A national park will be declared at Khirbet Qeiyafa and the Ela Valley, southwest of Jerusalem, and a residential neighborhood that had been planned next to the location will not be built. The area is believed to be the spot where the young David fought Goliath, according to the Bible.
The decision was made by the Jerusalem District Committee for Planning and Construction. The national park will stretch from Beit Natif in the east to Khirbet Qeiyafa in the west, and the construction of the southern neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh will be scrapped.
The decision is being hailed as a major accomplishment for the preservation of nature in Israel, and as the product of successful cooperation between the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Nature and Parks Authority.
Khirbet Qeiyafa, an ancient ruin atop a hill that borders the Ela Valley from the north, is thought to be the Biblical city of Sha'arayim. The city is heavily fortified, and is typical of other Judean cities that were established during the period of the Kings, before the destruction of the First Temple. It has been excavated since 2007 by archeologists Prof. Yosef Garfinkel from Hebrew University, and Saar Ganor of the Antiquities Authority.
The site features three unique public buildings, the first of their kind ever found in the Judean area. The buildings date to the tenth century before the Common Era – the period in which King David reigned in Jerusalem.
Garfinkel and Ganor have claimed that one of the buildings is indeed a palace used by King David himself.
The Head of the Preservation Administration within the Antiquities Authority, Raanan Kislev, issued a statement hailing what he called a “dramatic” and “unprecedented” decision, that establishes “a policy of planning that sees preservation of heritage a value equal in importance to the urgent need for housing units and development.”
Yuval Peled, who heads the Development Section in the Nature and Parks Authority, also congratulated the District Committee for its decision, which “will enable future generations to feel the past in the scenery of the present, and to understand the setting of the historical story of the battle of David and Goliath, a battle that has historical significance for the nation in Zion and the entire world.”