Qumran Caves

It took an errant goat and an impatient herder to find the Dead Sea Scrolls hidden for 2,000 years in Qumran

t took an errant goat and an impatient herder to find the scrolls hidden for 2,000 years in Qumran...

Park Lachish Ashdod is a strange sort of recreation area, for it is made up of three unconnected sections. It was developed by the JNF in 1996 as part of a project to salvage the polluted, clogged up Lachish River and the historic sites nearby.

The first part of the park is a granite obelisk, utterly out of place, a memorial for fallen Egyptian soldiers that towers over open fields. It is a reminder of the withdrawal from Sinai, after Israel and Egypt reached a peace agreement.

Before pulling out, Israel asked the Egyptians to leave its memorials in Sinai untouched. But Egyptian president Anwar Sadat then insisted on the presence of similar monuments in Israel. Over eight meters high, the obelisk is precisely the size of an Israeli monument near the evacuated city of Yamit.

The second part of the park takes you to the banks of the Lachish River, where you can view a British-built pillbox - even climb inside it, if you are very careful. Like others built during the Arab riots here from 1936-1939, it was a guardpost meant to prevent attacks on British railroads in Palestine. At this site it protected Gesher Ad Halom - Up to Here Bridge - the point at which the Egyptian army stopped its advance to Tel Aviv in 1948.

My favorite part of the park is a glorious riverside walk. You will be amazed by the amount of green you see as you begin your stroll. Thick river foliage includes tamarisk trees, cattail, and reeds. You will see an unusually large number of castor-oil plants with large, palm-shaped leaves.

These are the kikayon mentioned in the book of Jonah.

Huge, gnarled tamarisks were planted on the banks, along with a variety of fruit trees, little sycamores, date palms, and carob. Fig trees grow naturally a small distance from the edge of the water; you can taste the fruit when it is ripe. Park Lachish Ashdod encompasses a nature reserve for the prickly white acacia tree, which gets its name from its cream-colored trunk.

Saunter along the riverbed in either direction for about 750 meters, taking side trips down to the docks, resting under attractive pergolas or stopping for a drink of water.

This part of the park is wheelchair accessible. Includes lawns, picnic tables and water for washing.

To reach Park Lachish Ashdod, follow Highway 4 from Ashkelon to Ashdod.

When you reach Gesher Ad Halom Junction - about halfway between the two cities - turn toward the sea (west). After the turn, drive over railroad tracks, then turn right at the sign for Ad Halom Park. You will first reach the obelisk; the pillbox is about 700 meters further on.

The Lachish River walk is also accessible by way of Highway 4. Turn towards the sea at the B'nei Darom Junction and follow Highway 41 into Ashdod and all the way down to the water. Turn left at the port, then follow the signs to the park. Leave your vehicle in the lot and walk the asphalt down to the paved paths.

Qumran is open from 8 to 4 Saturday to Thursday and 8 to 3 on Friday. Last entrance is an hour before closing.