The area of the Shephelah is very interesting. It is mentioned a number of times in the Old Testament and is often called the "Judean Foothills". It is a series of lowlands with hills and valleys that stretches 10-15 miles wide between the Coastal Plain and the Central Mountain Range. During the time of the conquest, this land was allotted to the tribe of Judah. By the time of the United Kingdom, this land had become a buffer area between the mountains (where the Israelites lived) and the plains (where the Philistines lived). One of the east-to-west running valleys in the Shephelah is the Valley of Elah, which was the sight of the epic battle between David and Goliath.

Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. - 1 Samuel 17:1-3

Recently, there has been some discussion about expanding some neighborhoods from the town of Beit Shemesh southward, possibly impacting the area around the Valley of Elah. I have been trying to follow this story closely in that I was not in favor of destroying the landscape around this site. Recently, there has been some wonderful excavations taking place at Khirbet Qeiyafa, which overlooks the valley. These excavations might have also been affected.

Luckily, it appears that a hold has been put in place on the neighborhood construction. In addition, they are considering protecting the area by making it a national park. (NOTE: You might have to use Google Translate to translate the web site from Hebrew to English.)

UPDATE: The article is now in English!

The picture at the top of this post is from Google Maps and is looking east down the Valley of Elah. From this perspective, the army of Israel would have been on the left ridge with the Philistines on the right. David slew Goliath in the valley near the stream bed. (NOTE: If you are reading this post from an email, you might to click on the title and go to the web page to see the picture.)