The Shephelah (pronunciation--Shvay-la) is the lowland hills area of Israel/Palestine that lies between the Judean highlands to the east (Jerusalem) and the flat coastal plains of the west (Gaza, Tel Aviv). The Shephelah is crucial geographically because it contains much of the fertile agricultural land, as well as providing strategic cities to protect Jerusalem to the east or the seaports to the west (depending on who’s controlling the area). So during the OT, the Israelites were constantly battling over this land and its plentiful valleys with the Philistines (who controlled the coast).
During our field trip, we went to many of the Israelite’s key lookout cities, one of which I have studied in classes because of its amazing archaeological finds. This site, Lachish, was conquered by Joshua from the Amorites and became a crucial Israelite fortress city (Josh. 10:3-5, 31-32). The Assyrians then captured it in 701 BC (2 Kings 18:13-17, 2 Chron. 32:9, Isaiah 36), followed by the Babylonian capture (Jer. 34:7). When the Jews returned from Babylonian exile, some settled here in Lachish (Nehem. 11:30). SO this is more detail than you want, but I figured I would give you a brief overview on ONE of the many places we went. Anyway, the archaeology here as been phenomenal, as there are remnants of an Israelite Temple, the siege ramp from the Assyrians, the double gated/walled entrance of the fortress, and the most important find—the Letters of Lachish. These were letters written on ostraca, broken pottery sherds, telling of the fall of the neighboring fortress of Azekah to the Babylonians. They allude to knowledge that they were next to be hit, and all of the emotions involved with that knowledge. For an archaeologist like me, I just eat that stuff up! It was so amazing to finally be standing at this site that I have studied so much in classes! Love my life! ☺
Our trip also included a stop in the Elah Valley, where David slew Goliath. And of course in would not be a field trip if we didn’t get to learn in the field. SO, we each got a sling and five smooth stones and practiced our shot… Don’t worry, I had someone video tape me doing a demonstration. Of course I can’t upload it or show it to anyone until I get home… but just know that you’ll really have something to look forward to! Haha I think we’re mostly lucky that no one got too seriously injured… there were a few bumps on the head and split lips, but nothing that detracted from how AWESOME it was. I’m not terrible… but I definitely can’t aim and hit a target. Haha For sure though, this was the highlight of the trip for me!