Monday, 12 April 2021

Tzora Forest

We started our hike in the Tzora Forest at Samson's Ridge, a lovely short trail named after the biblical hero known for his great strength and bravery. The trail twisted and turned through the woods and the green fields and views of Beit Shemesh below were impressive. After a few minutes of walking the path led us back to where we started and it was at this point that our real hike in Tzora Forest began.
Tzora has been identified with the biblical Zoreah (Joshua 15:33) and is believed to be the birthplace of Samson. It was here that he killed the lion barehanded and returned to eat the honey from its carcass. A grave which some attribute to Samson and his father, Manoach, can be found in the forest. The altar where his father took a young goat as an offering to G-d and where his barren mother received word of her pregnancy is nearby. "And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman, and said to her, Behold now, you are barren, and bearest not: but you shall conceive and bear a son" (Judges 13:3)
The Palestinian village Sar'a was located in the presumed location of the biblical town. It was captured by Israel's Harel Brigade in July 1948 during the War of Independence and its inhabitants fled or were later expelled.
The trail we decided to follow lead us down towards some orchards and past rows of carob trees and pine forest planted by the Jewish National Fund. This part of the forest was incredibly peaceful and so very beautiful. Narcissus flowers and cyclamen blossomed along the pathways. At this point we stopped to drink coffee and take a short break before following the path all the way to Tzora Forest's top holy site - the grave of Samson the warrior.
Samson lived a very stormy life. It began with his miraculous birth and continued with Israel's wars with the Philistines, which revolved around the romances that he conducted with Philistine women. He died in Gaza by pulling down a Philistine temple on top of its inhabitants and on himself. "And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines"…and they buried him between Tzora and Eshtaol in the burying place of Manoach his father" (Judges 16:31). Jewish tradition identifies Samson's grave in Tzora, at least since the Middle Ages. The historian Josephus says it was in a village called Sarasat.
Kever Shimshon, or Samson's grave, is located is at the top of a tel or hill. There is a plaza and at its centre are two large gravestones, above. On the northern gravestone there is a marble plaque commemorating Samson and on the southern gravestone there is a plaque for Manoach, his father.
It is however not likely that this is the exact place of their burial and some believe that the tomb is in fact a Sheikh's tomb.
The views of the coastal plain, the Judean Plains and the Judean Mountains from this point were breathtaking.
From this point our hike got a little confusing. We followed the trail back down the hill but took a wrong turning and ended up walking a lot further than we had expected. Though we saw plenty of gorgeous flowers and some of the statues along Derech HaPsalim (The Statues Trail), the forest was busy in this area and there was a lot of traffic. The second part of our hike was nowhere near as peaceful as the first!
We did however get to see the Tzora lookout, designed in the shape of a bow of a ship, with amazing views of the Sorek Valley and the city of Beit Shemesh. The stone structure at the lookout was in the past the home of the mukhtar (head official) of the village of Sar'a. During the War of Independence the house served as the temporary headquarters of the Harel Brigade. Later on the structure served the first members of Kibbutz Tzora until their move to permanent homes at the foot of the Tzora mountain.
We were almost back at our car when we spotted this beautiful red fox enjoying what looked like the remains of someone's picnic. The fox was not afraid of us at all and we were able to stand nearby and watch it for several minutes. Foxes in fact play an important part in the story of Samson and it seemed a fitting way to end our hike.
Samson's wife, a Philistine woman from Timnah, was with another man. Samson went to see her but her father would not let him near her. Angry, Samson rounded up 300 foxes, tied their tails together, set the tails on fire and turned them loose on the Philistine fields which were ready to be harvested, burning all in their wake. This action crippled the Philistines' source of food and economy.
"Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches, and turned the foxes tail to tail and put one torch in the middle between two tails." (Judges 15:4)
Tragically, the Philistines returned the evil by burning Samson's wife and her family to death, using fire, the very weapon he had used against them. In revenge, Samson slaughtered many more Philistines, saying, "I have done to them what they did to me."
And you thought you were reading a genteel post about nature and history in Israel 😉
Sticky Mud and Belly Laughs

25 comments:

VeggieMummy said...

