(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
"And the spirit of God began to move him in the camp of Dan, between Tzora and Eshta'ol" - Judges 13:25
Tzora and Eshta'ol" is exactly where KKL-JNF, with the help of its
friends from Sweden, created a trail that tells the story of Samson,
taking visitors through the area where Samson roamed in biblical times.
The trail is part of Sweden Park, which is located in President's
Forest in the Lower Judean Plain. On an unusually cool summer day, our
small group walked the trail and heard about Samson's adventures from
Galia Doron, a lecturer on biblical history and archaeology who served
as a technical consultant to KKL-JNF when the path was being designed.
We were also accompanied by Yehiel Cohen, deputy director of KKL-JNF's
Central Region, who was also involved in the final stages of designing
and creating this beautiful and informative walk.
After a short
drive on Sculptures Road, during which one can stop to admire
sculptures created by Israeli artists and new immigrants out of large
blocks of rock, we arrived at the Sweden Park donor appreciation
columns, which are located in a recreation area shaded by a carob tree
that is fully accessible to people in wheelchairs.
said that she brought groups here quite often: "I am here at least once
a month with groups from all over the country. We tried to 'squeeze'
Samson's entire life story into this forest, which is located next to
Tel Tzora, where Samson's life story took place. Samson was an unusual
character; he wasn't your typical biblical judge. Although he was a
Nazerite, he was built like Hercules and was fond of women,
particularly Philistine ones. The trail is comprised of a number of
stations, each of which has signposts with verses from the bible
describing different chapters of his life. Under the shade of the carob
tree at the first station, we learn about the extraordinary
circumstances of Samson's birth and how his parents decided that he
should be a Nazerite."
After Galia told the story of how Samson
tore a lion apart with his bare hands, she led us to an area where
KKL-JNF built a long wooden table with tree stumps for chairs. "Here is
where we tell the story of how, after Samson took his first Philistine
wife, he made a banquet and invited all his Philistine friends, where
they had a riddles contest. The people hiking the trail sit around the
table and have something to eat while they hear the story of how
Samson's first wife tricked him into revealing the answer to his riddle
to her and of Samson's terrible revenge." Galia added that since the
table is so convenient and the surroundings so beautiful, she often
finds families celebrating birthday parties at this site.
climb up Tel Tzora was made easier thanks to wooden steps recently
built by KKL-JNF, again with the help of its Swedish supporters. After
the steep climb, we were rewarded with a stunning, panoramic view of
the entire region. In the distance we could see the Judean Mountains,
and Galia pointed out that this was a borderline area, where Jews,
Canaanites and Philistines lived side by side, not always peacefully.
"After Samson burned all the Philistine grain fields, he ran away to
the tribe of Judah, but they extradited him to the Philistines, who
bound him in heavy ropes. But Samson tore the ropes off his hands and
proceeded to kill a thousand Philistines."
We returned to our cars and drove for about ten minutes on the Tzora
Forest scenic road to the Rami Goal Accessible Recreation Area, where
we heard about the last stop on Samson's journey. From the breathtaking
scenic lookout, which Galia claimed was one of the most beautiful views
in Israel, we could see all the way to Gaza and the Mediterranean, and
could imagine Samson journeying between Tzora and the coastal plain,
where he was to fall in love with yet another Philistine woman,
Delilah. "We all know the soap opera that tells how Delilah eventually
nagged Samson into revealing the secret of his great strength to her,"
Galia continued. "After his hair was cut off, the Philistines bound him
and took him through the Nahal Sorek valley, which is at the foot of
this hill, to Gaza, where they put his eyes out. And it was through
this valley that his brothers brought his body back after Samson
brought the temple of Dagon down on three thousands Philistines, in
answer to his prayer that they be killed along with him. He was buried
next to his father, 'between Tzora and Eshta'ol.'"
Israel is the land of the bible, so even if you aren't privileged to
have a guide as knowledgeable and riveting as Galia with you, bring a
Bible and follow the verses printed on the signposts along the trail.
By telling the tale of Samson's life and death in its geographic
context, KKL-JNF makes it come alive in a way bible and nature lovers
will not want to miss.
How to get there: Take the Shimshon Junction-Nachshon Junction road
(Highway 44) and turn at the large wooden sign south of the road,
between kms.1 and 2. Drive for about 10-15 minutes on Sculpture Road
until you arrive at Sweden Park.
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