King Solomon endeavored to fortify Gezer as a strategic military defense point for the region.
Because Tel Gezer is located 210 meters above sea level, you can see a clear shot all the way to Tel Aviv and Ashdod from here on days with better visibility. The vistas alone help to explain the spot’s historic-strategic significance, of course.
Springtime flowers that carpet the area include red poppies and cyclamen flowers. Those visiting in March or April following an especially rainy winter will be in for a dramatic visual treat.
The Standing Stones
Ten monoliths here, each stone unique in both size and shape, may have been used as a temple long ago, some time around 1600 BCE. A stone basin in proximity supports this theory, as the basin itself may have been used in the process of sacrifice.
Another working theory is that the standing stones are symbols representing the commerce that once passed through Gezer, with each stone signifying a different city.
Tel Gezer is an excellent site to visit when you want to spend time outdoors but aren’t necessarily in the mood to, or able to, undertake a rigorous hike. Between the history, the sights, and the multi-monolith mystery, this is a magnificent spot to include in your Israel itinerary.