The Yatir Forest, like most of Israel’s forests, was hand-planted by the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Since 1964 they have planted more than four million trees here. This stunning area covers approximately 40,000 dunams (10,000 acres) and is located in the Southern Hebron Hills.
The town of Anim is located there. In the 4th Century, a massive synagogue was built here, which was in use into 7th Century. It was built on the highest point in town (in accordance with Jewish law). The synagogue’s ruins and frame are very well preserved and its built-in benches and Torah ark are still seen here.
“And in the hill country… Anab, and Eshtemoh, and Anim.” Joshua 15: 48-50 All cities and towns of Judah.
In the 7th century, Anim (and most of the Southern Hebron Hills) were mysteriously abandoned. This was possibly due to the breakdown of central rule at the end of the Byzantine period and early Islamic period.
Since Anim was on the edge of the desert at a time of weak governance, living in such proximity to desert warriors may have become too dangerous. The fact that the town wasn’t destroyed physically by conquest and not many material goods were found, suggests that the people who left took their movable property with them, lending credence to this theory.
In the later Islamic period (circa 13th and 14th century) a small Islamic village existed here, and a mosque was built on top of the synagogue (during excavations in the 1980s, archeologists removed the mosque, which had been inactive for centuries, and found the synagogue under it). By Ottoman times, the town was abandoned and has since laid in ruins. Until the JNF planted the forest the area was largely desert.
However, Ezekiel prophecies that when the Lord returns to rule and reign from Jerusalem, Israel will be even much better than it is now, it will be like the garden of Eden.
“And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.” Ezekiel 36:35-36