He overran Philistia as far as Azza and its border areas, from watchtower to fortified town.” II Kings 18:8 (The Israel Bible™)
In a tale of past meets present, a group of IDF soldiers discovered a guard tower used by their ancestors and fellow warriors from the Kingdom of Judah. The troops connected with their Biblical counterparts when they took part in an archaeological dig, uncovering a watchtower from the era of King Hezekiah in southern Israel. It is believed that the tower was built in the 8th century BCE.
According to the evidence discovered at the site, researchers believe the tower was abandoned when Assyrian King Sennacherib, who ruled from 705 BCE to 681 BCE, invaded the region at the end of King Hezekiah’s reign in 701 BCE. At that time, the entrance to the tower was sealed up and the soldiers fled. Sennacherib’s military campaign in Judea was particularly devastating with Assyrian writings claiming he destroyed 46 cities and over 2,000 farms and villages. Sennacherib went on to lay siege to Jerusalem but was ultimately unsuccessful.
The remains of the watchtower were discovered on a hilltop inside a paratrooper base in southern Israel. It is estimated that the tower originally measured 15 x 10.5 feet and was built from large stones, some weighing as much as eight tons. The remains of the tower currently stand six feet high.
The excavation was conducted as part of a project known as “The Nature Defense Forces Project – Commanders Take Responsibility for their Environment” (TNDFPCTRE) led by the IDF’s Technology and Maintenance Corps, and was carried out in cooperation with the IDF, the Defense Ministry, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). The TNDFPCTRE began in 2014 with eight projects and currently operates sixty activity centers across the country. The goal of the program is to remind the soldiers why it’s so important to protect this land as they belong to an ancient people who inherited it from God.
Sa’ar Ganor and Valdik Lifshitz, excavation directors on behalf of the IAA, described the find.
“The strategic location of the tower served as a lookout point over the Philistine enemy, one of whose cities was Ashkelon. In the days of the First Temple, the Kingdom of Judah built a range of towers and fortresses as points of communication, warning and signaling, to transmit messages and field intelligence. This tower is one of the observation points connecting the large cities in the area, located in the Beit Mirsim (Mirsham), Tel Eton and Tel Lachish sites. In ancient times, to transmit messages, beacons of smoke were lit during the day and beacons of fire at night. It is likely that the watchtower now uncovered was one of the towers that bore some of the beacons.”
150 recruits and commanders from the Paratroopers Brigade, including recruits from commando units, participated in the excavations that lasted several months. Guy Saly, director of the IDF Nature Defense Forces Project, explained that the project was beneficial to the army.
“To our delight, each project creates solidarity, strengthening the connection between the soldiers and their surroundings. The IDF, a melting pot of Israel’s diverse population, is a unique meeting place for people from all parts of the country, which, through environmental activities, creates between them a stronger awareness to the preservation of nature and the Israeli heritage,” Saly said.