This is an ancient Byzantine ruin found in the Angels' Forest (see my tip) near Kiryat Gat.
The origin of the name is Arabic: Kh'arua means castor-oil plant.
The whole area around Kiryat Gat was quite densely populated in the Byzantine period (4th to early 7th century AD). In the Angels' Forest there are remains of wine presses, oil presses and a lime kiln testifying to varied productive activity of the inhabitants.
The ruin of Hirbet Karoa consists of the remains of a large public building and a water cistern next to it. There are wide stairs leading down to the cistern, raising the hypothesis that this may have been a ritual bath ("mikveh"), and in that case the adjacent publc building may have been a synagogue. It is oriented along a west-east axis. Otherwise no other evidence has been found to support this hypothesis.
Visiting Hirbet Karoa added another dimension to my visit to the Angels' Forest.
This 7000 dunam pine forest was planted by the JNF in the 1950s, as part of the forest development plan in the new State of Israel. Pine trees were chosen because the grew fast and created large shaded areas. The disadvantages of planting a single kind of tree were not thought of at that time.
Why "Angels' Forest"? No angels have been sighted there yet; the prosaic origin of the name is the Jewish community of Los Angeles, which donated the money to the JNF to plant this forest. It's also called Shachariya Forest (not an easy name for English speakers, but trust me that it sounds good in Hebrew)!
In the forest there are hiking and biking trails, recreational areas with picnic sites and playgrounds for children. In Byzantine times (4th to early 7th century AD) this area was settled, as evidenced by the Karoa ruin (Hirbet Karoa: see separate tip). There are ancient Byzantine wine presses ane oil presses along the trails, you just have to look for them!
There is an obervation tower on the highest point of the forest; unfortunately, it is closed to visitors.
One of the bloodiest battles of Israel's 1948 War of Independence took place in what is today Qiryat Gat. This was the site of the fortified police station of Iraq-el-Manshiya, built by the British in the late 1930s, and occupied by an Egyptian brigade throughout most of the 1948 war.
An attempt to conquer this fort was made by the Israeli Alexandroni Brigade on December 27, 1948, during the Jewish Hanukkah festival. The attempt failed, and a whole company of 87 soldiers was killed. They were buried by the Egyptians in a mass grave.
The monument to the 87 fallen soldies is in the shape of two flames, reminiscent of Hanukka candles. It was erected on a hill which was made into a park, with a commanding view of the surroundings.
This is what we stop at Phillip's for, the Labaneh and Lafa....ask for it with za'atar and olive oil.