The Judean Lowlands is a fantastic region to walk with the Bible in hand. There are several sites that are related to Biblical stories and characters, and we will surely talk about them in this blog over time. But if you wish to add entertainment to your tour in this area, then head inside the city of Beit Shemesh to visit the Sculptures Garden, also called "Gan Golan" (Golan's Garden) named after a soldier called Golan Peli who was killed aged 22 in 1992 during military action. His parents had a house adjacent to the present garden and, as they were both sculptors (the father in stonework and the mother in metalwork), they started to create sculptures using Biblical themes. This is because, when Golan was a child, he loved the Biblical stories. His parents saw their son as a continuation of the tradition of Jewish heroes mentioned in the Bible. But the sculptures started to fill the parents' private garden and visitors were interested to see them. So the Municipality of Beit Shemesh gave the adjacent public field to be used for their display and it became known as "Gan Golan". Below is one view of the gardens.
Here is a list of most of the statues you will find, if not always identify, in the gardens. It is interesting to read the narrative from the Bible (maybe on your own selection of statues) and identify the elements that the artist chose to illustrate it.
1. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb (Isaiah 6:11)
2. The gates of Gaza, after the story of Samson the Judge who took the gates of that city on his back and brought them in this region (Judges 16:3)
3. The goat. It is not sure what goat it is meant to represent but I have decided, by looking at its worrying face (see below), that it is that poor goat sent to Azazel ! (Leviticus 16:8)
4. Ruth and Boaz: related to the encounter between Ruth the Moabite and Boaz (Ruth 2)
5. Moses smote the Egyptian (Exodus 2:12)
6. Yiftah's daughter (see below): it is the sad story of the daughter of Yiftah the Gileadite, his unique child, who had to be sacrificed (Judges 11)... the Biblical story inspired the builders of the Greek mythology with their own variant (the story of Iphigenia, daughter of Agamemnon)
7. The return of the Ark: this is related to the Biblical story of the Ark that was captured by the Philistines and kept during seven months until it was returned to the Israelites of Beit Shemesh (I Samuel 6); this story is relevant to the region and the artist made a massive sculpture to represent it
8. The Judgment of Solomon: the famous narrative of the two women who argued to be the mother of a baby (I Kings 3:16-28)
9. David playing the harp to King Saul (I Samuel 16:16-23); this is somehow enigmatic representation of the story; who is David and who is Saul? The question gets more complicated when look behind the sculpture...
10. Daniel and the Writing on the wall: this is about the story of Daniel the Prophet and Belshazzar the king of Babylon (Daniel 5); for more information, click to the link to check my web site about Jewish chronology.
11. The Babylonian Exile (Psalms 137) or maybe the Descent to Egypt (Genesis 46): I am not sure about this sculpture but I opt for the Exile to Babylon because a harp is depicted in the artwork and the Psalm says: By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. Upon the willows in the midst thereof we hanged up our "harps".
12. The breastplate of the High Priest: this one is easy to identify and represented as mentioned in the Bible with four rows of three precious stones (Exodus 39:8-21)
13. The Tablets of the Law and the golden calf: the artist chose to represent both in this artwork, as they are mentioned in the same chapter (Exodus 32)
14. The cluster of grapes from the Valley of Eshkol (Numbers 13:23); this is the story of the 12 Explorers sent to survey the Promised Land; because of their "touring" task, the story was used as the logo for the Ministry of Tourism of Israel, and as my logo as well !! But the sculpture in this garden shows the cluster being... empty. This is surely because, as mentioned in the Biblical narrative, the bad mouthing from the Explorers overshadowed the goodness of the Land (see photo below)
15. The 12 Tribes: they are represented by a sort of totem with 12 sections (Genesis 49:28), as seen in the photo above, behind the empty cluster
16. Samson's head: the hero is related to this very region, as he was born and buried in the area "between Tsora and Eshtaol" and many of his adventures took place in this area; the artist mostly represented the head of Samson, and you will recognize it with the long hair but also because Samson holds the jawbone of an ass (Judges 15:15-16)
17. Rachel's weeping for her children (see picture below): it is said that when Rachel saw her children (the tribe of Benjamin) being sent to the Babylonian Exile, she wept and could not be comforted until God promised her that He will make them return from exile (Jeremiah 31:14-15)
18. Jonah in the belly of the Big Fish (Jonah 2:1): this sculpture is easy to identify ! (see below)
19. Jacob's Ladder: this is about the Biblical narrative of Jacob seeing in a dream a ladder up to Heavens with angels going up and down from it (Genesis 28:12). The sculpture is made from the metal tank tracks to remind about Golan's death in a tank. The choice of this particular Biblical theme is also related to Golan because his second name was... Jacob.
The above is not an exhaustive list of what you can find in this sculptures garden. I hope it gives a taste to go and visit it.
How to get there? On Waze or Google Maps, type "Sculptures Garden, Bet Shemesh, Israel".
Entrance: as this is a public garden, it is open at all times, and free of charge. If you travel there on a Shabbat, be respectful of the neighbours who keep the sanctity of that day, so avoid horns and unnecessary noise.
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