During the hot summer days it is recommended to visit cool and shady places, so this time the itinerary combines two springs and a hike on Shevil haKeisar [Caesar's Route], a beautiful route that goes down toward the Valley of Elah. The trail is suitable for every season – the terrain isn’t difficult and everyone in the family can enjoy it. You can spend a whole day completing this itinerary, or skip some of it, just don’t forget to bring a flashlight with you!
How to Get There
Take the Jerusalem-Tel-Aviv Highway (Route 1), and drive toward Jerusalem (for Jerusalemites – go in the opposite direction) until you reach the Sha’ar HaGay Interchange. Turn south and drive south to Beit-Shemesh. When passing next to the communities Tzora andEshtaol, remember the Biblical story of Samsonwho was born “between Zorah and Eshtaol” – exactly in this region – and hence these places were given their names.
The road passes the outskirts of the city of Beit Shemesh, it passes near the Beit Jimal Monastery and finally reaches the Elah Junction. Turn left at the junction (east) toward Route 375 and Kibbutz Netiv HaLamed-He . At the Valley of Elah the Kibbutz will be on your left and the satellite dishes on your right. At the Adullam Junction and the Etziona Junction  continue straight and drive up the road.
The end of the trail– about 3 km [1.8 miles] after the Etziona Junction you will see a place to park the car on the right side of the road , the olive press at which the Caesar Route ends. Leave one vehicle here. (If you only have one vehicle don’t worry – it is very easy to hitchhike back to the beginning point).
Beginning point– from the olive press  drive another 3 km [1.8 miles] along Route 375 until you reach Horbat Hanut  which will be on the left side on the road, about 1.5 km [932 feet] before Moshav Mata. There is enough space here to park your car, and there are picnic tables as well and information signposts.
The name Horbat Hanut (Hebrew meaning: caravan parking; Arabic: Khirbet el-Han) and its findings confirm that the site used to serve as a khan (a caravansary) in the past on the way from the Valley of Elah to Jerusalem, which today is called “the Caesar's Route”. Other findings in Horbat Hanut include an ancient building with mosaic flooring, an ancient water reservoir, and a wine press with the pressing area tiled with white mosaic. The Horbat Hanut mosaic was left as is, as it was discovered during archeological excavations; to restore the authenticity of the building it wasn’t transferred to a museum; however it was covered with sand in order to preserve the mosaics. Visitors are invited to wipe the sand off its surface and experience how it feels to unearth a spectacular mosaic with intricate motifs of animals and geometrical shapes. For the sake of mosaic preservation and other visitors’ enjoyment take care and cover the mosaic after you finish your visit there.
Ein Mata and Ein Tanur
From Horbat Hanut continue toward the Ein Mata and Ein Tanur (the Mata and Tanur springs) circular trail. The walk is 2 km long [1.2 mile] with an ascent at its end back to Horbat Hanut. Despite this climb, going down to the springs is highly recommended. However, if you don't think that you will find it interesting skip this paragraph and continue to the next one about the Caesar's Route.
From Horbat Hanut follow a black-marked footpath on the footpath marking map system down the mountain range toward Ein Mata  in the Zanoah Stream. It is very easy to locate the spring which lies near some huge eucalyptus trees and few deserted buildings. It is a beautiful place but it’s not easy to spot a place deep enough to wade your feet there, so in order to do so, continue to Ein Tanur .
The location of Ein Tanur (Tanur Spring) is not marked on the footpath so read the following explanation very carefully: from Ein Mata continue 300 m [984 feet] westward and follow a dirt road, which is marked red and adjoins the bed of the stream at its northern part. Then from the dirt road continue by turning left to Ein Tanur . The turning point is located left of the stream and marked with a transparent marking [i.e.two white strips with nothing between them]. However, this left turn is not marked very clearly so pay attention to finding the marking on the stone at the wayside. This may be your reference point to find the left turn that does not exist on the footpath marking map.
Ein Tanur is a tunnel spring hidden between impressive fig and lemon trees. The tunnel was dug deeply in order to catch the water at the source and increase its flow. At its deepest point the water will not reach your knees and it is strongly recommended to take a flashlight with you and to walk to the end of the tunnel!
After visiting the spring climb back to the black-marked footpath, back to the Hanut Ruins, and start hiking along the Caesar's Route.
The Caesar's Route
As mentioned before, the Horbat Hanut was a khan for travelers going from the Valley of Elah to Jerusalem, and actually Route 375 follows its path. The Valley of Elah is famous due to the story of the battle of the Israelites and Philistines that took place here, the end of which was decided by David and Goliath's duel. From Horbat Hanut there is a path marked with both red and the Israel National Trail markings.
