Tel Gezer & Carmei Yosef

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Half way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, in the foothills of the Jerusalem Hills, Tel Gezer National Park houses impressive archaeological ruins in a tranquil natural setting. Today, the surrounding Gezer Region houses small villages such as Carmei Yosef, with eco-touristic sites, and a monthly market.

Tel Gezer National Park

Seldom does one site have so many histories to tell. However, should a chronicle of the land of the Tel Gezer be written it would begin with the ancient and Biblical world and end with the present day.  Across the Gezer’s thirty acres of land ruins from the Iron and Bronze Age lay side by side with Roman roads and 20th century monuments.

View of Tel Gezer. Image credit Ranbar
View of Tel Gezer. Image credit Ranbar

History

Over 3000 years ago the Gezer was a major city strategically situated above a coastal byway that serviced traders, warriors and travelers for thousands of years.  To the delight of an archeologist buff recently excavated discoveries here include the original bricks from the gate that surrounded the Canaanite city as well as King Solomon’s Gate, as mentioned in the Bible and believed to have been built in the 10th century BCE.  Other excavated finds include the Gezer calendar – a 10th century BCE inscription on a small limestone tablet – and considered the oldest ancient Hebrew document so far discovered.  Yet, undoubtedly Gezer’s most mysterious and impressive treasure is the collection of monumental stones – the Middle East’s very own Stonehenge!  Several scholars believe these to have been built as a Monolith temple which served as a venue where alliances between tribes or city states were forged or renewed.  The ten monoliths may have symbolized the city of Gezer and nine allied cities in its vicinity.  The basin may have served as a container for a blood libation poured during an alliance ceremony.

The stones at Tel Gezer. Image credit Laura Arenson
The stones at Tel Gezer. Image credit Laura Arenson

In modern history, in 1946 a limestone memorial surrounded by olive trees was erected in the nearby Hamaginim Forest.  This was dedicated to the 436 Holocaust survivors who came to Israel in the aftermath of World War Two completely alone, joined the Israel Defense Forces and fell on the battlefield of Israel’s War of Independence.  Today the memorial extends its commemoration to all soldiers fallen in Israel’s wars, throughout the generations.  At another site in the forest is a pile of authentic bricks from the crematorium at Auschwitz-Birkenau brought over by Israeli schoolchildren in recent years.

Visiting Tel Gezer

Located on the western slopes of the Judean hills half way between the cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the Tel Gezer national park is an easily accessible and affordable place to visit.

The view from Tel Gezer. Image credit Laura Arenson
The view from Tel Gezer. Image credit Laura Arenson

As well as being immersed in a fascinating and rich history Tel Gezer is a place of breathtaking beauty. On a clear day one can look out into the distant background onto views of Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Modi’in.  A particularly special time to visit is during the months of spring when the ground is carpeted with red poppies and lilac cyclamen flowers.  As such, in addition to being a major archeological site the park offers plenty of recreational activities.  A sprawling expanse of green only minutes away from urban surroundings this is a spacious haven perfect for bike rides, gentle hikes and family picnics.

Visiting Information

The park is open all year round and free of charge to enter

By train:  Lod station and short taxi ride

By car:  From Tel Aviv follow route 44 until the Carmei Yosef sign.  There is a car park free of charge in the center of Carmei Yosef.

Carmei Yosef

The village of Carmei Yosef is located on a hill just south of Tel Gezer and adjacent to the Ayalon Valley and Hamaginim Forest.  Established in 1984 it is now home to around 430 families.  In addition to finding a selection of family-owned vineyards, restaurants and bakeries the village offers picturesque viewpoints of the neighboring surroundings and a real sense of community spirit.

Melo HaTane Organic Farm

Strawberries at Melo HaTane. Image credit Laura Arenson
Strawberries at Melo HaTane. Image credit Laura Arenson

One of Carmei Yosef’s most treasured assets is the Melo HaTane Bio Organic Farm.  The farm grows over 60 different kinds of organic fruits, vegetables and herbs and has 30 bee hives producing honey. While touring the gardens visitors can (depending on the season) pick fresh berries, figs and cherries to take home with them.  In addition, between the months of September – December visitors can collect olives from the farm’s olive vineyard, learn about olive oil production and watch the farm’s oil press in action.  Next to the plantations is a visitor’s center filled with antique farming tools including a 300 year old machine for grinding and roasting sesame which the owner Hilaf Menachem still uses today for producing his halva and tehina.   Here visitors can also sample some of Menachem’s delicacies including a selection of halvas, spreads, coffee and liquors.  There is also the opportunity to purchase some of the organic products grown on the premises.

The farm is open every day except Sunday, 10:30 – 17:00, and 10:30-15:00 on Fridays. Admission price:  A tour of the gardens, including the opportunity to pick and taste products costs 35NIS per person. 

Carmei Yosef’s Monthly Market

On the last Friday of every month between the hours of 8:30 – 15:00 residents and local businesses gather in Carmei Yosef’s open-air central plaza for the village’s monthly market.  Showcasing the community’s skills and the land’s  rich produce items on sale include fresh breads, cakes, biscuits, cheeses, wines, olive oil and traditional home-cooked dishes as well as arts and crafts, jewelry and second hand books and toys.  Providing live musical performances, children’s entertainment and a great community spirit, a visit to Carmei Yosef which coincides with this monthly market is a perfect time to visit this region.

Visiting Carmei Yosef

Directions to Tel Gezer & Carmei Yosef:

By train:  Lod station + short taxi ride

By car:  From Tel Aviv follow route 44 until the Carmei Yosef sign.  There is a car park free of charge in the center of Carmei Yosef.

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