Glimpses of Israel - Neot Kedumim

by Joy Hunting

Neot Kedumim is a large reconstructed Biblical landscape area in the Modi'in region, the region which was home to the Maccabees 2,000 years ago and today is 10 miles (16 kilometres) from the Ben Gurion airport. The Reserve is a kind of green archaeology, a search for the roots of the Biblical tradition in the land of the Bible. The language of nature helps understand our Biblical heritage.

The staff has transformed once-barren hills and valleys over about 650 acres stone by stone and tree by tree into pastoral landscapes like ancient Israel, or into themes of the Bible. Ancient olive trees have been transplanted, almond trees bloom, and cedars native to Lebanon are now growing in the Reserve.

Cyclamens and crocuses start sprouting with the fall rains and spring brings carpets of flowers in this, the world's only Biblical landscape reserve. Truly, Neot Kedumim is bringing together the worlds of nature and the Bible.

The meanings of Biblical plants, lost through the centuries, are being rediscovered here. For instance, olive trees provided not only the light for the ancient world, but as their leaves appear illuminated when the wind reveals their underside, so they became a symbol of light and hence of peace. And so the olive is represented in the emblem of the State of Israel.

The cedar too, which grew to super size on the mountains of Lebanon, and which was an expensive imported wood that only kings like David and Solomon could afford, came to represent the conflicting feelings of the people of Israel towards kings who taxed them in order to build for themselves beautiful palaces.

Very dedicated people trucked in thousands of tons of soil; they reconstructed ancient terraces to hold the soil; they dug reservoirs to catch scarce rainwater; they constructed comfortable paths to crisscross the hills and valleys; they exposed or reconstructed ancient olive and wine presses, threshing floors, cisterns and ritual baths.

Excavations have uncovered the remains of a Second Temple era Jewish village and a later Byzantine village, and these are being restored and incorporated into the setting of the Bible. Neot means pastures, oases, or places of beauty; kedumim comes from a root that means both backward movement and forward movement in time, which is what the Neot Kedumim philosophy expresses: seeking roots in the past in order to understand the present and build for the future.