Judean terraces

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The possibility of farming in the Judean hills is limited. Despite good terra rosa (“red dirt”) soils, gravity and slope make them tough to cultivate, and once cultivated, tough to keep from sliding downhill. The answer? Terraces. Lots of them.

These stacked-stone walls create steps on the hillsides. The walls arrest erosion and provide narrow platforms for agriculture. Olives are a popular crop choice here. The tactic of growing orchards on terraces goes back to the Iron Age.

This shot was taken in the Wadi Urtas just a few miles south of Bethlehem. The biblical ruins of Etam are in the vicinity. Etam was a site fortified by Rehoboam, son of Solomon (2 Chron 11:6). The story of the name urtas is uncertain; it may come from the Latin hortus, evoking the sense of “garden.” When you see the green you know why!

The scarring of the ground in the distance is the work of an illegal Israeli settlement.


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A few seats have opened up on our Johnson University Study-Tour to Israel-Palestine slated for March 12-23, 2019. If you are interested in being a part of this high-energy student trip, contact me immediately at markziese@gmail.com. Don’t hesitate. Our roster must be finalized by mid-December. Academic credit is available.