Amidst the yellow-brown of Judea Desert there is a flowing stream of water that disrupts with its blue, turquoise and green the monotony of the desert. This is Nahal Prat, a perennial stream and a touristic attraction. It is the ultimate trail that Nature can offer, an opportunity to meet with an ancient monastery, some secluded monks, and their hewed hermitage on its cliffs. When considering what life in such a paradise can offer one can understand why to leave everything in favor of a hermitage and different way to approach life: the Prat Stream can really bring peace onto every one.
How to Hike There
The trail is suitable for the entire family during any season of the year. Principally it is not a circular one, but a segment of it may be completed by one car. Don't forget to bring a lot of water for each hiker. The area is graded risky in terms of security considerations and it is recommended to do this trail in a group which is attended by an armed person.
Being not a circular trail, one vehicle must be parked at the end of the route. For those who arrive by one car, an enjoyable and nice itinerary might include visiting the Ein Prat  and Ein Mabu’a  but not include the walking in the stream.
Beginning Point is at the entrance to the nature reserve of Nahal Prat , which is known also as Wadi Qelt. alternatively drive two kilometers [1.2 miles] via the access road to 'Almon, a Jewish settlement, which splits from Route 437, the road that connects Pisgat Zeev and Route 1 – Jerusalem-Dead Sea.
Ending point is near the Jewish settlement Alon  which could be accessed through Route 458 that splits from Route 1 [point 9]. It is recommended to leave your car at the gate of the settlement and not at the stream which will cost you the climbing at the end of the trail, but this option is safer for the vehicle.
After paying at the booth in the entrance to the nature reserve , leave your car next to the gate. Remember the hours of closing, and ensure to be back at time before the complex would be closed. Visiting hours of the nature reserve are between 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM in summer and 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM in winter, Tel. 02-5006261.
Locate behind the visitor booth a blue-marked trail which descends down to Nahal Prat. The path leaves from the area of the settlement Almon, a new settlement which was established in1982 and was called then Anathoth, until it was changed according to its biblical locality, i.e. next to Khirbet 'Ilmit ['Ilmit ruins], perhaps the Almon of Joshua 21:18.
The footpath passes first through a landscape that seems miles away from any sign of a stream; however the distance is only about 10-minute walk, and then the area of Ein Prat with its charming pools of turquoise will be unfolded in front of you.
Ein Prat is one among three central groups of springs in the stream. The wealth of the fountain water that emanates during the whole year is unaffected by the time of the season in the year. During all historical periods the drinkable flowing in the stream attracted humans. Perhaps the most significant story of this place is about Judea Desert monasticism which originated from here. You are going to encounter an outstanding example of this sect down at the stream.
In the southern bank above Ein Prat , there is an impressive Greek-orthodox monastery that was built on the foundations of an older one from the fourth century AD. This one is called the Haritun Monastery (Arabic: Dir Farah). According to tradition it was built by a monk called Haritun – one of the pioneers who spread Christianity over the Judea Desert. Actually the nascent of monasticism started in the Egyptian deserts which became haven for Christian runaways who escaped Roman persecutions. With time monasticism had arrived also to Judea Desert.
According to one legend, Haritun, a secluded hermit, was caught by band of brigands who left him imprisoned exactly here at his hermitage. One day after the brigands left him all tied up in this cave a viper snake entered it; It did not bit Haritun, and instead it spilled its venom into one bottle of wine the brigands used. After the brigands returned from their looting campaign they drunk the wine and Haritun was saved. Haritun understood on the spot that he must build a monastery in the cave where he was imprisoned and saved from the brigands, and this is exactly what he did when he established there the Laura of Farah. The meaning of Laura in Greek is a narrow lane;a term that signifies the path these monks undertake when during weekdays they would resort to their retreat place and meet again at weekends to pray together. There are many monasteries in Judea Desert, and some of which could be found down the stream of Ein Part.
The Haritun Monastery was destroyed in 614 AD during the Persian conquest and the reconstructed building of today was built during the 19th Century and was funded by donations of the Russian Czars. Entrance to the monastery is allowed if you are dressed modestly including long trousers. Knock on the door and request to visit the monastery. Visiting hours: Mon.-Sat. 8:00-11:00 AM and 1:00-3:00.
Whether you include visiting the monastery or not, it is much recommended to cross the stream and climb on the other bank, to have a good view of the monastery. From here you can get a fuller glimpse of the compound of few buildings and the hermitage pits on the rock above; the seclusion area for the monks that climb up there by ladders. In the left side of the monastery there is a big cavern, the 'Inbal cave which means in Hebrew 'the tongue of the bell’ with a shape that resembles a bell.
The phenomenon of retreat of the Judea Desert hermitages which started during the days of Monk Haritun has never stopped until our days. Observe the cliffs of the stream and try to identify some more monastic cells with a secluding hermit inside them, who searches for an inner enlightenment.
