Most Israelis are familiar with Highway 60 – the main artery that travels from Nazareth in the north, through Jerusalem and all the down to Be’er Sheva in the south. If Yishai Fleisher, the International Spokesman for the Jewish Community of Hebron and a well-known podcaster (including for JewishPress.com), has his way, the historical significance of the route –known as The Biblical Highway – will become equally common knowledge in the Jewish State and worldwide.
Fleisher is spearheading an initiative to raise awareness about the importance of the route that has existed for more than 4,000 years and which includes Biblical landmarks of importance to both Jews and Christians.
Plans for the restoration of the Biblical Highway include the creation of visitor centers, rest stops, educational scenic overlooks, and a dedicated app to guide travelers through the ancient sites and their stories, while providing access to the modern amenities on the highway.
The route makes a natural tourist destination, when one considers the Biblical cities and sites to be found along Highway 60:
• Be’er Sheva: where the patriarch Abraham and his son Isaac found water in the desert, and built an oasis to teach travelers about the One God;
• Hebron: the site of the cave purchased by Abraham to lay the matriarch Sarah to rest, and which subsequently became the resting place for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rivka and Leah as well;
• Bethlehem: the resting place of Jacob’s beloved wife, the matriarch Rachel, who died “along the way”, and the reputed birthplace of Jesus, founder of Christianity;
• Jerusalem: the beating heart of Israel and spiritual capital of the world, where King David established his kingdom and where two Holy Temples were built. This is also the location of Mt. Moriah, site of the binding of Isaac;
• Beit El: where the patriarch Jacob experienced his prophetic dream of a ladder connecting heaven to earth;
• Shiloh: where the Children of Israel installed the Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant after the conquest of Canaan, to serve as their spiritual center for nearly 400 years; and
• Shechem: the first capital of the Kingdom of Israel, where the Children of Israel received blessings and curses at nearby Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal. This is also where Joshua buried the bones of Joseph, carried by the Children of Israel when they sojourned from Egypt.
• Jezreel Valley: Finally, the Biblical Highway ends in the Jezreel Valley where the armies of Israel fought invaders and where beautiful Mount Tabor heralded the victorious Song of Devorah.
Former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are strongly promoting the concept with a full-length movie they filmed on location, called “Route 60: The Biblical Highway,” noted Fleisher.
“Ambassador David Friedman has done amazing work to move the story of the Biblical Highway forward with the creation of a groundbreaking film that connects lovers of the Bible to the places where the Bible happened in the Land of Israel,” Fleisher told JewishPress.com in an interview on Wednesday.
Fleisher and his team are pushing the concept forward on the political level, trying to get the Knesset Names Committee to add a name to Highway 60, calling it “Route 60: Derech HaTanach” (the Biblical Highway). The project is one that will also ultimately involve Israel’s Ministries of Heritage and Transportation; Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu (Otzma Yehudit party) strongly supports the project, Fleisher said.
“We’re focused on places that you can go and feel great. The point is to get to the Joseph Tomb Overlook for example, or to get to Be’er Sheva. It’s very important for us to make it understood that our project here is not political,” Fleisher reiterated.
“It’s Biblical. We’re really trying to teach about the Bible, and the places where the events of the Bible took place – and these places include non-YESHA places (places outside Judea and Samaria), such as Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva and the Jezreel Valley.”
The project will also pave the way for an upswing in tourist activity all along the route and create lucrative opportunities for those who wish to benefit from the initiative, Fleisher emphasized.
“Everyone who wants to, is going to benefit,” Fleisher emphasized. “Make businesses! There’s going to be many tourists who come to experience the Bible, so you can sell Biblical stuff. That’s what happens in the Old City of Jerusalem, and different places, and many Christians and Arabs benefit from Christian tourism,” he pointed out. “We want people to benefit. Anybody who wants to be a part of the Biblical economy is welcome to it.”
However, it is also important to recognize the current reality. In January 2023, the Fight for Every Dunam Forum (Dunam was the Ottoman unit of area, equivalent to 0.247 acres) exposed official Palestinian Authority documents that revealed blueprints for dozens of lots planned for the top of Mount Ebal. The homes in those lots would stand on top of the archaeological remains and be a suburb of the nearby city of Shechem.
“According to the plans, most of the area of the site is going to be razed and turned to gravel, and even the parts that will remain intact will also be destroyed in a short time and become completely out of Israeli control following the construction of the neighborhood that will swallow them up,” the organization warned.
“It’s really about love of the Bible and the Land of Israel and this ancient road, but it’s also important to notice that at the very same time we’re talking about Biblical heritage, Biblical sites, at the Palestinian Authority they’re trying to destroy the Altar of Joshua on Mount Ebal,” Fleisher commented.
“This is exactly the battle that we’re having, between upholding Biblical heritage or destroying and erasing Biblical heritage. That’s the battle that we’re having right now on the ground.
“The Biblical Highway is non-political, but it is there to make a stand that Biblical heritage is important and that ancient sites should not be destroyed. They should be celebrated as world heritage sites of the world: the foundational, cultural shrines and sites that make up the basis of world consciousness.”