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Travel: Hidden Valley to Ein Kerem Hike. Israel. Nov 18/2021

Updated: Dec 3, 2021




The weather in Israel cooled off in November, delivering heavy rain showers and floods, along with the new parliament approval of the state's budget, of confirmed covid-19 immunizations for 5 years old and up, and of reignited murderous terrorist incidents.


Traffic in center TLV for private motor vehicles became unbearable, as more and more paved routes and parking spaces, were eliminated in favor of 2 wheeler bike trails.


The shrinking lanes "diet" may be user friendly for the younger among us, but quite a hurdle for the elderly, especially as the public lite train transportation is still in its deep underground digging phase..


A nice consolation to biking through a designated city's paths, especially on Dizingoff st. is encountering newly opened eating establishments and Cafes.


One which is highly recommended was opened just this past August and

is run by Dan Kirsh, whose original Kirsh bakery & Kitchen establishment is based

on 551 Amsterdam Ave. NYC.


The one in TLV bearing an Austrian exterior feel is named:

Kirsh Cafe & Bakery Shop Dizingoff 189 Tel:03-6297777

Open Houses

Also every November, for 3 days, Jerusalem encourages, a pilgrimage to the ever evolving city, that attracts curious Israeli wanderers, from all over the country, to tour the city's enchanting historic sites, panoramic views, and intriguing structures.

This “Open Houses” concept (here) offers many tours from among a long list of buildings, sites, and hikes, open free to the public, and generously guided by

a range of skilled expert volunteers..

The main draw-back to such delightful outing is, that the more popular tours are

limited to only 40 participants, and require per-registration. They are impossible to

get into, as they filled up instantly. And those open to all, are insanely mobbed, and absolutely take the fun out, off the entire touring experience.

Still, we the incurably hopeful ones, decided to join on Nov. 18th such a free to all,

nature guided hike (for details) starting at the high elevation, off the congested

"Ora Junction" -Tzomet Ora, near Hadassah Medical Center Ein Karem, leading all the way down through an unpaved mountainous trail, and ending at the gushing "Spring of the Vineyard", (Maayan) below, at the charming historic Ein Kerem village


The definitely oversized inflated group, which turned up, that morning, despite our hopeful wishful thinking, for a small gathering, was masterfully guided and skillfully managed by the knowledgeable seasoned :


Alon Orion (054-2106470 Alonoriong@gmail.com)


Alon- our simpatico tenacious expert Tour Guide who also serves as the Chairman of the Board of Ein Kerem neighborhood, is a passionate "green" and an environmental activist. He has been deeply involved with his neighborhood's reconstruction projects, while running futile sisyphyen battles against the city's urban planning committees, real-estate tycoons, and the JNF (kakal).


Throughout the entire hike steep down, Alon thoroughly updated us on the insane development plans to eliminated the already limited precious open green spaces, surrounding the Ein Kerem village, by eructing additional 5000 residential housing units, on the pastoral White Ridge (Reches Lavan), which is a popular site of agricultural terraces and springs, just west of Jerusalem. Adding traffic with multi lanes Hwy, and extending the lite train rail, all the way to the Hadassah hospital. (to read) will permanently kill the pastoral and historic surroundings.



Thus these urban major infrastructure projects to expand housing, build roads, intersections and rails, are viewed as an ecological 'disaster' by concerned expert environmentalists, as well as by the so many nature loving citizens (including us)

from all around the country, who so much appreciate the amazing open vistas, green vegetation, and the many hiking trails of the Jerusalem's terraced mountainous surroundings.



The walk on the unpaved narrow slippery path which starts behind the bus station at the Ora junction, trails down between crumbling stone terraces used in the past for agriculture cultivation, also leads to a small Concealed Valley (Haemek Hanaelam) and features a small cave, which has been an attractive "temporary shelter" to

incidental homeless.


One homeless, originally from the West-Bank, who stayed inside the cave for over 4 years, also raised there 2 roosters which he named Yigal and Chagai, after the Amir brothers, who one of them was the assassin of the murdered Priminister Rabin.


Remains of mattresses, hammocks, bone-fire ashes and plenty of garbage, can be encountered throughout..the trail, yet it doesn't conceal the beauty of the natural

wooded hilly landscape.


Apparently, few of the agencies ei: departments in Jerusalem municipality and JNF

keep quarreling about whose budgetary responsibility it is to keep maintenance and protection of this attractive open spaces, dotted with a spread of Oak, pine and olive trees, subjected often to destruction by fires, wild motorized field vehicles, and unwanted predatory human elements.


Terraces in the Jerusalem Hills


The pastoral agricultural terraces surrounding Jerusalem according to Alon, were constructed during the Ottoman era of the 16 C, when a drought in Egypt - the main grain supplier, caused food shortage. The Ottomans provided means and encourage the local farmers who resided in the Jerusalem's surrounding, at the time, to re-construct the terraces and grow their own food supply needs.

However the man-made terraces in the Judean Hills surrounding Jerusalem have been at the center of a fierce debate after a new study claimed the agricultural features were mainly built by Arab workers in the past 400 years.



Regardless of when the terraces were constructed, the majority are abandoned,

sadly crumbling, and slowly disappearing, due to gushing flood water , neglect

and lack of usage and proper maintenance.