The footpath tortuously winds along a charming mountain range that descends from the Jerusalem Mountains bounded between the Zanoah Stream from the north and Tzratzar Stream from the south. While you hike the lowland landscape will start to unfold in front of you, and on days when visibility is good the entire view of the Costal Plane, Ashdod and the Tel Aviv metropolitan area will be revealed. You will walk amidst various trees - pines, mastic trees, kermes oaks, eastern strawberry trees, and more. Depending on the season of the year the ground below will be colored with winter blossoms: rampion bellflowers, common asphodels, cyclamens, small pheasant’s eyes, cornflower thistles, red-everlasting, hairy pink flaxes, Narbonne star of Bethlehem, or during the autumn – with sea squills.
After about 1.5 km [0.932 mile] of this pleasant walk you will reach the point where the footpath crosses the road . Shortly before the crossing you’ll reach a water cistern that was dug in the stone and is probably filled with rainwater. The cistern which is considered unique of its kind, due to the supporting column in its middle, used to quench the thirst of travelers and their draft animals. Cross the road and continue along the trail. It’s very likely that during your walk, and mostly on weekends, you’ll meet with bike riders accelerating down this challenging single track. The trick, of course, is to ride down the rock stairs without lifting their feet from the pedals or god forbid falling off the bike.
The Romans too understood how arduous the route was to walk and so they added stairs that they dug in the rock. It is not clear whether the stairs were padded with some kind of tiling. After another 1.5 km [0932. mile] you'll reach the end of the trail and there you'll come across a reconstructed oil press with a wooden screw for extracting olive oil. The olive press  here was used through a two-step process: first, the olives were crushed by the weight of the millstones and became olive paste (lee). Second, the paste was laid inside agalim, baskets made from coarse fabric or ropes. Then the pile of lee –in a basket was stacked underneath a huge wooden screw that squeezed it. Eventually, the flow of olive oil extracted from this device was collected into a storage cistern.
You will leave the second vehicle at the olive press at where the Caesar's Route ends. And since there are other attractive sites for visitors in the area, you are invited to continue your trip, and being the first, Ein Kobi is a must!
Ein Kobi – a Spring and Short Circular Trail
At this stage it is most likely that you're eager to wade in a nice pool of cool spring water. To do this drive back on Route 375, pass Mevo Beitar and Tzur Hadassah until you get to the entrance of Begin Park, which will be on your left. Follow the curves of the road that becomes a good dirt road down a green-marked descent. At the first junction with a black-marked road, park the car on the wayside and walk about 30 m to your left [98 feet] toward the ruins of the Arab village, Kabu, whose inhabitants ran away during Operation HaHar in the War of Independence. The name of the Arab village echoes another ancient location, Kobi, which is mentioned in the Talmud. At the site you will be able to see ruins from the Byzantine Period from 1,700 years ago.
However, our destination is actually the spring of this village, a fracture spring that discharges its water into a subterranean room with arches. This cistern was used as an ancient water impounding system for storing drinking water and mobilizing excess water for agricultural purposes through a tunnel to an external reservoir and from there to irrigation tunnels. In the area of the spring you will see a deserted mosque that was erected in a building from the Byzantine Era.
Visiting the spring is nice, and if you have enough courage to overcome the shocking freezing cold of the spring water, you are warmly encouraged to take a dip. The surrounding orchards are invigorating, a really lovely place for a picnic; however, we recommend strolling along the circular trail of the Kobi Stream before starting your picnic. This trail is not difficult and takes no more than an hour.
The red-marked trail that descends from the spring is not long but is so beautiful with its breathtaking views. After walking ½ km downhill through the thick vegetation you’ll join a green-marked dirt road. Essentially, this road served as a patrol road along the border with Jordan, before 1967. Turn right on this road and after a short walk uphill you will come to your car.
Kibbutz Netiv HaLamed-He
The Kibbutz is named after the famous Convoy of 35 (Lamed He means 35) led by Danny Mas that went by foot to help the besieged Gush Etzion Settlements in 1948. The convoy met an Arab shepherd on its way. The soldiers and commander pondered whether to kill him but finally they decided to release him (there was no option to take him with them). The man returned to his village and alerted hundreds of people ambushed the convoy. The 35 battled until the last of their ammunition was spent and finally they threw stones until they were all killed. A monument and a cultural center were built to commemorate their names.
Giv’at HaTurmusim – the Blue Lupine Hill
During the months March-April the blue lupine blossom in all their entire splendor. A walk to the Blue Lupine Hill to see them is the perfect ending to this trip. For that purpose just turn back on Route 375 toward the Elah Junction. Approximately 1 km [0.620 mile] after the right turn to Netiv HaLamed-He, turn left on a footpath marking blue-marked dirt road that will lead you to the Blue Lupine Hill (Tel Sokho, the Sokho Mound). Simply park your vehicle there and climb the blue-marked footpath up the hill. Please note that the lupine is a protected plant and picking it is forbidden.
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