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“And the boundary ascended to Debir from the valley of Achor, and so northward, facing Gilgal, that is, before the ascent to Adumim, which is on the south side of the valley, and the boundary passed toward the waters of Enshemesh, and the outlets were at En-rogel (Joshua 15:7)”
Today we visit a site that was arguably on the most important road in biblical times (and even today). Anyone taking this extreme desert route from Jerusalem to Jericho, the Dead Sea or Masada has passed through here, although they probably never stopped at this site. This region offers breathtaking views and includes a rich history and unique archaeology. Plus, Israel’s newest nightlife and shopping attraction recently opened here (read more here). Today, this Jewish city, located in Judah and Samaria (West Bank) is of the utmost importance for Israel’s national security and holds Jerusalem, which is why every Prime Minister (right and left) to start by Yitzhak Rabin has made the development of this area a priority. With that in mind, let’s explore this timeless treasure!
In biblical times, Maale Adumim sat on the border between Benjamin and Judah (see Joshua 15:7 and 18:17).
When the Bible refers to “Maale Adumim (translated as the Ascension of the Red)”, it is not referring exclusively to a particular city, but rather to the stretch of road beginning at Jericho (400 meters below sea level ) and rising steeply to Jerusalem. (800 meters above sea level). The limestone rocks on this climb are red, tinted with iron oxide, hence the name “Red Ascent”.
During the times of the First and Second Temple, the Jews had the obligation to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem 3 times a year: Passover, Sukkot and Shavuot (in the future, when the Third Temple is rebuilt, the obligation will be restored). Jews from Galilee, the Jordan Valley, modern Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria ascended to Jerusalem on this route, and there were many inns along the way. Today, the Inn of the Good Samaritan Museum (one of the largest collections of synagogue and church mosaics in the world) is housed in an Ottoman Turkish inn built over a Byzantine inn. It is believed that during the Second Temple period it was also the location of an inn due to a Herodian-era fortress found nearby that protected it.
In Byzantine times, a large monastery existed here (discovered during the construction of a new district of Maale Adumim in the 1980s) called Martyrius. The monastery complex was huge, with mosaic floors and 6 large cisterns, a dining hall, an inn for travelers and stables. It was damaged by Persian invaders in 614 CE and completely abandoned after the Arab conquest (c. 638 CE).
During the Muslim era, the region experienced a long period of decline. In the 20th century, the British paved over the Jericho-Jerusalem road naming it Highway 1, but they redirected the road from Jericho to the nearby Lido (where the Dead Sea industry, hotel and nightclub were located) and it is still the case today.
When Jordan occupied the land from 1948 to 1967, little development took place here. In 1967, Jerusalem and Judah and Samaria were liberated by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). At first, the Israeli government (led by the leftist Labor Party) would not allow Jews to return or build homes here, as they were under the illusion that if Israel were to “return” the newly liberated land to the Arabs, they would be clamoring for peace (in August 1967, Arab nations met in Sudan and disavowed any future peace agreement, regardless of land). Israel only allowed the construction of small settlements in areas that were militarily necessary for strategic reasons (mainly in the Jordan Valley and Gush Etzion). After the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Gush Emunim (a religious Zionist organization whose goal was to colonize all newly liberated lands in order to fulfill the Torah command to colonize their ancestral homeland, while restoring the Jewish presence in the region ) has been fonded. They began to colonize this area in the mid-1970s. In 1977, Menachem Began (a champion of the settler movement) was elected Prime Minister, and he facilitated the construction of communities throughout Judah and Samaria, which enabled Maale Adumim to grant local council status. In 1991, Maale Adumim became the first Jewish settlement to be officially declared a city (since then Betar Illit, Ariel and Modiin Illit have also received this recognition). Currently, many new neighborhoods are being built here and a thriving community, including many English speakers, lives there. The city has twice won the Israel Ministry of Education’s Excellence Award and three times the “Most Beautiful City in Israel” award from the Council for a Beautiful Israel. The region now grows several thriving settlements, including Mitsphe Yericho, Vered Yericho, Anatot, Kfar Adumim, and several others. Together, this bloc of settlements is known as the “Adumim Bloc” and retaining control of this area just west of Jerusalem is considered a rare consensual issue in Israel.
One of the city’s major achievements was the establishment of one of the first industrial zones in the settlements, which soon became one of the main industrial zones serving the Jerusalem area. Today, more than 300 companies have factories here and are a major employer for Jews and thousands of Palestinians. For residents of the Palestinian Authority (PA), these jobs are in high demand, as even those earning the Israeli minimum wage earn on average three times more than if they worked for PA employers. They also enjoy benefits unheard of in the Arab towns of Judah and Samaria, such as compulsory paid sick leave, legal holidays based on the Muslim calendar, paid transport, Israeli health care, pension and holidays.
In mid-2021, a revolutionary game-changer in the region occurred when Israel’s most luxurious mall, D-City, opened here (at a cost of $230 million). It is a breathtaking architectural phenomenon, built by renowned architect Gadi Halperin to resemble the luxurious Venetian Resort in Las Vegas. Indeed, whoever visits here can be forgiven for temporarily forgetting that they are NOT in Italy but rather in an extreme desert! The mall has over 200 brand name stores (including several furniture stores), water fountains, nightly concerts, Venetian-themed restaurants, and an amusement park with 40 rides. It will soon have a hotel and a congress centre. This mall is expected to become the main shopping center for more than 1.5 million Israelis (including residents of Jerusalem) for their furnishing needs, a major rest route between the center of the country and Eilat and a mecca nightlife and a tourist attraction in itself. This is likely to create economic opportunities for surrounding desert communities, which will open businesses that cater to this increased traffic, accelerating the region’s growth (read more about this wonderful hotspot here).
Today there is so much for tourists to do in the area, including some of the best ATV/Jeeping in the country and hiking trails (including waterholes). On your next trip to Israel, in addition to visiting the Dead Sea and Masada, take the opportunity to stop here and explore this magnificent region!
Please visit the author’s website: https://guidedtoursofisrael.com
(All images used are free or licensed by the author for commercial use)