Efrat , or Efrata , is an Israeli settlement in Judea (southern West Bank), located south of Jerusalem, between the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem and Hebron. Efrat was established in 1980, and contained 7,500 residents at the end of 2005 according to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. Although it is geographically located within Gush Etzion (the Etzion Bloc of Jewish settlements), Efrat is a local council independent from the Gush Etzion Regional Council.
Efrat's population is mostly religious Zionist, and includes many Modern Orthodox Jews who have emigrated (have made aliyah) from the United States. [*] The official rabbi of Efrat is Shlomo Riskin, an alumnus of Yeshiva University and a disciple of the late Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik. Rabbi Riskin was formerly the founding rabbi of the Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan. In Israel, he has also founded a network of high schools and colleges that combine modern secular studies with intense study of Torah.
The area in which Efrat was constructed was already a settlement in the Bronze Age. Archeology by Rivka Gonen, summarized in 1979, revealed a cemetery consisting of a tumulus built over a platform structure and some 27 Bronze Age burial caves of the shaft-tomb type, many of which had been reused over long stretches of time. These tombs were reused in the Middle Bronze Age. Additionally, one of the three ancient aqueducts supplying Jerusalem runs beneath Efrat.
Efrat is named after the biblical place Ephrath.
While according to the Israeli Ministry of the Interior, "Efrata" is the quotation from the Biblical verse, and therefore the town's name, the residents and municipality have maintained for many years that the reference isn't a name in and of itself, but rather means "towards Efrat". The reality that has developed is that all inter-city roadsigns, under purview of the National Government, read Efrata, while internal and private references speak of Efrat.
The Israeli government's position in this matter is highly remarkable, since the '-a' ending is very common in (particularly Biblical) Hebrew and always means 'towards'. For example, 'to Jerusalem' would be written as Yerushalaima . This has led many people to conclude that there is no basis for the government's position in the matter. On the other hand, there are very clear biblical references to 'Ephratah' are not mentioned in a possible context of moving "towards Ephrat", e.g. Ruth 4:11, 1 Chr 2:50, 1 Chr 4:4, Psa 132:6, Micah 5:2.
It is also possible that the town's name is intended to mean "Towards Efrat", since the Biblical Efrat was actually located in modern Bethlehem, which is somewhat north on the main road from modern Efrat(a). The name "Efrata" would thus indicate that ancient Efrat was nearby, but not at exactly the same location.
Neighborhoods of Seven Species
There are a total of 7 neighborhoods currently in Efrat. Rimon, Te'ena, Gefen, Dekel, Zayit, Tamar, and Dagan. All 7 are named after different species in the Seven Species. Rimon correlates to pomegranate; Te'ena to fig; Gefen to grape; Zayit to olive; and Tamar to dates. The names of Dekel and Dagan are derived from the seven species. Dekel means palm which is part of the date tree. Dagan means grain and corresponds with both wheat and barley.
Rivka Gonen, Excavations at Efrata: A Burial Ground from the Intermediate and Middle Bronze AgesIsrael Antiquities Authority Reports, 2001