(above) View of the Elah Valley from Tel Azeka, with Sha’arayim on the left and Socho - a yellow stripe on the right. The Judean Hills are in the background.
The theories once flew fast and furious regarding the ancient identity of this site. With the discovery of a second gate, the case for the Biblical “Sha’arayim” is pretty darn good. The name is mentioned close to Azeka, Socho, and Yarmut in the Book of Joshua, and features most prominently in stories related to King David and the Elah Valley. There is no reference to it in any other context in the bible.
It took some time and a focussed amount of research to ascertain the meaning, but in Arabic, the site is known as “Khirbet Qeiyafa” - or Beautiful Ruin. None of the Arabs consulted with so far know the source of this name, but this has become the name used and referenced in scientific and scholarly journals.
The local Bedouin call the site, “Khirbet Daoud” or David’s Ruin. We have not been able to determine which David this may refer to, but given the site’s location, and lacking any other data, a fairly compelling case could be made that it refers to the once and future.
Below the site, sits Kibbutz HaLamed Heh. Not long after the achieving independence following the Mandatory period, members of the kibbutz held a kumzitz inside the walls at the top of the ridge. Upon returning to the kibbutz, it was discovered that one of the “chevre” had left his Sten Gun at the site, but after exhaustive searches, no one was able to find it. So - for the past 50+ years the site has been known as “Bustan HaSten Ha’Avud” - the Orchard of the Lost Sten.