At the end of the 1980s, Kfar Saba-born, New York-raised Jake Leibovitz, an American businessman who lives in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Rehavia, launched a plan to build “Beverly Hills” in Israel with a religious character near Jerusalem, similar to palatial residences of California. today there’s little more than a dirt road at the site. In fact, Jake and I were pals on Shvil Yisrael when he began his project.
So many times, as I drive on Route 3855 around Beit Shemesh and Route 367 up to Gush Etzion, the small “Eden Hills” sign at the closed entrance reminds me of Jack and I wonder what ever happened to that project?
Jake Leibovitz became my friend on our monthly hikes on Shvil Yisrael for two and a half years. For may kilometers I wore the Eden Hills cap that Jack provided for all the members of the group. During evening “kumsitz” Jack would share with us the difficulties of his project.
An astute client called the location “Israel’s Napa Valley”. The Gvia’ot Eden Project is planned to attract wealthy American Jews to Israel to purchase 270-450 single-family (on lots to sell for about 2.2 million shekels, with an occupation date set for 2026), and semi-detached and row houses (150–180 square meters). Gva’ot Eden is to be part of a series of communities built along the Green Line (Israel’s pre-1967 border with Jordan) between Palestinian and Israeli communities. Gva’ot Eden’s developer is the veteran contractor Zvi Fuchs, who went into partnership with Leibovitz. The project’s unique mix of intimacy, beauty and excellent location—being very close to Ramat Beit Shemesh, which addresses families’ medical, educational, shopping and transportation needs.
The community of Gva’ot Eden is east of Beit Shemesh, in the heart of a forest rare for its rich, diverse wildlife, surrounded by nature preserves and archaeological sites. Work permits were issued, a building for the site’s guard and workers has been constructed and roads have been created in anticipation of construction, but no building permits have been issued.
The model community, located in the scenic Elah Valley, where David fought Goliath and where Yehuda met Tamar.
The site of Eden Hills is next to moshav Neveh Michael also known as Roglit (formerly been known as Khirbet Jurfah), leaving no traces of their former designation, in the Adullam region and built upon an eminence in the far south-east end of the Elah Valley, close to where the historic fight between David and Goliath took place.
Neveh Michael was established on 29 July 1958 (12 Av 5718) by Kurdish immigrants from Iran on farm land that had belonged to the depopulated Palestinian village of Bayt Nattif.
Bayt Nattif بيت نتّيف was a Palestinian Arab village, located some 20 kilometers (straight line distance) southwest of Jerusalem. Bayt Nattif, based on Jewish sources, was completely destroyed as a punitive measure for the village’s involvement in the detection and massacre of the Convoy of the thirty-five.
Archaeological finds in Khirbet Jurfah point to a Jewish settlement dating back to the early Hellenistic period and early Roman period. Byzantine Christian compounds were also excavated in Khirbat el-Jurfa.
Khirbit Jubeil Naqqar – near Neve Michael
Israeli Government Backing
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, then a government minister, backed Leibovitz’s plan and bulldozed his way to getting the plan approved, justifying the establishment of the neighborhood.
The main obstacle to final approval is the planning of the entrance bridge to the community. The planning authorities have already approved the bridge’s huge span – 400 meters long and 14 meters above the Nahal HaEla stream. The bridge is meant to ensure that wildlife in the stream isn’t harmed by construction of a road.
The Jerusalem District Planning Committee approved to replace the bridge with a road having wildlife passages.
Green organizations say this project will harm ecologically important areas. Avraham Shaked, an activist with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), heads opposition to the project.
There are many benefits to buying into a new project like Gva’ot Eden. It looks like it is going to be a beautiful development, and prices are often lower when purchased before they get permits. Gva’ot Eden is well on its way and looks like it will have a permit within the next six months.
Memorial to the Deportation of Jews from France
The Mémorial de la Déportation des Juifs de France (יָד לִגֵּירוּשׁ יְהוּדֵי צָרְפַת) is a memorial in Israel to the deportation of Jews from France during the National Socialist era. The memorial is located in a pine forest near Beit Shemesh, near Neve Michael in the Elah Valley, opposite the entrance to Gva’ot Eden.