BEIT YELLIN — Israel is one of the richest archaeological countries in the world.
Notwithstanding its small size, new and exiting finds are discovered regularly throughout the year. The variety of these finds has enabled archaeologists and historians to validate the intricate stories of the development of the country.
Artifacts as far back as the stone-age record a continual narrative of human habitation and a corroboration of the deep Jewish connection to the Land of Israel.
Despite these important archaeological activities, the relatively modern history of Israel is not neglected. Indeed it has become clear that the past 150 yars shows the development that eventually led to the foundation of the present state.
Relatively recent activity is being preserved for future generations so that there will be an intimate understanding of the motivation of individuals who wanted to repopulate a land that was then sparse in both people and settlements.
One such individual was Yehoshua Yellin who, in the early 1860s, established the first “modern” Jewish agricultural settlement outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.
Apart from the iconic Montefiore windmill, which was built adjoining Jerusalem’s Old City wall in Mishkenot Sha’ananim in 1857, Beit Yellin, as it became known, was intended to be a self-sufficient Jewish settlement some six kilometers west of Jerusalem located at Motza.
Motza was first mentioned in the Talmud as the place where the residents of Jerusalem came to cut willow branches to be used during the Sukkot festival.The farmland for Motza was purchased from the nearby Arab village of Colonia.
A ceramic tile factory was soon established and in 1871Yellin built a family home and a small inn (Hahn) on the foundations of an older Roman building.
Legal matters delayed the start of the establishment of land for orchards and vines, but soon that problem was solved and local produce began to grow, irrigated by a local spring and well. By 1890 the Yellin family home was completed.
At the end of the 19th century Motza had its first synagogue and school built on the remains of older Byzantine and Roman buildings.
Excavations begun some 30 years ago had revealed remains from the Second Temple period, and the spring, which is also currently being excavated by the Israel Antiquities Authority, is now believed to be the spring mentioned in the Book of Joshua. After many years of neglect, renovations were started some six years ago to return the Yellin house to the way it looked in the late 19th century.
Today there is a visitor’s center where the extraordinary life and times of Yellin and his family are retold by an actor who plays the part of Yellin’s son David.