Defending Biblical Judah
An Iron Age Judahite fortress sits on a small hill, surrounded by modern apartment buildings. The 2,700-year-old fortress is located in the French Hill neighborhood of modern Jerusalem. Dating to the First Temple period (c. 1000–586 B.C.E.), the fortress was likely part of a string of fortifications erected by the kings of Judah to guard Jerusalem and the surrounding hill country. Now, for the first time, this fortress is being brought back to life. As first reported by the Jerusalem Post, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) is preparing to preserve and restore the fortress.
At roughly 60 by 40 feet in size, the fortress consists of a large open courtyard surrounded on each side by smaller rooms. Perched atop its hill, the fortress would have commanded a magnificent view of the Judean Desert to the east and might even be one of the fortresses mentioned in 2 Chronicles 27:4 as having been built by Jotham, king of Judah, in the latter half of the eighth century. “Moreover he [Jotham] built cities in the hill country of Judah, and forts and towers on the wooded hills.”
The French Hill site is one of many Judahite fortresses that date to the First Temple period. The fortress was first excavated in the 1960s but has remained relatively untouched since then, slowly being ensconced by the growing French Hill neighborhood. The planned restoration work will be carried out by the IAA in partnership with the local community. According to Eli Escosido, the Director-General of the IAA, there is “great importance in the community’s participation in the restoration of the heritage sites near their home. This way two goals are achieved together: The public saves our heritage assets, and at the same time, they develop a direct connection with them.”
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