TEL HAZOR - WONDERS OF NORTH ISRAEL
The city of Hazor was first mentioned in the 3rd millennium BC. in the texts of Ebla (Northern Syria). And in the second half of the 19th century. BC. it is already written about in the Egyptian "Texts of Curses" as an important political center. In the 18th century. BC. Hatzor is designated in the documents of Mari as a large trade center that had a caravan connection with Babylon. Further, it is mentioned in the documents of El-Amarna (14th century BC) and the Anastasi Papyrus (13th century BC). In the book of Joshua (11:10), it is said that "Hazor was the head of all kingdoms." The book of Judges says that "Yavin, king of Canaan, reigned in Hatzor" (4: 2). He may not have been the king of all of Canaan, but he certainly ruled over a large portion of it. Some archaeologists consider Hazor to be the most important Biblical site not only in Israel but throughout the world. Therefore Tel Hazor is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
What is the city of that time? How does it differ from the village, because both urban residents and villagers were engaged in agriculture? At the same time, the difference is very significant and it consists of self-awareness and self-organization. In the village, each peasant lives by his labor care only about his family and his economy. But the urban ones - by definition - managed to organize themselves in such a way that they together fenced off their settlement, agreed to repair the walls and guard the gates, supplied water, allocated funds for defense. The walls at that time were erected from clay mixed with straw and manure. These adobe walls were washed away by the winter rains, and in the summer they had to be raised and plastered again, and for this, a huge amount of building material had to be brought in again. And do it all together. And the clay washed off the walls, together with the city debris, raised the level of the ground inside and outside the city. And they had to build walls and houses higher. And from time to time, enemies came and destroyed the city. And when people returned, they rebuilt it on the ruins. Thus, the multi-layered archaeological mounds, which in Hebrew are called "tels", grew up. The lower the layer, the older, the higher, the younger.
To organize this common life, these common works, this socio-economic space, a strong administrative system was needed. That is why a king with his officials stood at the head of each ancient city, and a system for the transfer of power was developed, most often by inheritance. The more advanced and organized Canaanites lived in cities, while the Jews who had recently arrived from the desert lived in villages. The townspeople - the Canaanites and the Philistines - had recognized legitimate leaders, and the Jews had to nominate a leader from their midst each time to solve this particular problem. That is why they demanded a king for themselves. But just as a city needs a king, so a king needs his city to confirm his status. And when David reigned, he built his capital - a small, not very well located, without major trade routes and significant sources of water, but his own. I think this very issue - the issue of royal prestige - became one of the main reasons for the emergence of Jerusalem.
But back to Hazor. In those early days, Hazor, the largest city in Canaan, covered an area of 800 dunams and consisted of two parts - an upper and a lower one. (For comparison - the area of Megiddo is less than 80 dunams). The upper Hazor was located at the top, and the lower one, five times larger, to the north of the hill.
An abundant stream of water flowed nearby, part of which was brought into the city. And in Hazor, even during the siege, there was plenty of water. The city was located at the narrowest point of the Hula Valley, next to a busy international road linking Egypt and Mesopotamia. To the west of it are the high mountains of the Upper Galilee and rugged ravines, to the east is the swampy Hula Valley. There is no way around it. Therefore, he stood exactly here and collected abundant taxes from passing caravans, and was also an insurmountable obstacle for the enemy armies. In addition, Hazor was active in international trade. In particular, large quantities of tin were supplied here, which were then sent to other cities for the production of bronze.
In the 3-2 millennium BC. the largest political center of the Ancient East was the city-state of Mari in the middle reaches of the Euphrates. In this very Marie, French archaeologists found a completely preserved royal archive containing more than 20,000 documents. Of all the cities of Canaan, Mari corresponded only with Hazor, and for as long as 20 years. In the second half of the 2nd millennium BC. power in Canaan passed to Egypt. The Egyptians left local rulers to collect taxes for them. From the correspondence with the metropolis, it is clear that the king of Hatzora was the main one among all local kings and could address directly the pharaoh, bypassing all the bureaucratic formalities. Moreover, in his letters, he called himself not a governor, but a king. And he exchanged gifts with Pharaoh, as was the custom at that time between the kings. The famous Hazor shirts were sent to Egypt. And the pharaoh sent statues here, and two of them are monumental, the likes of which are not found in the entire Levant. 18 fragments of these statues were found in Hazor. One of them, dating from the end of the 3rd millennium BC, depicted Pharaoh Mikerin in the form of a sphinx. In general, amazing objects of material culture have been discovered here, equal to which have not been found in any of the cities of Canaan. These findings are on display in the Israel Museum.
