A very special place
The biblical town of Beit Hogla is mentioned in the Book of Joshua, as being near the northern tip of the Dead Sea, on the frontier between Judah’s portion Binyamin’s portion: (Joshua 15:6) and (Joshua 18:19). It is mentioned again as one of the towns of Binyamin, together with Jericho and Beit El (Joshua 18:21).
Beit Hogla is also in the heart of the Plains of Jericho, where Israel dwelt after crossing the Jordan in preparation for the conquest of Jericho. Mt Nebo, where Moses spoke his last words, and from where he gazed at the Land of Israel, stands on the east bank of the Jordan, right across from Beit Hogla.
Present day Beit Hogla is an organic farm and community. The organic farm was founded by Erna Covos in 2001, after the Arabs vandalised the Shalom al Israel synagogue in Jericho, where Jews studied every day in the Kollel, under the presidency of Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh.
For 15 years, Erna lived on the farm alone, and managed to plant, with the help of many dedicated volunteers, dates, olives, figs, pomegranates, papaya and many other fruit whose cultivation is extremely challenging in the hot desert climate and the salty, sandy ground. Recently, families have come to settle the place and form a community.
Beit Hogla is Jericho’s Visitor Centre
- Beit Hogla’s location in the heart of the Plains of Jericho, is ideal for hosting groups, and organising tours to deepen their knowledge of the area, its history and traditions: The crossing of the Jordan just to the east, (Joshua 3:12-17), why this place was chosen as the entry point to the Land of Israel and what connects it to Jericho just to the west, the mass circumcision that took place here in the Biblical Gilgal (Joshua 5:2-8) and the first Passover in the Land after Israel crossed the Jordan (Joshua 5:10).
- It is possible to organise a great variety of tours – focused on history, Bible, nature, as desired.
- Beit Hogla is the meeting point and the base for tours of the immediate region – The Biblical Gilgal including the Circumcision Hill (Joshua 5:2-8), the Jordan Crossing (Joshua 3:12-17), the remains of biblical Beit Hogla (Joshua 15:6, 18:19, 18-21), and the surrounding hills and river beds.
- Prayers at the synagogues of Jericho: Shalom al Israel and Naaran, as well as tours to Jericho’s important sites: Tel Jericho and the Elisha Spring, the Hasmonean Winter Palaces, the Priestly Burial Caves, the the Kipros fortress and more are also organised from Beit Hogla.
Biblical study centre
- Seminars focusing on the Land of Israel are organised in Beit Hogla. Rabbis come to give lectures and mini-tours of the surrounding area. These seminars typically take place once a month, towards the beginning of the Hebrew month in the evening hours. Rabbis who regularly give lectures at this seminar are Rav Dr Hagi Ben-Artzi who expertly weaves history, geography, Bible and tradition into his lectures, Rav Avraham Blass who is an expert on the Jerusalem Talmud, Rav Yaakov Shapira whose lectures explore Hassidic stories, Rav Yossi Peli who is a long-term friend of Jericho and a past head of the Shalom al Israel Kollel in the 1990’s, and others who give fascinating one-off lectures.
- Every year on Hoshana Raba eve, all-night study takes place in Beit Hogla, and at first light we celebrate Hoshana Raba at the Shalom al Israel synagogue in Jericho, where during the festive prayer, we circle 7 times round the synagogue (the Hoshanot), in memory of the fall of the city’s walls, which miraculously sank into the ground, when Joshua and the People of Israel circled the city 7 times with the blaring of trumpets and rams’ horns (Shofarot) (Joshua 6:2-20).
- Beit Hogla also hosts a variety of Bible-related lectures and events.
Organic produce and hospitality
- Beit Hogla has a building dedicated to housing volunteers or guests, and a desert lookout. Festive events with food, as well as tours of the area can be arranged.
- Beit Hogla has extensive organic agriculture, in particular 0.3% acidity extra-virgin olive oil, certainly one of the best olive oils which can be had. This produce is sold in Beit Hogla’s Organic Shop at attractive prices.
- Erna Covos has her holistic medicine clinic in Beit Hogla, which promotes a natural and healthy lifestyle.
- A number of young families have made their home in Beit Hogla, and established a vibrant community, which loves the Torah and the Land of Israel.
A bit of History
Original article by: Erna Covos, translated from Hebrew.
Up to 1993, Jericho had Yeshiva under the direction of Hanan Porat (ז”ל) with many students. After the Oslo accords, the number of students dwindled, so we founded the “Ateret Eliahu” Kollel in the ancient Shalom al Israel synagogue, under the presidency of Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh. The Rav who taught there daily was Rav Yossi Peli, who came daily with his students from Yitzhar, in the Samarian highlands, as well as two guards in civilian clothing.
In October 2000, the Arabs burned the Shalom al Israel synagogue, after they burnt the Tomb of Josef the month before. Thus, the second intifada started. The Israeli government no longer allowed Jews to visit the city of Jericho. We founded a non-profit organisation named “מורשת ותרבות ביריחו” (known in English as “Jewish Life in Jericho”), with the goal of not abandoning the region.
We held Torah lessons and events at IDF (Israel Defence Forces) checkpoints, during one and a half years. The IDF acquiesced and provided security for us during our events, so allowing us to return to the Shalom al Israelsynagogue and Tel Jericho (The remains of the city which Joshua conquered).
We started holding Sabbaths outside the Noam army camp, on the western edge of Jericho, near the ancient Naaran synagogue After a determined struggle, including an incident where Arab terrorists surrounded us with their weapons, we founded a farm north-west of Jericho, which eventually became Mevoot Yericho.
After we were expelled from Jericho we wondered around the area, until the then District Commander let us settle in the Elisha camp, on the western side of Highway 90. We stayed there for seven months.
In the end, we were also expelled from the Elisha camp, because the IDF planned to give it away to the Arabs. In compensation, the then District Commander gave his accord for us to settle in Beit Hogla, on the south-east corner of Jericho, in the heart of the Biblical Gilgal (in the Plains of Jericho), and directly across the Jordan from Mt Nebo (where Moses spoke his last). Beit Hogla is indeed located where the People of Israel signed the covenant with G-d – by being circumcised – after they crossed the Jordan under the leadership of Joshua.
There, with the whole family and the children’s friends, we built houses, and organised a multitude of activities, Torah classes, and prayers. We managed to have water and electricity, and planted trees to make the desert bloom – a real miracle.
Today (in the year 2020), Beit Hogla is a blossoming agricultural farm, a captivating tourist centre, a starting point for tours of Jericho and its environs, and has become home to some 11 more families.
Article source: Why Beit Hogla?