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Hiking in Israel by: Shai Mahelel, Ynetnews
Judean Hills
Judean Hills

The autumn colors that can be seen all over the Judea and Jerusalem area are an invitation to visit American Independence Park, Adullam Park, and Nahal Refaim. Whether you tour in your car, on a bike, or on foot, you will encounter varied scenery, archeological sites, and olives waiting to be harvested.

Adullam Park, which covers some 50,000 dunams (12,500 acres) among Givat Yishayahu, Tzafririm, and Nehushah, is an excellent place to visit. Everywhere you look you see hills covered in Mediterranean underbrush, separated by narrow valleys used mainly for growing grapes for wine. Archeological sites and caves lie hidden on almost every hill.

Some five kilometers southeast of the Elah Junction you enter Hurvat Itri from Route 38. Its entrance is directly across from the entrance to Mitzpeh Masua. On this hill was an ancient settlement starting in the fourth century B.C.E. One of the ink inscriptions on pottery (known as ostrokons) that were discovered here says “Itri,” which is the origin of the hill’s name. A great many buildings have been discovered here: synagogues, wine presses, theaters, and ritual baths, as well as an underground system of public hiding places.

The entire area had a great many Jewish settlements in the first centuries C.E., in the time of the Great Revolt and the Bar Kochba Revolt.

Go past the marked path of about 200 meters to the site’s entrance gate, and continue walking up the ancient Roman path until you get to the large ritual bath at the end. If you keep going you will discover a cave, and after the cave you can see the views from the center of the village, looking across the site’s main residential neighborhood. Descend from there to the remains of the main street in the residential quarter and the ritual bath. In this ritual bath was found: The remains of the bones of 15 people who were buried with their property were found in this ritual bath, shocking evidence of the destruction wrought by the Romans with their suppression of the Great Revolt. At least one of them lost his head with a blow from a sword.

The main find in the Itri ruins is a structure 7.5 X 13 meters (81 x 140 square feet), which was apparently a synagogue. You can complete your tour at the new archeology center opened by the Jewish National Fund and the Antiquties Authority in the JNF’s offices in Givat Yeshayahu.

The next part of our tour takes us to American Independence Park. The information center includes a permanent exhibition with explanations about the hikes and vacation getaways available in the area. If you’re hungry you can eat at the “Bar be-Har” restaurant, located at the information center in Nes Harim.

American Independence Park was established by the JNF in 1976 in honor of the American bicentennial. The park covers some 4,000 dunams (1,000 acres), and offers an interesting combination of springs, agriculture, and archeology.

It is located between two nature reserves, Nahal Dolev and Nahal Sorek, and there are three ways to get there: If you are coming from Jerusalem and going through Ein Kerem, take Route 395. If you are coming from the coastal plain go to Bet Shemesh’s industrial zone, and from there, on Route 3866, take Humphrey Road to the Challenger Junction, where you will find a memorial to the astronauts who died in the space shuttle accident. The third way is to take Route 375, which goes from Emek Ha’elah in the direction of Mata and Tsur Hadassah.
An interesting site in American Independence Park is a ruin that was a Crusader waystation, which also contains even more ancient remains. A water-collecting pool was discovered on the site, as well as the remains of buildings from the Roman-Byzantine period and the remains of a khan that was apparently in use in the Ottoman Period.

Near the site is a parking lot from which you can go on a hike on the “Caesar’s Path,” which goes along an ancient Roman road to an ancient, reconstructed olive press. You can also go down a footpath (marked in black) to Ein Mata and Ein Tanur, which will take about 20 minutes at a comfortable pace. You can also reach the springs in a car if the lower gate of Moshav Mata is open.

Ein Mata: The spring flows from a curved aqueduct and the water flows in the river bed of Nahal Mata, which has a variety of vegetation, including raspberry bushes. Further on, the spring waters of Ein Tanur are added to the flow, and from there on in, the wadi is called Nahal Zanoah.

Sataf: This is an excellent opportunity to take a beautiful hike with the kids. You can go into the aqueducts with a flashlight, but you are not allowed to swim in the pools. The site can be visited any day of the year. There are five hiking trails marked in different colors.

There are three ways to get to Sataf: One is to turn south from the main road to Jerusalem (Route 1) at the Harel Interchange, and from there to head south through Ma’oz Tzion in the direction of Kibbutz Tzuba (Route 3965). From Jerusalem you can take Route 395 from Ein Kerem. If you are coming from the coastal plain you can take the same road, but from the opposite direction, from Eshtaol Junction through Kissalon, Ramat Raziel, and Tzuba. You enter the site from the Sataf Junction, where the roads that come from Mevasseret Tzion, Tzuba, and Ein Kerem intersect. There is an information center near the junction where you can find maps for hiking routes and use the facilities.

If you own a 4x4, there is a fascinating drive that takes you from the Bar Giora Junction on Route 386, above Nahal Kitleb, to Nahal Refaim. After crossing the bridge over the train tracks, turn on to the road to Nahal Refaim (whose paths are marked in red) and continue until you reach a dirt path leading to the Sakia ruins. From there continue to the Fischer Junction, and you will come to the dirt paths of Mount Harat. You can continue from there to Nataf, and turn left to experience Har Haruah.

The Har Haruah goat farm on the slopes of Har Haruah in the Jerusalem Hills is an ecological project. The farm raises goats and produces quality cheeses, yogurt, and labaneh from organic goat’s milk. It is open on Fridays and the evening of holidays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Saturday and holidays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Reproduced with permission: Ynetnews


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