Eastern Gush Etzion, the Jewish towns southeast of Jerusalem on the edge of the Judean Desert, has finally been connected directly to Jerusalem, making an hour-long trip into a ten-minute excursion and representing a victory for local activists.

IsraelNN.com brings you on a trip along the old road from the Jerusalem-Hevron Highway to eastern Gush Etzion and onward toward the capital on the brand new road.

The turnoff from Route 60, the Jerusalem-Hevron road, leading to eastern Gush Etzion - formerly the only way to drive to the area
The Herodion, built by King Herod and used by Bar Kochba's rebels, can be seen in the distance, above a fig tree
Olive groves as far as the eye can see
Turning right leads to P'nei Kedem, Metzad-Asfar, Maaleh Amos and Ibei HaNachal
Left goes to Tekoa, Nokdim, Kfar Eldad and Maaleh Rechavam
Straight ahead is Area A - forbidden to Israelis, according to a sign posted
Herodion grows closer, along the winding road
Residents of eastern Gush Etzion had to drive through this village to go to and from the capital, often targeted by local Arabs throwing stones or firebombs
A sign outside Tekoa still informs motorists that the out-of-the-way route is the way to Jerusalem
The new road can be seen as a dotted red line on this Gush Etzion tourist map
(Map: Moetzet Gush Etzion)
A sign on the main road points to the home of Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman MK Avigdor Lieberman, who is Minister of Strategic Affairs in the Olmert government
An exit for the Arab village of El-Khas on the way toward Jerusalem
An old stone house, with the Partition Fence in front of it, overlooks the road
A tunnel connects a local Arab village under PA administrative control (Area B) with PA-controlled Bethlehem
An IDF pillbox along the road
Jerusalem's southern Har Choma neighborhood can be seen in the distance
A stretch of the road in the foreground with Har Choma in the background
Passing under a PA-controlled road with PLO slogans painted on it and an Arabic Ericsson ad
The checkpoint marks the segment of the road that had remained closed for so long
Border Police, as well as private security guards, man the checkpoint
The Partition Fence
A gate for vehicles and one for pedestrians in the Partition Fence
The Partition Fence
A south-bound view of the checkpoint
The brand new road
The last bend in the road
A confusing stretch just before...
Jerusalem! The Har Choma neighborhood lies straight ahead after just 8 minutes of driving from Tekoa
The road wraps around Har Choma, providing two exits into the neighborhood before ending on Jerusalem's Derech Hevron road, near Talpiot
The view of Jerusalem immediately upon turning onto Derech Hevron
Click here for a PDF tourist map of Gush Etzion for events in eastern Gush Etzion happening over the holidays
(Photos: Ezra HaLevi)