(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
"I know exactly where Adulam Park is, it's located in the foothills of the Lower Judean Plain, near the village of S'rigim," said eight-year old Tomer, whom we met at KKL-JNF's Givat Yeshayahu center on one of the intermediate days of Sukkot. Tomer, who is from Tel-Aviv, was with his parents and sisters, Gal and Shani, for an afternoon of activities at the ruins of the Second Temple village of Etri at Adulam Park, which has been adopted by KKL-JNF France. When we asked how he knew exactly where the park was located, he looked at us with surprise: "That should be obvious - before we came, I looked it up on Google."
Despite the unseasonable heat, about eighty people, parents and children, met at Givat Yishayahu, from where they traveled by car to Adulam Park. The day's activities were led by KKL-JNF national service volunteers, who made the ancient village come alive at various sites at the ruins, where the families learned about life here two thousand years ago.
But after all, this is the age of computers. When Elad, one of the KKL-JNF guides, asked the group how archaeologists found the site, one of the children answered immediately: "By GPS!" Elad laughed and explained: "After the site was discovered, KKL-JNF understood the potential of this region, in terms of its basically untouched natural beauty and its historical value. After declaring it a biosphere park, KKL-JNF presented Adulam Park to the state of Israel as a gift in honor of Israel's sixtieth anniversary."
One of the sites uncovered at Etri was an ancient miqveh, a ritual bath. Rivka, an actress who portrayed a woman who lived in Etri two thousand years ago, asked the children if they knew what a miqveh is: "Isn't that where a bride goes the night before her marriage?" one of the children asked. "True enough," Rivka answered, "but not only. Look, I brought a few of my kitchen utensils with me. We are very careful about the laws of ritual purity and impurity, and we must immerse the utensils in the miqveh before using them, just in case an insect or some other ritually impure object came in contact with them." "But how did water get into this cave," asked Eitan, a ten-year old boy from Mevaseret Tziyon. "Good question," answered Rivka. "Do you see the hole in the right corner of the ceiling? Above ground, there is a pool there where rainwater was collected and then channeled into the miqveh. A bush that grows wild here was placed in the water canal to strain the water before it flowed into the cave, to make certain it would always be clean."
Other sites at Etri that the children and their parents visited included a burial cave, a public building with an underground passage originally used for storage, then later for refuge during the time of the Great Rebellion, an ancient oil press, and of course a modern-day sukkah. The children loved every minute, especially crawling through the underground caves, and at the end of the day, they were experts on the history of Jewish life during the Second Commonwealth.
Dinah Segal, a resident of Beit Meir, came with five children, three of her own and two of her friend's: "We love visiting different places in Israel, and we had heard of Adulam Park, but somehow never managed to make it here before. Participating in activities is a perfect way to learn about this site. Who would have thought that we'd find actors waiting here to meet us?"
Yaron and Rachel from Tel Aviv and Yaniv and Rinat from Ashkelon decided that the KKL-JNF activities at the Etri ruins would be a new experience for both their families, who like to go on outings together: "We come here in the spring to see the beautiful wildflowers that carpet the park. This was the first time that we visited the Etri ruins, and although the activities were geared towards the children, we also learned a lot of historical facts that we didn't know previously."
In the sukkah, the KKL-JNF guide asked the children were asked why we were commanded to build sukkot. Six-year old Yirmi was quick to answer: ""The Jews escaped Egypt and were on their way to Israel. They had to build huts because there wasn't any place for houses in the desert. But now that we live in Israel, Jews are allowed to have houses all year long."
Adulam Park, rich in nature and historical sites, spreads out over
an area of about 40 thousand dunams in the Lower Judean Plain, south of
Beit Shemesh. During the Second Temple era, this region boasted one of
Israel’s largest population centers.
In the past, this formerly
desolate area provided a haven for smugglers, illegal workers and
thieves of archaeological artifacts. The building of the security fence
changed this reality and transformed the site into a mecca for nature
and history lovers. With the help of KKL France, KKL-JNF developed the
park, creating bicycle paths and roads, along with protecting its
flora, fauna and historical sites. Visitors provide local residents
with a means of earning their livelihood from tourism. KKL-JNF’s
approach is to work together with the local populace so as to ensure
sustainable development for all the pieces of the local environmental
mosaic. Adulam Park is a perfect example of how this policy is
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