Emek Ha’Ela (Ela Valley or Valley of Elah) lies along Route 375 – near its junction with Road 38.
By the way, “ela” is a term for the terebinth tree, a tree that is indigenous to the area and grows there in great quantities. It produces turpentine, which is why it is also called turpentine tree.
A quick perusal of Samuel 17 in the Old Testament will remind us that this was the scene of the battle of David and Goliath. Saul and his army were camped here and Goliath the giant challenged them daily to a one on one combat to settle the battle with the Philistines. David was the youngest of Jesse’s sons and was sent to check up on his brothers. He took up the challenge that had been refused by all of Saul’s army, found the armor to be too heavy and instead fought with a sling and shot and invoked the name of the Lord and triumphed over Goliath. This became the definitive triumph of the principled and God-fearing underdog over the bully.
The valley’s historical and Biblical significance, as well as the variety of flora and fauna, make it as one of Israel’s most important tourist destinations.
Tel Socho – Turmus (Lupin) Hill
David married Saul’s daughter Michal and became a member of Saul’s court and close friend of Saul’s son Jonathan. In time he succeeded Saul – see more of David’s story in our article on Mt Zion.
There is nothing left to recall the battle today, but, there are some stunning views and if you go the top of Tel Sokka (Tel Sacha) and read the 1 Samuel 17 out loud it will do its magic.
About 2.5Km after Ela Junction along road 38 on the right there is an entrance to a dirt track that leads to Tel Sokka. The opposing army stood on the top of Tel Azka (on road 38 at Azka Junction and then in to Park Britannia).
Tel Socho is famous in Israel for the dramatic blossoming of the “turmus” or wild blue lupines in late winter and early spring. See the Turrmus (Lupin) Hill album.
On the elevated plateau, you can also see the foundations of the ancient dwellings which are carved straight from the bedrock with individual chambers separated by protuberances consisted of broken stones. The landscape is scattered with several well-preserved ancient caves, grottoes, and cisterns carved deep into the rock.
Netiv HaLemed He
Further east along Road 375 you will find a more modern story of heroism, although unfortunately in this case the weak did not triumph.
Kibbutz Netiv HaLamed He (Hebrew for “The Way of the 35”) was established on August 16, 1949. This kibbutz honors the 35 soldiers who undertook a forced march from the Bet Shemesh area in January 1948 (during the 1947-1948 Civil War) to try and relieve the siege in Gush Etzion. They were spotted by some of the locals (one version is a shepherd whom they spared warned to Arabs). They fought to the last man. Ultimately, Gush Etzion fell and was not recaptured until the Six Day War of 1967.
You can find a couple of memorials that commemorate their bravery. You can listen to an informative sound track as you enjoy the views.
Along Road 38 you will find the entrance to Park Britannia (Britain Park) – a pleasant place to relax. Follow the signs for Massua and enjoy the view. As mentioned Tel Azka is located within the park. There are many picnic and playground spots definitely a place to unwind and let everybody run around. Renowned Israeli dance group Vertigo runs a studio and an eco-art village in this kibbutz, whose population is at 654 (as of 2019).
Getting to Emek Ha’Ela
From Road 38 turn east at Ha’Ela Junction on to road 375 which leads to the Jerusalem Hills and is a scenic route in its own right. This is Emek Ha’Ela or the Ela Valley.