December 15, 2017     27 Kislev 5778
Places To Tour in Israel - Off the Beaten Trail
     Tel Safit (Zafit) / Gath Archeological Park
One of Many Excavations on Tel Safit - Photo from Tel Safit project website - http://faculty.biu.ac.il/~maeira/gallery.html 
Tel Safit (Zafit) / Gath Archeological Park
 
(notes: This 19k trek is for good for biking, running or hiking. The participants should be physically fit and able to handle 19k.  The terrain is flat. As an alternative to the 19k trek, one can drive from Kibbutz Kfar Menahem to the base of Tel Safit and park in the visitor's parking area.)
 
Our group of 25 met at 6am on a Friday morning at Sdot Micha for a 9.5 trail run to Tel Safit. Sdot Micha is located a kilometer past the entrance of Park Britania on highway 383.  It was a cool May morning, not typical for this time of year.  The landscape was fairly flat through what is known as the Haela valley. We traveled the winding path through agricultural fields that were recently plowed for the upcoming season.  The scenery was brown and dry providing an aura of calm as we traveled a worn and weathered single lane asphalt road apparently not used for car traffic. Around 6 kilometers into our trek the asphalt road ended abruptly turning into a dirt trail. At this early morning hour we were pleasantly greeted with occasional sightings of swift and graceful moving jackals through fields that had not yet produced enough depth to provide cover. Fortunate for us, at 7.5 kilometers into the path, we could see the large hill holding Tel Safit that enabled us to make the decision at the fork in the path to turn left.
 
Within .5 kilometers of Tel Safit, we passed a Bedouin camp with herds of sheep, camels and barking sheep dogs. Soon after, we began our assent up a steep well marked path to the top of the large hill that included many archeological excavations and signage explaining findings for each area.
 
One sign explained that objects found at a location on the Tel identified the area as the Canaanite and Philistine Gath. Another sign explained that names listed on artifacts found confirmed that Gath was home to Goliath. 
 
The views from the top were breath taking. Clearly, the warriors and residents of this ancient city had an unobstructed strategic 360 degree view to see any impeding enemy regimes. We were able to identify neighboring towns of Kiryat Malachi and also see in the distance the coastal cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon.
 
After spending time exploring the Tel and enjoying the views we began our 9.5 kilometer trek back to the cars.   

As an alternative to hiking from Sdot Micha, one could drive directly to the base of Tel Safit and park in the visitor’s parking area.  Tel Safit is few kilometers from Kibbutz Kfar Menahem. Kibbutz Kfar Menahem is off of Highway 383.
 
To read more about the findings to date see http://faculty.biu.ac.il/~maeira/gallery.html 

To read an article in Jerusalem post click here: http://web.archive.org/web/20010818083538/http://www.jpost.com/Editions/2001/08/13/Features/Features.32478.html

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