The first part of December 2020 doesn't feel at all like an Israeli cold winter.
On the contrary, temperature wise, the air is quite hot, the sun appears almost daily in its smiley teasing shine, and a T-shirt wear is more than sufficient cover for almost all the shorter daylight hours.
The political atmosphere is even hotter, simmering on an explosive verge...
Weekly demonstrations aiming to "dis-thrown" Bibi back home, continue next to his residences in Jerusalem and Cesarea.
Furthermore, major cities' interactions, squares and overpasses are packed every weekend with civilized black flags rallies, submarines demos, and plea posters for his deposition.
Political parties are splintering, loyalties are cracking and alliances keep shifting, as the fourth round of election, along with the threat of yet, a third round of a tight lockdown are approaching.
Incompetent governance, has further contributed to the coloring of the already deep darkening horizon.
The pandemic contamination map has been turning psychedelic Red.
Returning travelers reentering the country are not being checked at the airport nor being requested to quarantine. They have been importing, along with their abroad shopping bounties, also caravans of hitchhiking Covid-19 viruses.
That virus import, combined with the stationary locals, who have been defying health safety decrees and congregating densely in public areas, all accelerated the pandemic's third spread wave to many Green zones.
Israel has successfully upgraded and expanded the folklore tell on the "wisdom" of the Jews from the small Polish TOWN of CHELEM to an highly dysfunctional STATE size level.
The dilemmas which arise and solutions contemplated by the assembly of the clueless, are dubious, are unrealistic, and unpractical... to say the least
The much needed political change, and the speedy mass administration of the approved vaccine, which coincided with this year's Hanukkah, are the only true miraculous lights to be hoped for, for the end of this tunnelled plagued year.
Until the vaccine is mass administered, our sanity and uplifted spirit are preserved thanks to mainly the company of our dear daughters, their spouses, the grands, as well as due to dear friends, brave enough to keep meeting us, not just on zoom, but in the open-air space.
And the occasional scouting day trips, beyond Tel-Aviv limits, are the best
freedom of movement "medicinal" treatment, for the time beiing.
This walk in the "forest" was also aimed to shed off the extra calories gained with the consumption of too much Hanukkah's oil fried delights..
Only 20 minutes drive south east from TlV, adjacent to the city of Shoham's industrial area, in the Modi’in region and right between Highway 6 and Road 444, ,partly natural and partly man-made magical forest welcomed us.
Before exploring the nature and archaeological secrets of the park itself,
driving through Shoham Town revealed a wave of construction in ongoing progress.
Established in 1993, this dynamic, thriving young community of approx. 20,000 residents, half of them children, in the heart of Israel, is located on an important geographical traffic axis between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Shoham has become one of Israel's most desirable communities for young, educated Israelis seeking a high quality of life, tremendous commercial and employment advantages, outstanding educational and cultural institutions,
The archeological site in the midst of the adjacent forest which offers a glimpse into the life of the area's community from the ancient times is called:
Settled initially during the Iron Age, the settlement ended during the period of Ottoman rule.
It was discovered in 1986 and declared an archeological site. Further excavations were conducted in 1995 under the supervision of Dr. Uzi Dahari .
The area ruins reveals remains of buildings, burial caves, water pools, ancient olive and wine press, water cistern, terraces and a lime kiln; remnants of bones, pottery, agricultural and flint tools.
Groves of olive trees, hundreds of years old, indicate how the area’s inhabitants once earned their livelihood.
The unearthed church was discovered by chance in the mid-1990s when the KKL-JNF was preparing the ground to plant trees in the area. .
This church is considered a "field church" - a church that was not located in a settlement, but in an open area between communities.
Exposed now to the general public, the spectacular mosaic floor, and St. Bacchus’s name engraved in Greek at the the bottom of the steps at the entrance, was covered until 2013
St. Bacchus may have been a local saint, or one of two Christian martyrs from Syria (Sergius and Bacchus) who converted to Christianity in the third century and were
executed by order of Emperor Diocletian.
The mosaic floor of the church combines geometric patterns and floral motifs.
