The Valley of Jezreel has been abuzz in the last months, especially during the Feast of Sukkot: 65 years after being shut down, the train is back on the railway!
Built in 1905, by the Turks and under the supervision of the Germans, this train line, dubbed The Valley Train (Rakevet HaEmek), once connected Haifa to Dar’a and Damascus to Medina in Saudi Arabia, passing through Jordan. It was also known as the Hejaz railway.
One of the first stations built for the Valley Train was located on the western side of the Jezreel Valley, at the entrance to Kfar Yehoshua. This station was called Al Shamam. The old stone buildings in this particular station were designed in the Templars’ style, and this station operated nearly 50 years, until it was shut down in 1948. The Israeli Hagganah, wanting to intercept fast transportation of the British Mandate soldiers, carried out bomb attacks against the train, with the major blow coming in May of that year, just one evening before Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
In 1949, there was a brief attempt to operate a train line from Haifa, on the coast, to Afula, but it soon became clear that it was not worth the cost.
Now, 65 years later, the legendary Valley Train, has been reopened and new tracks were laid beside the old ones. The inauguration, led by Israeli Transportation Minister Israel Katz, took place with guest passengers including some who had travelled the mythological line in the 1940s when they were children from “Gilboa” school.
Katz decided that until Nov. 4, when the Valley Train will begin operating regularly, tickets from the stations along the route will be free. Stations include Afula, Beit Shean, Migdal HaEmek and Kfar Yehoshua.
For congregations and ministries along the line, this means easier transportation during the week and better connection with other ministries on the coast and central Israel, making it easier to attend national seminars and conferences.
Future plans include connecting the Valley Train to the Jordanian train lines, passing through Sheik Hussein Bridge.
But also, it might be Isaiah’s words coming to life, as a highway from Egypt to Assyria is being built:
“In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth.” Isaiah 19:23-24