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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Givat HaTanach©

By Vardah Littmann

What a surprise right in the centre of Jerusalem-- a hidden gem of a hillock almost undisturbed by the passing of time. This patch of undeveloped land in urban Jerusalem was left intact despite the fact that it is right opposite the old Jerusalem train station and surrounded by main traffic arteries. Here on David Remez Street is one , of the few remaining building-free peaks in the city where native flora and fauna flourish in the shadows of ancient monuments and modern apartment complexes.

The stunning panoramic views from the hill's crest are outstanding, encompassing parts of the New City, the Old City and Mount Zion, the distant mountains of Moab to the East, Mount Gilo to the south, and the forested hills of the Judean Mountains to the west. However, Givat HaTanach’s main claim to fame is its unique location atop the “divider” of Jerusalem's watershed. To the one side of the hill, the Valley of Hinnom flows towards the Dead Sea and on the other, Emek Refaim sends water towards the Mediterranean Sea. All the subterranean water close to the surface carpets Givat HaTanach with a profusion of dazzling wildflowers from spring until autumn.

Flower lovers take note: No need to travel up north.  Right, right here in Jerusalem, you can satiate your eyes with flowers of the Land on Givat HaTanach. Semi- desert vegetation has survived here since these plants are resistant to heat and strong sunlight. At the location, many bulb plants bloom in their regular seasons producing harbingers of autumn and spring flowers.

The hill changes its color a few times during the year, due to the different flower waves. During the fall, the mount is covered with sea squills, autumn squills and steven’s meadow saffron, painting it pink and violet. Winter and spring cloth the knoll in a red mantel of kalaniot (anemones) and noriyot (ranunculus). Then the hill changes to yellow in summer, bristling with varieties of thorns and thistles with the elegantly colored steel-blue common glob thistle standing out above all the other vegetation. The large coarse, grayish-green leaves of the glob thistle set off its fantastical large ball-like flower beautifully.

Givat HaTanach attracts varied wildlife. Colorful swallowtail butterflies and skylarks are common visitors.

 Four old homes, partly hidden from view by thick foliage occupy a small corner of the hill. They were built and settled near the mid 1950s. Givat HaTanach’s name on the billboard that stands under the hill is misspelled in English. In Hebrew, the name is shown on a brown street sign-- Givat HaTanach, i.e. Bible Hill.

This hill is mentioned explicitly in Sefer Jehoshua (15:8) delineating the territory of Shevet Judah: "Then the boundary ascended into the Valley of the sons of Hinnom, along the southern flank of the Jebusites - that is, Jerusalem. The boundary then ran up the top of the hill which flanks the Valley of Hinnom on the west, at the northern end of Emek Refaim.”

Busses, 38, 38a, 71, 72, 74, 74, 8, 107 and 30a, (from direction of Rechov King George, Kern HaYesod) will let you off right opposite this urban countryside. Cross the road at the traffic circle. There is a white concrete car on the corner. Next to it are some steep steps. Go up the steps and pass the old homes to reach the actual place of the views etc. Please stay on the marked trail in order not to upset the unique ecological balance of the place.

Keep in mind on this and every forage into nature, the rosh e’tevot, that are taught in schools around the country: ShaNaH Tovah. S is for shvil (pathway) - stay on the marked pathway. N is for nikayon (cleanness) - be sure to keep the place clean. Carry garbage-bags with you to carry away the rubbish you create. Animals can be harmed by empty soda-cans, food boxes, and bags left behind. H is for hitbonen (contemplate) – look, enjoy and contemplate (thereby remembering) the vegetation. There is no need to take it home with you. If you really want to keep it with you, you can photograph it. T is for to­vah (good) – try to do the above well.

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