Wednesday, 20 November 2013

ScaVentures in Gush Etzion

I make no secret of the fact that I love Tali Tarlow's Scavenger Hunts. I have already "hunted", with map, pack and source sheet in hand, in Jerusalem's Old City and the narrow winding lanes of Nachlaot. When Tali contacted me to tell me that she had created a new "Scaventure" in Gush Etzion, a group of communities located in the Judaean Mountains directly south of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, it was just a matter of me saving the date. There was no way I was going to miss it!
This hunt was a family affair. Unlike the other hunts which I had completed by foot, this time my whole family joined me to explore Gush Etzion by car, jumping in and out of it to find the clues and see the sites. My kids thought we were on HaMerotz LaMillion, Israel's version of The Amazing Race. It was actually our first real visit to the area and was exciting for us all to discover the ancient relics and modern settlements of the Gush. 
We started the day in Kfar Etzion, an Israeli settlement and religious Kibbutz re-established in 1967. A sound and light show told us the harrowing story of the original Kibbutz and its fall in 1948. With our hearts in our mouths we set off on our allotted route (so that the various teams driving around the area do not arrive at the same point each time), eager to learn and equally eager to have fun.
Our first stop was at the original kibbutz Masu'ot Yitzhak. Founded in 1945 by young pioneers from Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Germany, it was captured and destroyed by the Arab Legion in 1948. We stopped by the spring at Ein Yitzhak, a centre point to many hikers in the area, and the boys had time to cool off (above). We saw the water tower at the Gush Etzion regional centre and learnt the story of the Alon HaBoded, the Lone Oak, a 14 metre high oak tree which between the War of Independence (1948) and the Six-Day War (1967) was the only sign of the destroyed communities of Gush Etzion. Today it stands tall and proud and has become the symbol of the Gush Etzion regional council.
We followed Derech Ha'avot, the Patriarchs Route, which was the route frequently travelled by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as mentioned in the bible, then returned to modern times with a stop-off at the truly wonderful Pina Chama, the Cosy Place. Set up in 2001 in memory of two locals who were murdered by terrorists, Pina Chama is a refreshment station for soldiers and police serving in the area and is manned entirely by volunteers. There are usually more than 200 soldiers coming in over the course of a day and most of them say that doing miluim, or duty, in the Gush is worthwhile because of this wonderful station.
We'd been on the go for several hours and the last stop of the day at the Biyar Aqueduct was a welcome one. Torch in hand and trousers rolled up high, we entered the 2000 year old water channel built to take water to Jerusalem from springs in the Hebron hills. Using only the force of gravity, the aqueduct was an amazing engineering feat. From the entrance we followed our guide south and wiggled our way through water and mud. The youngest son was in his element!
Another Scavenger Hunt had come to an end. I think that this was perhaps my favourite... but then I say that every time! Certainly the kids had fun and they'd learnt so much along the way. Even Mister Handmade in Israel was enthusiastic!
Tali runs ScaVentures throughout the year. If you want to get in touch with her and join in for yourselves, you can contact her here.


Miss Val's Creations said...

What a fun thing to do together as a family! I bet they will be joining you on all the future scavenger hunts!