In the nave of the church two circles are depicted: the centre of the eastern circle is the exact centre of the church. In the middle of the western circle is the Greek inscription "This place belongs to the Lord and his only son".
A marble medallion 67cm in diameter of the Greek goddess Tyche, or as she is called in Latin 'Fortuna', was discovered in the church - an exceptional idolatrous artifact, that is not accepted in Christian churches.
Tyche is the pagan goddess of fortune and fate, as well as the goddess that protects cities. The marble medallion shows the goddess surrounded by two inscriptions. The bottom inscription is dated to 582-3 CE.
The marble medallion is now on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Three graves were found, beside the church, hewn into the rock, with a similarly hewn pool adjacent to them, complete with a flight of steps leading down.
The stone quarry that served as an ancient water reservoir is located north of the church, and south of the church is the lime kiln and an ancient wine press.
On the western side of the church an ancient Olive Press which was found is unusually large, consisting of four rooms.
Olive Oil was produced in the press by the means of two installations: an olive crushing installation composed of a crushing basin and crushing stone, and a press consisting of a large wooden beam, screws and weights, a collecting vat, and a niche for baskets used to hold the olive mash. The olives brought to the press were mashed in the crushing installation and from there were transferred to baskets to be pressed in this unique installation.
In 2014, a model of the Madaba map of the Middle East which dates back to the 6th century AD.was added and posted in the site.
The Madaba map is part of a mosaic floor from the Byzantine period that was discovered in a 19th century church in the city of Madaba, Jordan.
Part of it contains the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem The map of Madaba mentions a settlement called "Beit Malgazis", which the archaeologists identify as Horvat Tinshemet ("Barn Owl Ruins"), where the remains of the Byzantine church of Bacchus were exposed. Other settlements mentioned on the map are Hadid (or "Iditim" on the map) and Modi'in.
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Israel's Nature Fund( KKL) are both involved in order to protect the valuable findings and forestry.
The Shoham Forest surrounding the archaeological site was planted by KKL-JNF, a mixed trees grove which endeavored to expand forest areas near Israeli urban centers.
It contains recreational areas with contemplation and training spots, picnic tables, and many walking trails.
On this particular Hanukkah vacation day, many religious families with droves of hyperactive children filled the park's trails, picnic spots and green meadows.
The Israel National Trail crosses through Shoham Forest and attracts also many cyclists who like to ride from Tel Aviv all the way to Jerusalem.
The part of this biking path that runs through Shoham Forest is 9.5 kilometers long and is medium difficulty.
An endless seasonal bloom of colorful flower carpets the area and includes:
Sitvanit (Steven's Meadow saffron), cyclamen, winter crocus, red calaniot (anemone) , along with Iris palaestina and Asphodelus ramosus, Cornflower, Anthemis, Helmet clover .
To our delight, the narcissi (Narcissus tazetta) were in bloom on the day of our visit.
The "Hill of Cup marks"-Saflulim
From the church, a walk south along the marked trail, passing orchard trees and rocky areas,.lead to the "Hill of Cup marks" where a lookout point at the hill's top is located in memory of a soldier - Guy Sudaiwho who fell in battle in Lebanon in 1994.
The view from the lookout point extending westward toward the coastal plain and eastward towards the Samaria mountains, is worth the easy climb.
In the orchards below pomegranate, olive, fig, almond and carob trees. can be spotted.
The name of the hill - Saflulim Hill. “Saflul” is Hebrew for capulet, or a circular man-made hollow on the surface of a rock. It comes from a large rock located there which has various sized depressions carved into it.
The small depressions are known as "cup marks" and may have been formed by cracking nutshells, and the larger ones were used to crush grains and herbs.
Some sources believe that these holes that were hewn in the stone were made by ancient peoples for the purposes of carrying out animal sacrifices.
The good dry weather turned around the following day.
The grand cloudy entry of winter was accompanied by roaring thunder,
blinking lightnings, and gusting winds, which soaked the country for the next 3 days with continous sheetloads of heavy terrencial rains, and causing floods, traffic jams and electric shortages.
Scouting in nature was substituted, temporarily, by staying in bed, catching up with writing, with favorite TV series and with some virtual zoom traveling...