This week we are talking to Nosson Shulman of VIP Israel Tours about the ancient history of Geva Binyamin aka Yishuv Adam.
The subject is quite complex. There are several geographical locations of interest mentioned in the Tanakh: Geva, Gibeah and Givat Shaul. Archeology and Biblical Scholarship suggest these names correspond to specific modern geographical locations. These connections are discussed by Nosson below.
Nosson Shulman Biography
OSA: Hi Nosson. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you first get interested in the ancient history of Israel?
Institute of Advanced Torah Studies
I currently live in central Israel with my wife and kids, all of whom were born here. Though I wasn’t myself born in Israel, this land has always had a special place in my heart. After graduating from university and getting married at 21, my wife and I came to Israel so I could learn in Yeshiva (institute of advanced Torah studies), something I never had the opportunity to do because I didn’t grow up religious. Our plan was only one year.
Found his calling: Tour Guide
When Pesach (Passover) rolled around, we were sad that we only had three months left in Israel. Still we wanted to make the most of our remaining time here. Since all Yeshivas are on break for Pesach, I decided to take my wife to Masada. I had been a participant on quite a few guided tours of Masada so I figured I could enhance her experience by mentioning an interesting point or two. However, I was shocked at just how much information I had retained and how passionate I was to share it. I ended up giving her a proper tour at a professional level and realized this was my calling in life. After the tour I declared “We are making Aliyah and I will go to Tour Guiding school”. We made Aliyah that summer and I took the grueling two-year course required to receive a tour guiding license (in Israel, it’s illegal to guide without a license).
Since elementary school, I have been a serious student of history whether it be Roman, Greek, Carthaginian, European, or Middle Eastern. Israel’s history however has always fascinated me the most. Why? Because we are history’s underdog. There is no precedent in history to a nation which has been persecuted for Millennia, stripped of their homeland and constantly exiled from place to place yet we are still here, have retained the customs of our forefathers and we have returned to our homeland and turned it into a modern day economic miracle. Israel’s history is most unique and I thank G-d that I am able to share this amazing land with tourists from abroad.
Biblical Geva Binyamin
OSA: So what Biblical location corresponds to Geva Binyamin?
I believe the best candidate for Biblical Geva Binyamin is where Tel El Ful is. [map below]
Gibeah of Benjamin, Shoftim 20:10
OSA: So we’re talking here about Gibeah of Benjamin mentioned in Shoftim 20:10?
Yes, but it has several other names in Tanach, so we are also talking about Gibeah mentioned in 1 Shmuel 10:26 and Givat Shaul mentioned in 1 Shmuel 11:4.
Geba, Jaba and the Tanakh
We are NOT talking about Geba which I believe is located in the modern Arab village of Jaba; about 9 km’s north of Jerusalem (and very close to Adam). We see in Yehoshua 18: 24 & 28 that Gibeah and Geva were two separate towns in Binyamin.
Archeologist Victor Guerin and Jaba
In the 1800’s, French explorer and Archeologist Victor Guerin identified Jaba as being the location of Biblical Geva.
Tanakh, Highway 60 and Tel El Ful
Tanach implies “Geva Binyamin” was on the ancient spine route (i.e. today’s highway 60). In Shoftim 19, a Levite man was returning with his concubine from Beit Lechem on route to Har Ephraim. That route would have seen him pass Tel El Ful. In fact, when the sun started to set just as he was approaching Jerusalem (also on the spine route), his attendant suggested they spend the night there. The Levite answered that it would be best to continue to Geva Binyamin before nightfall. Tel El Ful was certainly doable within that time constraint. So in a geographic sense, Tel El Ful would be the strongest candidate.
But it’s not just geography, it’s also archeology. During that night, the man’s concubine was attacked by residents of the city and the tribes of Israel (minus Binyamin) mobilized to destroy the city as a punishment for such a despicable act. They burned the city in its entirety (Shoftim 20). Therefore the real Geva Binyamin would need to have a burn layer suggesting destruction by fire (which very few places in Israel have). Indeed, Tel El Ful has that burn layer.
Givat Shaul in the Tanakh
In addition, Geva Binyamin is also called Givat Shaul in Tanach, because King Shaul had his palace there. In the 1920’s during excavations, a massive palace was found dated to around the time of Shaul’s reign, built on top of the burn layer mentioned in Shoftim 20.
King Hussein’s Palace
In 1965, King Hussein wanted to destroy any evidence of a historic Jewish presence in Israel, so on top of Shaul’s palace, he built his own palace, though he never finished because Israel liberated the land during the six-day war. Today, the skeleton of King Hussein’s palace remains.
OSA: That’s fascinating. So Tel El Ful is quite far from our yishuv.
OSA: So, was there any mention of our region(Yishuv Adam) in the Tanakh according to either the text or archeology?
Qubur Bani Isra’il and Rachel’s Tomb
A lot. There is a site, which can best be seen from a beautiful lookout in southern Adam, called Qubur Bani Isra’il (it’s in the Prat Valley which separates the Yishuv from Hizma). Many tour guides (if I had to guess most) like to say that this is the real Kever Rachel. It dates to the Middle Bronze age which is from the same era as Rachel and it’s Arabic name can be translated as “Tombs of the Children of Israel. Overlooking these tombs is the Arab city of El Ram (which can also be seen from the above mentioned lookout in Adam). It has been identified as biblical Ramah (Yehoshua 18:25). In Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) 31:14, when the Jewish people were being exiled to Bavel (Babylonia), the verse says “A voice is heard b’Ramah….Rachel weeps for her children.” B’Ramah is almost translated as “on High” but there are those who like to say the verse should be translated as “in (the city of) Ramah” and the reason her “voice” was heard in Ramah is because her tomb is right there. That being said, I don’t subscribe to this theory and I personally believe Kever Rachel is in it’s traditional spot by Beit Lechem (Bethlehem).
As I mentioned, the tombs are at the beginning of the valley called Ein Prat. In Yirmiyahu 13, G-d tells the Prophet to go to Ein Prat and conceal a belt in a crag in the rock (in this valley there are many such crags). Days later, G-d told him to come back to Ein Prat and when Yirmayahu returned, he saw the belt was ruined and of no more use. According to G-d, this was an analogy to the fact He would destroy the Pride of Judah.
Just north of Adam is the valley of Nahal Michmash. On the other side of the valley is the village of Mukhamas where Shaul and Yonaton fought the Philistim (Philistines) in 1 Shmuel 13-14.
Highway 60 which passes by Adam is filled with lots of stories in Tanach. The road which went, in biblical times, from Beer Sheva to Sechem (i.e. Nablus) and even further north to Dotan (where Yosef was sold by his brother) went along this route. So for example, when Yaakov (Jacob) runs away from his brother Esau in Beer Sheva and spends the night in Beit El (just north of Adam), he would have taken this route which passes by the Yishuv. Had you been standing outside of Adam on that day, you would have seen him by pass. Although the route changed somewhat during the intifada (for safety reasons the roads were adjusted in order not to go through Arab villages), the route is still more or less the same.
Nosson Shulman is a Licensed Tour Guide and Trip Organizer in Israel who specializes in History, Tanach (Bible) and Adventure Tours of the entire country. His tours are family and senior friendly. Check out sample itineraries on his site (including one of the Binyamin area) by clicking here. These are just samples but Nosson tailor makes each itinerary to best suit each tourists’ individual needs. For those who can’t come to Israel right now but want to tour as if they were, check out his new virtual tours videos which include Jerusalem and Chevron (Hebron). For more, check out his free sneak preview videos.