Tel Tzafit is believed to be the site of the ancient Philistine city of Gath. Gath was one of the five Philistine cities in the southern coastal plain, the others being Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Ekron. These 5 cities are often referred to as the Philistine Pentapolis. There are impressive views from all sides of the tel and one can appreciate the strategic importance of this site. It is located at the beginning of the Shefelah and commanded the Via Maris and an important east-west road.
The city of Gath is part of the David story, in that the warrior Goliath came from Gath. He challenged the Israelites to a duel and David accepted the challenge and killed him with a sling. Later, David sought refuge in Gath from the envy of Saul after he had made several attempts at his life, despite David seeking reconciliation. Achish, the king of Gath, was happy to accept this deserter and his 600 warriors (I Samuel 27:2). During his stay with the Philistines, David would go out on war parties. Achish trusted he was fighting against the tribe of Judah, but David lied to Achish (ibid 27:10). Instead, he was finding the enemies of the Judahites in the south, such as the Amalekites.
Matters came to a head when the Philistines decided to fight against the northern Israelite tribes and they assembled in the Jezreel Valley. The Bible does not say this, but this coalition probably also involved other "sea people" from their northern cities. Achish from Gath was part of this coalition. Achish had so much trust in David that he invited him to be part of his war party, and even to be his bodyguard (ibid 28:2). However, the other Philistine generals had suspicions about David's loyalty and he was dismissed from the battle. During this conflict, Saul and his son Jonathan were slain. On hearing of their deaths, David left Gath and went to Hebron where he became leader of the tribe of Judah. Eventually, he would become king of all Israel.
Time: About 1½ hour for the walk and to admire the views.
Distance: 2¾ Km.
Type of walk: Circular
Difficulty: An easy hike that climbs up to the tel on a dirt road.
Directions and starting point: Put into Waze: "Tel Zafit" or “גן לאומי תל צפית.” This will take you to the parking lot at the bottom of the tel. The hike starts from here.
Public transport: There is no close public transport.
From this vantage point on the top of the tel you can see the expanse of the Shefela leading to the mountain range. It is just possible to make out the tel of Azeika in the Valley of Elah, the front line in the battle between the Israelites and Philistines at the time of Saul and David and Goliath.
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Take the clearly marked green trail to the top of the tel. Periodically there are signs with quotations from the Bible about the ancient city of Gath. You will pass caves within the chalk cliff.
From the top of the tel are impressive views in all directions – the coastal plain and the Shefelah, and the central mountain range in the distance.
A continuation of the green trail takes you down from the tel. Close to the bottom of the tel, you are directed onto a red trail that returns you to the parking lot.