RELIGION IN HATZOR
Hazor was also an important religious center. The remains of four temples were found here, two of them in the upper city and two in the lower one. And there is also a huge open-air altar, and there are dozens of obelisks in it, and an altar next to each one. Around the same - a huge number of bones of sacrificial animals. The inhabitants worshiped the pagan gods El, Erech, and Hadad. The latter may have been the patron saint of the city. The names of the gods became known from an accounting document that lists 19 names of residents. According to ancient custom, these names are theophoric, that is, they include the name of God (well, as have Ishayahu, Zachariah, Jonathan). And 10 of them include the name of the god Hadad. The sacred animal of this god was a bull, numerous figurines of which were found during excavations.
In 8 names there is the name of the god El. And one name Erech indicates the god of the moon. The central obelisk of one of the temples in the lower city depicts a crescent moon with a full circle inside it. The famous Israeli archaeologist Yigal Yadin concluded that this is an image of the moon in its different phases and that the temple is dedicated to Erech. The number and size of the temples indicate significant religious activity during the second millennium BC, between 1700 and 1200.
The status of the city is confirmed by the ruins of a magnificent palace at the top of the hill. The huge basalt foundations of the columns at the entrance give an idea of the power of the pediment lying on these columns. And the very open space of the throne room indicates that the ceiling here was made of Lebanese cedar. Indeed, the 15-meter long beams can only be made from its giant trunks. And according to the status, the king of Hatzor was supposed to decorate his palace with this valuable tree, as all the powerful rulers of that era did (see our articles "Lebanese cedar. Phoenicians" and "Lebanese cedar. Temple of Solomon"). So, it is possible that the walls of the palace were lined with Lebanese cedar.
Indirect confirmation of this was the terrible fire that destroyed the palace. After all, neither the basalt foundation nor the adobe walls could burn. This means that a large amount of wood was burning. And the temperature developed so high that basalt, a stone born in fire, cracked!
Around 1200, the rich and powerful city underwent destruction. How do we know when Hazor was destroyed? Here we must turn to a very accurate Egyptian chronology. It is known that in the years 1230-1220. an important official of Ramses II named Prahotep traveled to these places and set up an altar at the entrance to Hazor. This means that the city lived and flourished at that time. And then it began to decline, as indicated by archaeological research and was destroyed after that date, i.e. at the end of the 13th century. BC. Such a sudden catastrophe allows archaeologists to explore the ruins in detail. In Hazor, the thickness of the layer of wood ash and burnt stones reaches three meters. And under this layer - a huge amount of artifacts.
Unfortunately, no archaeological sources indicate who exactly destroyed Hazor. One can only guess. At that time - in the 13th century. BC NS. - the Hittite and Babylonian kingdoms weakened. Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II retreated from Canaan. The resulting political vacuum led to the fact that various forces penetrated here: the Philistines, Arabs, Arameans, Israelis. But the Philistines - the peoples of the sea - did not go so far inland, and their famous pottery was not found here at all. There is no evidence of military action here and other peoples, except ... Well, of course, ours, and what evidence - TANAKH! Only about Hazor, it says that Joshua burned him with fire. He, of course, burned other cities as well, but only the fire of Hazor was remembered and got into the Scriptures. There was no such fire anywhere else. And what didn’t burn down was deliberately broken up and crushed. This may be another confirmation of the biblical story. After all, such a "legend to the spell", when a captured city is not plundered but destroyed, without leaving a stone unturned, was religious in the ancient world. It meant the victory of the gods of the victor over the gods of the defeated enemy. And in Hazor, there are traces of such deliberate destruction of religious objects, such as, for example, this ritual basalt bowl, which archaeologists then had to collect piece by piece.