Ein Kerem Village

The original 2 hour hike which lasted 3 hours, ended with stops at only 2 known spots, in Ein Kerem, although the village offers, as the map below indicates many more attractive sites.



Picturesque housing, historic structures, art galleries or quint restaurants worth being acquainted with, are spread out in this popular and regularly toured ancient village, of only about 2000 inhabitants.



Yet, it is dear to the heart of the 3 monotheistic religions, and attracts 3 million visitors a year, one-third of them pilgrims from around the world.


Christian tradition holds that Saint John the Baptist was born in Ein Kerem, following the biblical verse in Luke saying John's family lived in a "town in the hill country of Judea". Probably because of the village's location, between Bethlehem and old Jerusalem, this spot was a very comfortable one for a pilgrimage, and led to the establishment of many churches and monasteries in the area.



"Spring of the Vineyard"- Mary's Spring


The small spring, that is located in a valley, on the south side of the village, was the nucleus of the Canaanite city in the Bronze period. It has provided water to the village of Ein Kerem, and its water stimulating settlement, was used as the main source of water for thousands of years since, The center of the ancient village evolved around this spring which also gave its name to the village.



A 30M rock hewn tunnel was constructed during the second temple period in order to increase the spring’s capacity.. Also a well-preserved mikveh (Jewish ritual bath) indicates of the the Jewish settlement in that period, along with some other discoveries such as handful of graves, bits of a wall, and an olive press.

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According to Christian tradition, virgin Mary stopped here to drink from the spring's waters, while visiting Elisheva - John the Baptist’s mother, when both women were pregnant . Thus the spring was named after Mary - Mary’s Spring or the Spring of the Virgin, and became Holy for Christians. Pilgrims used to tap these waters into bottles and take them back home as a holy souvenirs. There are also few covenants and St, Vincent home for handicapped severely mentally and physically disabled children run by nuns.



Two Churches of St. John the Baptist can be visited in the village:

one Roman Catholic - Church of the visitation owned by the Franciscans, in which steps down to the cave reveal a Byzantine mosaic. The other Greek-Orthodox, was built in 1894. (here) Also the 19c covenant "Church of princess Elizabeth" a Russian Orthodox church with its golden domes beauty, shinning , can not be missed on the southern hilly drops of the village.




The now abandoned mosque, whose tower rises above the structure of the spring, was built over Mary’s spring in the 2nd half of the 19th century. served also as a muslim school The structure has three domes above a prayer hall. It is closed and not in usage any longer.


The spring's site and the abandoned mosque neglected over the years, were restored and renovated In 1989 by the Jerusalem Foundation, by creating of a plaza with small pools and channels to direct the spring water, and adding stone benches, lemon trees, flower beds, and a viewing terrace, as well as adding another source to the name Mary -related to the philanthropy's Rothschild family, who donated funds to reconstruct the spring's site


Spring's Orchard

The last group's stop was at the enchanting "Spring Orchard" - Bustan Ha-maayan



This community reconstruction project was initiated by the village's volunteers, (including our tour guide Alon) to preserve an old deserted orchard of grape wines, fig and olive trees, situated at the village valley's opening, in commemoration of a village's member - a terrorism victim of 2014.

The lush vegetation covering offers a hidden shaded hut, used by the villagers for many social activities and gatherings, including weddings ceremonies.



At this end point, David ambition compelled him to climb all the way up, back to the Ora junction, where we started the hike, to get our parked car, and collect me from the village where I stayed behind.

It took David only a short fraction of the time to climb back, then the time length it took the group to hike down, or the much longer ride back by 2 public transportation buses, used by all others.




I used the extra time, to explore the neighborhood's allies on my own, having a hard time deciding which direction proceed toward, with the many choices offered on the post by the stone wall, on which the village's artists work was advertised ...



As David fast climbing left a short exploration time, the below video I watched later, supplemented the tour.




The effort to join, that same afternoon, another tour group in Jerusalem's center, as to explore the Shaare Zedek Hospital (here) also offered by the Open Houses initiative, was a total fiasco, to put it mildly.

Again it was free for all tour (not requiring a preregistration) so was insanely mobbed.

The group's over-size volume curbed my enthusiasm to proceed, after an initial brief visit , to the old Shaare Zedek cemetery next the hospital.


Sharae Zedek Cemetery


The Cemetery - a small Jewish burial ground located behind the first Shaare Zedek Hospital and now is engulfed by construction sites and overflowing debris from all sides.

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Originally used by the hospital as farmland for grazing milk cows. the area was converted into a temporary cemetery during the Arab siege of Jerusalem in 1948. Approximately 200 burials were conducted here between March and October of that year. Most graves were transferred to permanent cemeteries after the war.

Only handful remain, of prominent Jerusalem rabbis and that of the founding director of Shaare Zedek Hospital, Dr. Moshe Wallach.


A brief escape to the crowded near-by Machane Yehuda Open Market, was the

"last nail" puncturing our patience and satiating, completely our appetite for any additional touring, But it did awaken our hunger for a proper dinner, which we, indeed shared with our darling oldest daughter and son in-law, at an excellent elegant local great restaurant in Jerusalim's Shiekh Jarrah neighborhood, where the couple resides.


Arabic Restaurant:

Cloves - , Nablus Road 26, Shiekh Jarrah, Tel: 02-622-4408 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Wishing you and your family a Very Happy Thanks Giving,


and a bright with Lights Hanukkah Holiday





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