Tel Azekah, Valley of HaElah and David and Golaith are the story of this day’s tour. This is the site to let your imagination run wild. Listen to the Philistine soldiers ranting. See Goliath slowly approach the battle field below. Watch young David bend over to choose the stones for his sling!
Perched 117 m above the rolling hills of the Judean lowlands (Shephelah) sits Azekah, in antiquity one of the main towns and the regional center of the fertile plains of the magnificent Valley of Elah. For millennia, Azekah flourished and grew, benefiting from both its rich natural and strategic location on one of the main routes leading from the coastal plain to Jerusalem and the south. Water was supplied from Nachal Elah.
Today, most of the finds (burial caves) are covered by sand, and one can no longer enter the small and moderate system of hiding tunnels from the time of Bar Kokhba. But due to restrictions at the time, the British excavators had to backfill their project. The site is reached through the Britannia Park. The park has special accessible parking and picnic tables, however the mound can only be reached by foot. The Azekah Mound is open and there is no entrance fee. The travelers who climb up to the top of Tel Azekah are accompanied by Biblical verses that are etched on plaques, some of which describe the battle which took place nearby between David and Goliath. At the top awaits the visitors a beautiful plaza from which one can look all around toward the Coastal Plain, the Valley of Elah, the Mountains of Jerusalem and more. Just sit in the shaded plaza and imagine the Israelite on the hill across Nachal Elah on Socho Mound and the Philistine forces on Tel Azekah where you are sitting. Can you see David picking up his five stones from the Elah brook?
The mighty Assyrian king Sennacherib called “an eagle’s nest…with towers that project to the sky like swords”. This is the Judahite stronghold that Sennacherib bragged about, “With the power and might of Ashur, my lord, I overwhelmed the district of Hezekiah of Judah…Azekah, his stronghold, which is located between my land and the land of Judah…I besieged by means of beaten earth ramps, by great battering rams brought near its walls, and with the attack of foot soldiers…I captured this stronghold, I carried off its spoil, I destroyed, I devastated, I burned with fire.”
100 years later, once again Azekah was an important Judahite border-stronghold, mentioned by the garrison at Lachish that cried out probably at the time of its capture by the Babylonians in 586 BCE: “We cannot see any more the fire-signals of Azekah”.
Azekah is above the valley below that is remembered in cultural memory as the arena of the battle between the boy David as he confronted the giant Goliath.
Another glorious page of Azekah’s history took place in the Hasmonean period, at the top of the mound where there is a massive fortress built by the great Hasmonean king, John Hyrcanus I.