As I have already said, the city was in decline, otherwise, the horde of nomads would hardly have been able to defeat it. The fall of Hazor, the most important of the cities of Canaan, was a decisive factor that led to the collapse of the coalition of local kings and the victory of the Jewish army. Now all the land, from Hermon to Arava, became available for the resettlement of the tribes of Israel.
For 100-150 years, no one lived in Hazor. Then the same former nomads settled. They dug holes about a meter and a half deep here and lined their walls with stones, probably for storing crops. Such granaries are found in all Israeli settlements of that period. Residents erected an altar with an obelisk in the city. Yes, yes, despite the calls of the prophets not to make sacrifices on the heights.
People settled only in the upper city and built their houses in the center, around the ruins of the ancient palace, without touching it. After another 100-150 years, in the middle of the 10th century. BC, Hazor suddenly blossomed. On the territory of half of the upper city, rich houses were built, surrounded by a casemate-type wall with six-chamber gates, the same as in Megiddo and Gezer. And we know that when King Solomon erected the Temple on Mount Moria, he simultaneously fortified the most important fortresses - Gezer, Megiddo, and Hazor. Yigal Yadin saw in these gates a confirmation of the biblical story.
In the 9th century, after the division of the kingdom and during the reign of the Omri dynasty, Hazor quickly doubled, occupying the entire territory of the upper city. And 150 years later, in 732 BC, Tiglatpalasar destroyed it to the ground. It is this period that can be seen at the excavations. The five richest archaeological layers allow us to trace the history of the development of the city, the construction of houses, fortifications, Phoenician bridges, as well as a gigantic water supply system during the time of King Ahab, who was married to a Phoenician princess.
The only place that was not built is still a Canaanite palace in the center of an ancient settlement. If we talk about religion, then sacrifices continued on the heights, so hated by the prophets, but there were no more statues or figurines of pagan gods. Pork bones were found among the remains of life, indicating a mixed population of the city.
After the destruction in 732 BC, Hazor ceased to exist. Small settlements arose in their place in different eras. In the book of the Maccabees, the Battle of Hazor is mentioned, but after that, the city completely leaves the historical arena. For centuries, only nomads grazed cattle on its ruins. Almost nothing remained of the once-mighty and formidable city, except for the water supply system, which is still striking the imagination in its scale.
HOW TO GET TO TEL HAZOR?
The national park is located adjacent to and east of Road No. 90 (west of the old road), about 4 kilometers north of the Mahnayim junction.
For those coming from the south, turn about 2 km north of the junction, according to the signs to Ayelet Hashahar (south) and Tel Hatzor, and drive on a winding road next to the Einot Hatzor Reserve until you turn left to the tell.
For those coming from the north, turn at the Ayelet Hashahar interchange, after 1 km pass the main entrance to the kibbutz and after another 500 m turn right to the tell.
In both options, take the short access road to the tell box office, followed by the parking lot.
By public transport: Line 54 from Hatzor HaGlilit to Hulata, get off at the "Ayelet Hashahar branch", and return about half a kilometer south along the road to the turn to Tel. You can also reach line 511 from Safed (via Hatzor HaGlilit) to Kiryat Shmona, and get off at the same station.
Please note that there are additional stations in Ayelet Hashahar (southern junction and northern junction), which are not recommended for pedestrian access to the site.
TEL HATZOR OPENING HOURS AND TICKET PRICES
Entrance to this site is paid, and walking paths, parking, drinking water, and wet toilets have been arranged.
The opening hours are as usual on the sites of the Nature and Parks Authority:
October-March: 08:00 - 16:00
April-September: 08:00 - 17:00
On Fridays and on the eve of the holiday the site closes an hour earlier.
The last entry to most paid sites is one hour before closing time.
The Hatzor Excavation Museum is located in Kibbutz Ayelet Hashahar near Tel Hatzor. The museum is currently only open to groups and by prior arrangement.