The Valley of Elah or Ella Valley ("the valley of the terebinth"; Hebrew: עמק האלה Emek HaElah; Arabic: وادي السنط, Wadi es-Sunt) is a long, shallow valley in Israel and the West Bank best known as the place described in the Old Testament where the Israelites were encamped when David fought Goliath (1 Samuel 17:2, 19). It is home to several important archaeological sites, including those identified as the ancient towns of Azekah and Socho (17:1). Rising up from the valley on its extreme southeast end lies the hilltop ruin Adullam, and on its north lie the ruins of the ancient fortress city of Khirbet Qeiyafa.
The valley is named after the large and shady terebinth trees (Pistacia atlantica) which are indigenous to it. On the west side of the valley, near Socho, there is a very large and ancient tree of this kind, 55 feet (17 m) in height with a trunk 17 feet (5.2 m) in circumference and a canopy at least 75 feet (23 m) in diameter. This tree is notable for being one of the largest terebinths in the area, and marks the upper end of the valley.
Since the early 1970s, the valley has also contained a large satellite relay station, with an antenna farm containing some 120 satellite dishes of various sizes. From 2010 to 2014, the region around the valley was believed to be threatened by shale oil extraction through the CCR ground-heating process, with the Green Zionist Alliance and the grassroots group Save Adullam, among others, working to stop exploitation of the region. The plan was ultimately blocked in 2014 by a zoning committee decision. In July 2019, the Elah Valley came under the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, owing largely to its historical importance and the desire to curtail the encroaching city limits of Beit Shemesh to its north.
The Valley of Elah has gained new importance as a possible point of support for the argument that Israel was more than merely a tribal chiefdom in the time of King David. At Khirbet Qeiyafa, southwest of Jerusalem in the Elah Valley, Professor Yosef Garfinkel has discovered a fortified city from the Iron Age IIa dated sometime between 1050 and 915 BC. The fortifications have been said to support the biblical account of the United Monarchy at the beginning of Iron Age II. Others are skeptical and suggest it might represent either a Judahite or Canaanite fortress.
In the late 19th century, Claude Conder and Herbert Kitchener described the Elah Valley as being "one of the most fertile districts in Palestine. It is an open flat vale about half a mile across, and covered with corn; a narrow trench runs down the center full of white pebbles worn by the water in winter. Here and there large terebinths grow along its course (Butmet Wâdy es Sûr), and solitary oak trees (Ballûtet Kŭssis). On either side rise the stony hills covered with brushwood and wild growth."
Flora and fauna
Numerous plant species are native to the Elah Valley, including:
- Terebinth (Pistacia atlantica, var. Pistacia palaestina)
- Kermes oak (Quercus calliprinos)
- Buckthorn (Rhamnus lycioides)
- Carob (Ceratonia siliqua)
- Sweet marjoram (Majorana syriaca; syn. Origanum syriacum)
- Sage (Salvia fruticosa)
- Toothpick (Ammi visnaga)
- Florence fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
- Anemone (Anemone coronaria)
- Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum)
- Lupine (Lupinus pilosus)
- Daisy (Glebionis coronaria)
- Syrian cornflower-thistle (Centaurea cyanoides) – rare
- Mallow (Malva nicaeensis)
- Asparagus (Asparagus palaestinus)
- Chicory (Cichorium pumilum; syn. Cichorium endivia)
- Broom lettuce (Lactuca serriola)
- Stinging nettle (Urtica urens)
- Asphodel (Asphodelus aestivus)
- Wild oat (Avena sterilis)
- Wild barley (Hordeum spontaneum; syn. H. ithaburense)
- Wild mustard (Sinapsis alba)
- Arum; cuckoo-pint (Arum palaestinum)
- Caper (Capparis spinosa)
- Wild carrot (Daucus carota)
- Globe-thistle (Echinops adenocaulos)
- Ciliate vetchling (Lathyrus blepharicarpus)
- Spiny broom (Calicotome villosa)
Animal species native to the Elah Valley include:
- Mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella)
- Golden jackal (Canis aureus syriacus)
- Syrian fox (Vulpes thaleb)
- Crested porcupine (Hystrix cristata)
- Egyptian mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon)
- Hedgehog (Erinaceus concolor)
- Middle East blind mole-rat (Spalax ehrenbergi; syn. Nannospalax ehrenbergi)
- Spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca)
- Günther's vole (Microtus guentheri)
- Legless lizard (Pseudopus apodus)
- Elah, Langenscheidt's Hebrew Dictionary, Dr Karl Feyerabend
- Krantz, David (1 May 2011). "Israel: The New Saudi Arabia?". Jewcology.
- Cheslow, Daniella (18 Dec 2011). "Shale oil project raises hackles in Israel". AFP.
- Laylin, Tafline (5 March 2013). "Saudi Turns to Solar, Israel Stuck on Shale". Green Prophet.
- Rubin, Yuval, ed. (2019). "The Elah Valley Declared a National Park". Bakitzur - Mateh Yehuda Regional Council and Jerusalem Area (in Hebrew). Tzur Hadassah: Rubin Publishers (509): 10. (25 July 2019)
- Govier, Gordon "Archaeology: What an Ancient Hebrew Note Might Mean" Christianity Today 1/18/2010 
- Julia Fridman, 'Crying King David: Are the ruins found in Israel really his palace? ,' at Haaretz, 26 August, 2013.
- C.R. Conder & H.H. Kitchener, The Survey of Western Palestine, vol. III, London 1883, p. 298
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Valley of Elah.|
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The Valley of Elah, near Adullam
Elah Valley as seen from atop of Tel Socho
Crown daisy (Glebionis coronaria)
Pistacia atlantica, from which the valley takes its name
Asphodel in blossom, in the Elah Valley