Beautiful scenery and look at that glorious blue sky. Alternating between sunshine and snow here today - I can't keep up! Love the fox photos. xx

Anne said...

It does look very serene and beautiful. I guess the area can attract crowds though. You are so luck to live in a land so rich with the history of the Bible. Thanks for sharing, I do love your tours of your land.

Kim Carberry said...

What a great hike! The views look amazing. x

Tamar SB said...

What a cool hike! Amazing to see the fox.

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

Beautiful area to hike. I have a fondness for foxes and was thrilled to see one chowing down! #MMBC

Joanne said...

OH wow; how neat to spot that fox. I love when we get to see some unexpected wildlife on our hikes (though I wouldn't want to see something like a bear or other large predatory type of animal).

NCSue said...

What a beautiful hike you had! Lovely scenes, lovely flowers, and a positively gorgeous fox!
Thank you for sharing at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2021/04/catbird.html

Christen Dobbs said...

Wow, this is beautiful!

Aritha said...

Thank you. I love the text. Most of all the flowers and the fox.

Veronica Lee said...

What a fantastic walk! The views are spectacular!

Shiju Sugunan said...

Looks like a great place to walk. I like the view and the flowers. The fox looks nice with that huge tail.

Fun60 said...

A beautiful hike steeped in history and gruesome tales.

Tom said...

...a rich history surrounded by the beauty of nature. Thanks for sharing, take care and stay safe.

Louise (Little Hearts, Big Love) said...

What a beautiful hike and so interesting to read about the link to Samson. That story about the foxes and the Philistines returning the evil is quite a gruesome one! #MMBC

junie-Jesh said...

Samson is one of these people who I don't know what to think about (maybe like some people don't understand), because it's so far removed from my own life:) but this forest is gorgeous, and love the flowers and the forest. Surprized at the close-ups of the foxes. Did you change your blog background theme? Hope to see you back at All Seasons this week,Jesh

Peabea Scribbles said...

So glad you took me along on that hike. I got tired just reading about your hike. Love being out walking though. Beautiful flowers, and I've never seen a fox up close. Glad he found food. Thanks for the history of Samson. Some I knew, but some not. Sometimes the old testament is so violent. Poor innocent foxed.

Meditations in Motion said...

What a beautiful place to hike! I loved seeing this place with such historical significance. Great photos of the fox!

Gattina said...

Not only a beautiful landscape but also full of history ! I just wished I could have seen Samson tying up 300 fox tails (all alone ?) Poor foxes, why didn't they bite him ? There are so nice stories in the old books, hardly to believe today !

betty-NZ said...

I'm so glad you took us along on your hike! It was wonderful :)

Thanks for joining us at 'My Corner of the World' this week!

riitta k said...

Stunning views on your hike! Historical places are worth a visit.

A Bit of the Blarney said...

What a wonderful post! I did so enjoy your hike and it was so informative. You have some beautiful photos and I especially like the ones of the red fox! Have a grand weekend!

Jeff Albom said...

Your hike looks quite nice and you seem to have had the trail to yourselves (except for the fox). The history on Samson is very interesting.

Jayne said...

What a stunning place for a hike and those views are breathtaking. I love how close up to the fox you got.

Rob + Ann said...

So amazing to be able to hike through areas so steeped in history and legend. And then a fox sighting on top of it all! Hard to beat a day like that. :)

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Oh my goodness! I knew about Samson’s strength, but that is all. Wow, that story turned a little frightening ... I guess the Old Testament is too adult for an old lady like me ;))). (forgive me!). The hike looks so peaceful and serene and beautifully green. I am in awe of the history you see every day ...the footsteps you follow. Thank you for sharing the beauty and your knowledge.

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