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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tel el-Ful, the Site of the Biblical Givat Shaul©

Tel el-Ful (literally, Hill of Beans) is located within the boundaries of the Jerusalem Municipality, just west of Pisgat Ze’ev, and overlooks the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat. It is 2,754 feet above sea level, making it one of the highest summits in the entire region. Many identify Tel el-Ful with the original Givat Shaul mentioned in sefer Shmuel, which was the capital of Shaul Hamelech. 

There are ruins of a double-walled rectangular fortress, and four corner towers are evident. A number of archeological digs have been carried out here, the first conducted in 1868 by Charles Warren, and further excavations in 1874 and again in 1922/3. In 1964, just before King Hussein of Jordan began
building his “dream villa” on the site (see below), a sixweek excavation took place in order to save and document archeological findings before construction would have caused it all to be destroyed. The finds fully corroborate the various events that are recorded in Nach in connection to the region.

In sefer Yehoshua 18:28, Binyamin is allotted the Givah among cities and their villages. The city lay along the main highway that linked the region of Yehudah and Yerushalayim to the hills of Ephraim (Shoftim 19:11-13).

At the end of Shoftim we are told that Am Yisrael did not tolerate misdeeds of a small fringe element of youth who lived in Givah, who had tried to copy the evil Canaanite ways. Klal Yisrael arose as one man to uproot and eradicate evil from their midst, resulting in a great civil war; some 75,000 of Bnei Yisrael fell in battle. The city of Givah was burnt to the ground, and also the rest of the nation vowed to withhold their daughters from marrying the remainder of Shevet Binyamin, thereby causing the Shevet to die out. However, after contemplating how terrible it would be to lose one of the twelve Shevatim, Bnei Yisrael took 400 women from Yavesh Gilad - a city in Ever HaYarden that had not participated in the battle against Givah and was thus not bound by the oath - so that the small number of men of Binyamin who survived would have women to marry (Shoftim 19 and 20).

The Navi Shmuel anointed Shaul from Shevet Binyamin as king (Shmuel I 10). After he was proclaimed king, Shaul immediately went home to Givah. It is told he ruled from the rebuilt Givah, after which the site started to be called Givat Shaul.

Nachash, the king of Ammon, had been oppressing Am Yisrael for quite a while (which was, in fact, one of the reasons the nation had requested a king). The blood relatives of Shevet Binyamin from Yavesh Gilad had being especially hard hit. They begged Shaul Hamelech to help them.

He roused the people by taking a pair of oxen, dismembering them, and sending the pieces to all twelve
tribes, warning them that their own herds would meet the same fate if they did not join in battle against
Ammon. (This symbol is reminiscent of the way the nation was galvanized into the civil war against Givah). The first Jewish king sent his graphic message from Givah (Givat Shaul). Thus, instead of Givah’s being thesource of terrible violations and the cause of the nation’s separation, it now became the uniting force from where justice against the Jews’ enemy emanated. People flocked to join Shaul’s army. Hashem wrought a great victory for his people, and from this point on, Shaul was accepted unanimously as king. (Shmuel I 11).

Apparently, the location was the source of more strife later on. Josephus tells us that the infamous
Roman 10th Legion camped at Givah, awaiting instructions to destroy Yerushalayim and the Beis Hamikdash before the Churban.

The Site Today
The site is referred to today by the Arabs as Al Kusor (Home of the King) … and they are not referring to Shaul Hamelech. Another name for the place is Hussein’s Palace, the reason for these names being that this was where the late Jordanian King Hussein decided to build his summer home in the early 1960s, when Yehudah and Shomron were under Jordanian rule.

The building was planned by the Hashemite Kingdom’s finest architects, and the site was chosen
owing to its spectacular views of the rolling Jerusalem hills and to its strategic location. The grandiose structure was to be an architectural masterpiece and serve as the official vacation retreat of the Jordanian royal family.

The magnificent three-level edifice with interconnected arches and coated with Jerusalem stone was
intended to host dignitaries from around the globe. Construction was halted after Israel regained control
of the region during the 1967 Six Day War, and the uncompleted palace stands on the ruins of what apparently was the massive citadel of Shaul Hamelech.

The land is an archeological park that belongs to the Israel Lands Authority, and according to many archaeologists it is the second most important archaeological site in Jerusalem, after the City of David. However, being that it is a politically sensitive spot, no work has been conducted at the site since 1967, to honor the delicate status quo. Thus, the two-story shell of grayish cement has recently become a shelter for criminals and other undesirable elements.

In August 2011, illegal renovations of the partially-built summer home were stopped posthaste by the
Jerusalem Municipality. The Waqf, a Muslim body that administers the religion’s important sites, denied that Jordan was preparing to renovate the palace. But many felt that the workers were trying to remove Jewish remnants from the place in order to destroy any historical proof of a Jewish connection, and exert Palestinian sovereignty in eastern Jerusalem.

A magnificent large school was built by the Jerusalem Municipality for Arab children under Hussein’s Palace. In the last six years or so, new opulent Arab villas have sprouted up around the place. Even if
some of these homes were built with permits, they keep adding floors and expanding their plots of land illegally.

Published in Ha Modia

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