Hikers cleared from archaeological site after fire breaks out in nearby olive grove

Firefighting teams prevent blaze from reaching Tel Gezer, which suffered minor damage in inferno last year; no reports of injuries

A fire at an olive grove at the base of the Tel Gezer National Park, September 16, 2023. (Fire and Rescue Services)
A fire at an olive grove at the base of the Tel Gezer National Park, September 16, 2023. (Fire and Rescue Services)

Hikers were evacuated Saturday from Tel Gezer National Park after a fire broke out at the base of the ancient mound between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Six teams of firefighters and two helicopters arrived on the scene and prevented the blaze from encroaching on the archaeological site, according to the Fire and Rescue Services.

Firefighters later announced they brought the blaze, which started in an olive grove, under control.

No injuries were reported in the fire, which came as tens of thousands of Israelis flocked to national parks across the country during the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

In July 2022, a brush fire forced more than 1,000 people at a camp to evacuate. It caused extensive damage to Tel Gezer, which hosts artifacts dating back 5,000 years and 26 layers of settlements from the early Bronze Age to the Crusader period.

Despite initial reports, the ancient stone artifacts and constructions withstood the blaze, with most of the damage caused to the surrounding open fields, and no one was injured.

However, the Solomonic Gate, an ancient water plant, and the old city walls of Gezer suffered some minor, reversible damage and are the focus of government-funded restoration efforts.

File: Image of the Tel Gezer National Park, burnt by fires that broke out on July 4, 2022. (Roy Strauss/Nature and Parks Authority)

Gezer was a significant city in the region during the Middle Bronze Age, occupying a strategic position along the route from Jerusalem to the Mediterranean Sea.

It also features repeatedly in the Old Testament. According to the Bible, the city was rebuilt by King Solomon as one of his great fortress cities, after being leveled by an Egyptian pharaoh.

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