Gush Etzion

September 13th 2010

Currently home to some 20 thriving communities and 20,000 people, the Judean Hills block known as Gush Etzion did not have an easy start. Today it’s the perfect region for exploring Zionist and Biblical history, Israeli rural living and adventure tourism.

The first Zionist settlers came to Gush Etzion in 1927, established, and then quickly abandoned, a community they called Migdal Eder. A second attempt was made in 1935, when Kfar Etzion was established, but multiple attacks by local Arab marauders made it impossible to stay. In 1943, Kfar Etzion was reestablished, along with three other new settlements. At its pre-state peak, 450 adults lived among these four communities. However, In 1948, during Israel’s War of Independence, enemy attackers killed 240 Jewish settlers and destroyed all four settlements.

Gush Etzion HillsIn 1967, after the Six Day War, Gush Etzion was successfully united with the rest of Israel, a fourth and final time. Don’t miss the exhibit at Kfar Etzion that retells the story of the brave, early settlers whom David Ben Gurion eulogized with these words:

I can think of no battle in the annals of the Israel Defense Forces which was more magnificent, more tragic or more heroic than the struggle for Gush Etzion. If there exists a Jewish Jerusalem, our foremost thanks go to the defenders of Gush Etzion.

Lying at the southern entrance to Jerusalem, the region is made of low hills and valleys. Gush Etzion holds a fascinating place in the Biblical history as well. Abraham and Isaac walked the Gush Etzion hills on their way to the Binding of Isaac. King David cared for his father’s sheep in Gush Etzion and defeated Goliath in the Valley of Elah. Ruth gleaned in the fields of Beit Lechem (Bethlehem), and the Maccabees hid among the caves of Gush Etzion.

Gush EtzionTourists with a preference for the historical will enjoy visiting Gush Etzion’s ancient sites such as the Path of the Patriarchs, Haritoun Caves, the ancient mikvah, Herodian and its underground tunnels and the Biyar aqueduct.

For sports enthusiasts, Gush Etzion offers a range of outdoor activities, such as biking trails, jeep tours, horseback riding, a zipline, Zikit outdoor training and the Caliber Three shooting range.

Shoppers will enjoy the Naot Teva Outlet Store, Rimon Judaica Store, Ruthy’s Gift Store and the Shifon bakery. No matter what you came to Gush Etzion to see and do, consider ending your visit at Gavna, a dairy and fish restaurant amid amazing scenery.