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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Modern Highways as Reminders of Our AncientPast©

Whenever I travel on highways in Eretz Yisrael, I imagine how difficult it must have been for people to travel without the convenience of modern transportation on modern roads. It must have been really hard bumping along on a camel or donkey (like Eliezer eved Avraham, in Parashas Chayei Sarah) over rough, rocky terrain. Twenty miles a day was the average distance they could travel. This makes us appreciate the ease and speed of our modern cars and buses (with air-conditioning) that carry us over this ancient land. Much praise and thanksgiving should be given to the One Above for this great kindness to our generation.

Israel now has a modern highway network with well-maintained roads. In recent years, increased investment in infrastructure has greatly improved the condition of roads in the country. In fact, the roads and highways of Eretz Yisrael are among the best in the world and are constantly being upgraded.

I heard from Rav Sholom Meir Hacohen Walach, in the name of Harav Yehoshua Leib Diskin, that there is a midrash which says that before the coming of Moshiach, the roads of Eretz Yisrael will be restored. Seeing the great activity in road construction of the last few years in Eretz Yisrael, we can be assured that the Great Day for which we are all awaiting — the Day of the Geulah— is very close at hand.

Recently, many of the distances from one place to another in Eretz Yisrael have been shortened with the construction of new roads. Tunnels burrow though mountains, and bridges are built over wadis. These shortcuts save many hours of traveling time.

It used to take three-quarters of an hour to reach the Gush Etzion area from Yerushalayim. Traveling on the Kvish Haminharot, officially called Kvish Shishim (Highway 60), you can now reach the Gush in a short 10 minutes. Taking the road near Har Chomah is even quicker.

Another new highway brings residents of Maaleh Adumim and other Jewish towns located near the Jerusalem-Jericho highway, to Jerusalem proper in about seven minutes instead of the previous 15-20 minutes.

These are but two examples of many such roads. It would seem that Hashem is making preparations so that after the Redemption, people will be able to arrive from all over Eretz Yisrael, speedily and with ease, in Yerushalayim and bring korbanos.

Israel’s current road-numbering system is very simple. In contrast to most other countries where odd numbers generally indicate a north–south route, and even numbers mean an east–west route in Israel odd-numbered roads run horizontally, that is, east to west, (e.g., Highway 5 runs from the Mediterranean coast to Shomron). Numbers increase as you head north. And even-numbered roads run vertically, south to north (e.g., Highway 2 runs from Tel Aviv to Haifa), with their numbers increasing as you head east.

The reason that the Israeli road numbering-system differs from that of other lands is that after the formation of the state the government decided to number the roads which until that point had been named for the destinations they lead too and from. It was then realized that if the universal system was used the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, which travels mostly east would be called Road Two. Since it leads to/from Yerushalayim, the capital city and crown of all Eretz Yisrael, this would not have been suitable. So Israel adopted the a different way of numbering then other states in order to honour the Holy City calling this road Highway 1, Kvish Echad.   .

Single- and double-digit roads are national routes, triple-digit roads are regional routes, and four-digit roads are local routes.

Many modern highways in Israel follow ancient trade and spice routes, as well as Biblical byways. This is due to the topographic advantages of the original pathways for travel. Here are just a few examples: Highway 4 (Kvish Arba) runs along Israel’s entire Mediterranean coastal plain and follows, in part, the route of the “Way of the Philistines” or the Derech Hayam (Via Maris — Latin for “route of the sea”). It is an ancient trade route, referred to in Yeshayah 8:23.

Route 443 is the main highway connecting Modiin with Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. In antiquity, the battles of the Maccabees were fought along this road. The episode of “shemesh b’Givon dom” — the stopping of the sun and all the constellations (Yehoshua 10) — took place in this vicinity.

Highway 60 (Kvish Shishim) is an intercity road in Israel, including the West Bank, which stretches from Be’er Sheva, past Chevron and Beit Lechem, and enters Jerusalem. After leaving the city, it goes on to Shechem. It is also known as the “Route of the Patriarchs,” Derech ha’Avot, and figures prominently in the travels of the Avos. Rechov Derech Chevron (part of Highway 60, in Jerusalem) carries thousands of commuters into downtown Jerusalem every day. It is believed to be a section of the road travelled by Avraham and Yitzchak on their way to the Akeidah.

One day, if you’re stuck on Derech Chevron in a traffic jam, you can take your mind off the bumper-to-bumper traffic and honking horns by thinking about that. This could only happen in Israel, where our Biblical past is a living reality.

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