A wooden sign stands at the entrance to the dirt road leading to the Segev Forest in the Western Galilee, inscribed with the symbol of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). Beneath it in fading green letters is the name "Rosh Zayit Ruin." Without perusing the entrance to the dirt road carefully, you might not see the weed-covered sign, and not realize that this is the entrance to a very special archaeological site.
Only an all-terrain vehicle can reach the place because the road is so bad. Before you reach the site, consisting of ruins from the 10th century BCE, you will notice how poorly the area is kept up. The communities in the Misgav region, where the ruin is located, are to begin restoration and development work during the holidays in the hope of upgrading their foundering tourism profile.
The site itself is on a hill with a spectacular view. To the west, you can see the entire Acre Valley and Haifa Bay, and to the north and east are the Western and Upper Galilee mountains. Many archaeologists have found in the site the solution to a historical mystery going back to the time of King Solomon.
"The excavations Dr. Zvi Gal carried out at the beginning of the 1990s solved a very complex puzzle about King Solomon and Hiram, king of Phoenicia," says Mordechai Aviam, director of the Galilee Archaeological Institute.
"A site of a Phoenician nature was built here, a kind of administrative and military center constructed on top of private dwellings from the 11th century. The Phoenician nature of the site bears out the story of King Solomon giving King Hiram portions of the country in exchange for the cedars of Lebanon, with which he built the Temple," Aviam says, smiling in consideration of the implications the story has for the present-day debate over dividing the land.
Not far from here, on the slope of the hill, Aviam has worked with archaeology students at a site known as the Beza Ruin. Remains were found here of an olive oil press and a private home from Second Temple times and the period of the Mishnah, the first and second centuries CE. "The place is beautifully preserved, and we know there are many archaeological finds underground," Aviam says. Gidi Aharoni, head of the Teradyon Industrial Zone (named after a martyr in the rebellion against Rome, a name to be changed to the Misgav Industrial Zone) is listening in. Aharoni is also director general of the Misgav economic corporation, and by his own admission is a lover of archaeology and the environment. For Aharoni, the two sites, beyond their historical importance, can leverage tourism in the region. "We have an amazing place that people hardly know. In Misgav tourism has been almost totally neglected for years." For Aharoni, changing the Segev Forest into a protected park with bicycle and hiking trails that will help people get to know its history and archaeological remains is a dream come true. "If you don't dream, you'll never get there," he says. "This is one of my declared goals, to bring people back to this place. We are talking about archaeological tourism and ecology, landscape, riding and hiking in the fresh air and the heart of nature, along with visits to incredible sites that tell the story of this land."
Aharoni and Aviam believe it will not be particularly costly to develop the site. "Cleaning, fencing and signage can make the site quite attractive to visitors. It can also be developed with additional excavation because we know how much is still underground," Aviam says.