There are more interesting places to see after the visit in the monastery. Return to the trail and continue alongside the stream. Then you will encounter some interesting sites. Near the monastery, on the riverbed, there are remnants of an ancient church, and some dozens of meters down the path there are remains of a flourmill. The method for operating those mills has been in use in many streams in Israel. Some water from the stream would be captured in a tunnel that streams it toward the flourmill by the force of the natural gradient of the stream and increases the height gap between the bed of the stream and the tunnel. In the building of the flourmill the water would fall from a chimney and a vertical shaft toward the paddlewheel. Here gravity would manifest itself and the pressure of the falling water would start the motion of the water wheel. The upper part of this wheel was tied to millstones – to the upper and lower millstones. From this point and further away the water flows back to the riverbed of the stream.
Those of you who like climbing can climb on a segment of the northern cliff in the stream. This wall is certified for outdoor climbing and the human "chameleons" which can be spotted on its edges climb their way to the head of the cliff.
Walk further and notice remnants of an ancient aqueduct alongside the trail which was used for supply of irrigation and drinking water.
Walk an additional 700 meters [2,300 feet] along the trail until you meet with a huge building – the offices of the Israel Nature & National Parks Protection Authority, restrooms and a restaurant . Until 1970 this building was used as a pumping facility for the water-pipe that supplied water to Jerusalem. Pumping had started in 1927 and stopped when the water supply for both sides of the city – the western and eastern – was united. Near the building, next to a beautiful eucalyptus grove planted by the British in 1917, there are two natural water pools that surround the grove from both of its sides. You can swim there and it is most recommended! The Fig Pool is at the upper part of the grove and the Palm Pool is at the lower area, on the northern bank of the stream. Note that the square pool is not filled by any water that enters it; but there is water which gushes and spills away from the pool so probably the emanation is from inside the pool.
After swimming in the pool (if you like it – there are many likewise pools along the trail which are good for swimming), continue with the red-marked trail that goes down the stream and passes through the right bank of the stream.
From this point onward the stream cuts and dig in the hard limestone and curves through the impressive landscape. Notice the variety of river vegetation: horse mint, common reed, oleander, Dutch rush, nasturitium officinale, and false yellow head. Little further from the stream water note the fig trees and Christ's thorn's jujubes and the climber that cover them, i.e. acacia strap flower with its red blossom that can be well seen from a distance. The desert fauna is also very prominent here with its shrubby saltbush, common caper bush, taily weed that can be found plenty and everywhere. Other typical desert plants include common desert mullein, Abraham's balm, baby's breath and downy thorn apple.
Hiking in Nahal Prat – the Longer Trail
From the eucalyptus grove walk an additional 500 m [1,640 feet] until a point  where red-marked trail winds on north bank of the stream and reaches Ein Mabu'a. Than leave the red trail and continue with the blue one, which is marked on the terrain but not in the maps. This part of the itinerary will finally lead to Ein el-Fajira, an emanating spring with lush of water that flows from a cave in the north side of the stream. It is located east to the conjunction of Nahal Jeddi and Wadi el-Farah [Nahal Prat]. From their meeting place the two streams bear a common name– wadi el-rizel in Arabic, the deer stream.
Ein el-fajira adds to the water capacity of the stream and from this point it is easy to spot many natural deep ponds along the riverbed – just choose which one you prefer and jump into the water to refresh yourself.
Whatever the season is, the stream is mostly flowing with water along almost its full length; in few places it becomes a subterranean emanation but then again, the water would break through the surface and gush out again.
The trail would sometimes leads through a jungle of common reed that is commonly stretches and spread here. Notice an ancient aqueduct that goes parallel to the alignment of the waterbed. Throughout history it was reconstructed and fitted again during several periods and it was used for supplying water to sites in Jericho Valley, including to the Hasmonean palaces.
Walk 4-km [2.5 miles] on the trail along the stream  until it joins with Nahal Michmash [Arabic: wadi Tzuynit] a point from which the water is not good for swimming because the latter stream drains the sewage water of Ramallah. The Arabic name of the stream changed also from this point to wadi el-Fu'ar. At this point where the two streams join together return to the red trail and follow it eastward. In your way cross an access road that descents from Alon and then you will arrive to the Ein Mabu'a spring.
Ein Mabu'a is an artesian fountain, or karstic fountain, which emanates from a cave and then into a round concrete pool. Until the Six Day War its water was pumped and streamed from Ein el-Farha to Jerusalem, but today it is not in use anymore. The water of Ein Mabu'a streams today into a concrete aqueduct which is built on top of an aqueduct from the time of the Second Temple which was used to supply water to the city of Kiprus [a Hasmonean fortress]. Notice the height of the water in the round pool which changes constantly (like heartbeat) due to a subterranean movement of water that would fill to capacity an inner room which then pours at once the water outside into the external pool.
After the visit in the fountain climb with the road until you come to the settlement Alon  where the second car is waiting to give you a lift back to the first car.
If you prefer to visit more of the Judea Desert monasteries drive eastward toward the Dead Sea on Route 1 and in a distance of 3 km [1.8 miles] from the access road to Alon, turn left toward Mitzpeh Yericho and then to St George’s Monastery, which is one of the biggest and active monasteries of the Judea Desert monasteries. It is recommended to coordinate your visit with the army in advance before accessing the monastery. The army contact number can be found in the Emergency List for Hikers.
Tiuli - Trips, hikes, tourism and Travel in Israel
Travel safely, take a map with you, keep it clean and above all, enjoy your trip and travel.
Yochai Corem - Contact
Comments from Tiuli website