Visiting Friends in Efrat

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A few days ago we visited our dear friends in Efrat .
 
We took the bus to Jerusalem and from there the last 8 miles south, to the beautiful garden city that blossoms in the Judean hills. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and the birds were singing. Very peaceful.
 
Thanks to the new Jerusalem-Gush Etzion highway that was opened in August 1996, Efrat can now be reached in less than 10 minutes from Jerusalem.
 
The highway features the longest and highest bridge in Israel as well as the longest tunnel in Israel. It bypasses Bethlehem today, and one has to drive through tunnels to arrive safely at the destination. Palestinians used to aim gunfire and threw rocks at the cars driving from Jerusalem to Efrat or Hevron. – Bethlehem used to be a town Christians loved to visit because it is the birthplace of Jesus. But today, even the Arab Christians fled that town because of Islamic hostilities. – Well – what can I say – the businesses in Bethlehem today suffer because nobody goes shopping there anymore. The Palestinians cause their own problems all by themselves!

Efrat was founded on March 15, 1983, in a magnificent mountainous location, in the heart of the Etzion Bloc (Gush Etzion).  The town’s name actually means  “Towards Efrat”, since the Biblical Efrat was actually located in modern Bethlehem, which is somewhat north on the main road from modern Efrat(a). The name “Efrata” would thus indicate that ancient Efrat was nearby, but not at exactly the same location.

Located in the Judean hills, it was a series of bare hilltops in 1980 when it was established, one of several yishuvim (settlements) in the Gush Etzion area. Historically, Gush Etzion was settled by Jews before the War of Independence, but fell to the Jordanians in 1948. Following the Six Day War in 1967, the children of the families who had lived in Gush Etzion (many of whose parents had been massacred in 1948 defending the area) requested to move back and led the movement to re-establish a Jewish presence in Gush Etzion. 

It lies 960 meters above sea level and has dry mountain air. The summers here are hot but dry, and the nights cool down to make sleeping with the windows open very pleasant.

Today, Efrat is inhabited by over 9,000 people (1500 families) including both native Israelis and immigrants from the US, Canada, South Africa, England, Russia and elsewhere. One thing they have in common; they believe that this is their Jewish homeland, and that they have the G-d given right to live there.

Many people refer to this place as a West Bank settlement, even though the hills of Judea have always been the very heartland of Israel. As a matter of fact, this part of the Land of Israel is the biblical, historic and exclusive homeland of the Jewish people.

I want to re-emphasize that the “Israeli-occupied Arab West Bank” is the very cradle of Jewish civilization. It was in the West Bank that Abraham stood when God told him to look to the north, to the south, to the east and to the west, promising that all the land he could see would be given to his descendants, “forever.” 

Israel’s founding fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, lie buried there. It was in Efrat where Ruth met Boaz, who wooed and married her in this “Israeli-occupied Arab West Bank.” Their grandson, the Shepherd King David, was born in Bethlehem, in this “Israeli-occupied Arab West Bank.” King David ruled the first 7 1/2 years in Hevron, and our Patriarchs traveled on the road from there to Jerusalem.
 
The hills of Judea in this ancient region in Israel, have been inhabited by Jews for thousands of years.
 
This is something everyone needs to know: –  the word “West Bank” has only been created since the Arabs lost the 6-day war in 1967. In all of history the land has only been known as “the West Bank” for 19 brief years!!
 
On the way back we got a ride with a woman who took a shortcut through an Arab town, where she had to stop to let people with two donkeys cross the street. That’s when she said: ” I better start praying that we get through here safely.” She prayed the Traveler’s Prayer (Tefilat HaDerech) out loud while we kept driving until we were on the main street again. I prayed silently with her while my husband put his hand on his pistol in the back seat.
 
But we arrived safely in Jerusalem.
 
Shalom from Israel – Lilo 

 

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