Ein Yael is an ancient farm situated 5 miles west of the Old City of Jerusalem. Gershon Edelstein began excavations at the farm in 1980-
“I first discovered Ein Yael on a summer day in 1980 while walking in the Rephaim Valley, between the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Kiryat Hayovel on the northwest and Gilo on the south. It was about 5 p.m., and the late afternoon light raked across the hillsides, outlining the shrubs and limestone outcrops with shadows. Looking toward the south, I suddenly realized that the terraces facing me were not just random stone walls, but appeared to be built in the form of a planned farm. Inspecting more closely, I discovered the wall bordering a terraced farm. Eager to learn about this farm, I returned to the site the next day and found water channels adjacent to each terrace. The channels were part of an irrigation system, which included stone valves used to direct the water flow. Clearly, this farm had been a permanent settlement, worked year-round and prepared to respond to changing water needs and to changing availability of water. Although the channels I found were relatively recent, probably no more than 50 years old, I was confident that the system was devised much earlier.
Geologists, archaeologists and botanists were brought in, and together we began to put together the pieces in order to understand how the Ein Yael farm actually operated. The farm took its name from the Arabic name of the spring on the farm, Ein Yalu; Hebraized it became Ein Yael. Aerial photos of the Judean hills revealed a number of additional farm units in the vicinity of Ein Yael. It became apparent that throughout history many farms, similar to Ein Yael, had been inhabited and worked in the Judean hills. By studying Ein Yael in detail, we hoped to learn about life in the agricultural communities that supplied Jerusalem with its food and were closely linked to its fate.”
Also discovered at Ein Yael were the remains of a Roman villa. The remains include a Roman period mosaic floor with the shield of David (pictured here).
Gershon Edelstein, “Riches at Ein Yael- What’s a Roman Villa Doing Outside Jerusalem?” BAR 16-06, Nov-Dec 1990.