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The ruins of Qeiyafa can be approached via the Elah Valley, partly hiking on the Schvil Yisrael. This is described on one of our web pages. An easier alternative is to approach ruins from Route 38. It is theoretically possible to take your car right up to the ruins. However, this is a dirt road that may have furrows and I do not advise it for passenger cars. Instead, one can hike to the ruins on a very pleasant dirt road passing Mediterranean-type vegetation.

Directions and parking: Enter “Khirbet Qeiyafa” into Waze. This Waze direction will take you outside the entrance to the fortress. It is suggested, however, that you not do this, but stop and park in a dirt parking area just off Route 38. If you are coming from Jerusalem, you will not be able to cross over to the other side of the road and will need to do a U-turn at the next intersection. You will turn left onto Route 375 and go into the gas station and turn around from there.

Time1½ hours around the fortress and there and back.

Distance: Almost 4 Km there and back and around the fortress.

Type of hike: There and back the same way, and also a walk around the inside of the fortress.

Difficulty: An easy path with a gradual incline. The entrance to the gate of the fortress is slightly difficult with walking on rocks for a short distance, but does not involve any climbing.

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The Southern Gate of Qeiyafa overlooking the Elah Valley.

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  • Take the left fork up the hill until you come to the metal entrance gate to the site. Take the left fork up to the gate of the fortress.


  • Once inside the fortress encircle it from the inside.


  • Return the way you came.

How Jewish was Qeiyafa?


The fortress of Qeiyafa has been dated by carbon dating to around 1000 BCE, which was the period of King David. It was built on bedrock, which is to say that it was not a tell with proceeding layers of habitation. It was destroyed some 20 to 50 years after being built. The reason for this is not known. However, archeologists love destruction, since there is a greater chance of discovering significant findings in the debris!


There was habitation in this fortress after this destruction, in the Byzantine period, when a villa was built at the site of its central Iron Age palace. However, this did not change the nature of the fortress.

Archeologists from the Hebrew University who worked on this site have suggested that this was an Israelite fortress, although their conclusions have been challenged by the archeologist Israel Finkelstein from Tel Aviv University. Nevertheless, the evidence is very convincing that the archeologist Yoself Garfinel is correct and that this was indeed a Jewish and not a Canaanite fortress and this is generally accepted. Moreover, this evidence provides interesting information about the nature of Judaism at the beginning of the Jewish monarchy.


Unlike the City of David, which was occupied throughout the First Temple period, there were no idols in the debris. Queyafa was therefore completely monotheistic. Several rooms were found which seemed to have been used for worship. One contained an altar for incense. A small model of a Temple was also found bearing some resemblance to the Temple built by Solomon. At the time of David there was no central shrine in the country as the sanctuary at Shilo had been destroyed by the Philistines, and while the Ark of the Covenant was in Jerusalem the Temple had not yet been built.

The Jewish population here abided by the Jewish laws of holiness, and no pig bones were found on the site, unlike what one would expect in a Canaanite or Philistine city. This was also a place with some degree of literacy. An ostracon was found with five lines of text in the proto-Canaanite script, i.e., the ancient Hebrew script. An ostracon is a shard of pottery on which was etched writing.


The exact meaning of the writing has been a matter of debate, but is something like:

You shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord]

Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow]/ Judge the orph[an].

Judge the [ ] [and] the stranger/ [Pl] for the infant/ plead for the po[or and] the widow.

Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king.”


(The letters in brackets are likely guesses).


Literacy in this community is of interest, since it was less likely present in the Canaanite world. Whatever the exact meaning of these sentences is, it seems biblical in its outlook. It is unlikely, for example, that Canaanites would have been concerned about strangers, the poor and the widow. Concern for the disadvantaged was a revolution in the ancient world that was initiated by the Torah. Jewish prophets will later rile at the breakdown of these laws, but at the time of David they were important enough to be written down in places other than scrolls.


Note that the homes within the fortress abut the walls of the fortress with a space between the two parallel walls. The space is divided into compartments or “casemates” and it is called a casement wall. It would have been used for storage and at the time of need for defensive purposes. The space could be filled with dirt and stones and this would strengthen the wall against battering rams. Casement walls are typically found in Israelite architecture from the Iron Age and are found, for example, at Hazor, Gezer, Megiddo and Lachish. Nevertheless, it was not an exclusively Jewish design and is found elsewhere in the Middle East such as in some Assyrian and Hittite cities.


The fortress is unusual in that it has two gates. One gate faces the Elah Valley and the other Azeika. The holes for the posts of the gates can be seen.


Azeika was a nearby fortress, and it is not clear why David built another one here. Both fortresses would have controlled the road to the Judean Mountains along the Elah Valley and its main cities such as Bethlehem. Azeika is mentioned specifically as being part of the inheritance of the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:35), but there may have been times when it passed into Philistine hands. In this instance, another fortress would have been needed to protect the Elah Valley. A somewhat fanciful suggestion is that this was the site of Saul’s camp during the time of David’s victory over Goliath, and David built this fortress for sentimental reasons.

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An ostracon (a piece of pottery) found at Qeiyafa with Hebrew writing in proto-Canaanite script.

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Model of a Temple found at Qeiyafa

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Model of the fortress

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