Nestling in the heart of the Judean Foothills (the Shephelah), the Ellah valley in the between Tel Azekah and Tell Socho is believed to be Efes Damim – the site of the most famous battle between two individuals in Human history.
History of the site
The battle between boy David and Giant Goliath is presented in vivid details in the first book of Samuel, chapter 17. The Ellah valley was the very seam between Philistine and Judean lands, and so whoever triumphs in this battle, will reign over a strategical and fertile region. As Goliath appeared in the Philistine camp, the Israelites were terrified, and none dared to confront him. But then young shepherd David arrived at the Israelite camp, to provide goods to his family members. When he heard the Philistine giant defaming the Israelites and their God, he approached King Saul and requested to confront Goliath. He declined the offer to use any armor, and advanced towards Goliath.
Upon seeing him, Goliath responded “Come here, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field.” David replied “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come against you in the name of the LORD of Hosts, the God of the ranks of Israel, whom you have defied…“. He then took out a stone from his bag, slung it, and struck Goliath in the forhead. The giant fell to the ground. “David ran up and stood over the Philistine, grasped his sword and pulled it from its sheath; and with it he dispatched him and cut off his head. When the Philistines saw that their warrior was dead, they ran.” The battle ended with a decisive victory of the Israelites. It also marked the beginning of David’s military and political activity, that eventually led him to the throne.
Visiting the Battle site of David and Goliath
Road 38 crosses the Ellah valley at the site of the battle (between Socho and Azekah). There two places where it is possible to stroll in the brook itself, collect some pebbles, and practice your skills in operating a sling. Although there are no direct archaeological finds relating to the battle itself, it is a great experience to walk and discuss the battle at the actual site it took place. It is also recommended to ascend to the top of Tel Azekah. From here you can review the battle site from the probable site of the philistine camp.
A visit to the site can be combined in a guided day tour in the Judean hills (the Shephelah).
Points of Interest in the Area
Besides a visit to Tel Azekah, it is also recommended to reach Khirbet Qeyiafa. Set on a hill opposite Azekah, Khirbet Qeyiafa was excavated in the early 21st century ad proved to be a stronghold dating to the 10th century BCE. This is the first time that local archaeology unearths a stronghold dating to the time David and Solomons’ kingdom.