The Judean Hills are the mountain range on which Jerusalem is located. Running generally north-south, the hills extends both to the west and east of Jerusalem. The range forms a natural division between the Sharon Coastal Plains to the west and the Jordan Rift Valley to the east.
What to see:
The Stalactite Cave Nature Reserve (also called Soreq Cave) is a 82 meter long and 60 meter wide cave on the western slopes of the Judean Hills near the town of Beit Shemesh. The caves were accidentally found by workers blasting at a nearby quarry. Although the Soreq Caves are relatively small, some of the stalactites are three-hundred thousand years old. Scientists use them to study climatic changes that have occurred in the area from the time of their formation until the present. The stalactites hanging from the ceiling of the cave are up to four meters long and occasionally meet up with stalagmites growing from the floor. Stalactites range in diameter from a few millimeters to a few meters. Some look like everyday objects and others have shapes never seen before. A visit to the cave includes a slide show and a guided tour.
Castel National Park – The settlement of Mevasseret Zion was built on the mount and the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway runs nearby. Some Historians identify the area with Efron, mentioned in the Bible as a city bordering on the lands belonging to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. During the Roman era, a fortress was built on the summit to guard the route to Jerusalem. The Castel is mainly known for the role it played during the 1948 War of Independence, when it was the battleground for the struggle over the route to Jerusalem. 17 members of the Palmach and 27 combat troops died in the battles for Mount Castel.
The Israel National Trail is a hiking path which extends from the Dan in the far north of the country to Eilat. The trail extends 850 km from beginning to end and can take as much at 25-50 days to finish. A trip to the Shayarot Range (Judean Mountains) provides views down to the Coastal Plain and up to the Judean Mountains and includes mountain dirt tracks, walking routes, caves and flowers in the spring. The trail passes through the Burma Road and you can climb to the old military posts overlooking the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road.
Mini Israel – 20 minutes drive from Shoresh is the Mini Israel Park which is located at Latrun. The Park displays hundreds of models that are exact copies of sites, building and landscapes from around Israel.
Beit Guvrin – 45 minutes drive after Beit Shemesh, the city was at the center of the largest region during the Roman occupation and was enlarged and fortified by the Roman Emperor Septimum Severus. The Crusaders conquered the city and built a citadel and it was destroyed by Saladin. There is evidence of Jewish life in the 3rd century synagogue ruins and the ornate Sidonian tombs show the affluence of the 3rd and 4th century inhabitants. Not far from the Crusader ruins, are a series of enormous limestone caves dating back to the Hellenistic period. The caves were used as water cisterns, animal pens, and burial. Ongoing excavations have uncovered a Roman amphitheater near the entrance to Kibbutz Beit Guvrin.
The Judean Wine Region is one of the most developed wine routes in Israel and has some of the best and fastest growing group of wineries. Below is a sample of some of the wineries the visitor can choose from:
Judea Winery – Shoresh is one of the best boutique wineries producing non-kosha Israeli wine. Just ask and you will be given a lecture about the whole process and a tour. (open Saturday Morning, for other times arrangement in advance)
Domaine du Castel is one of Israel’s most picturesque wineries. See the meticulously kept vineyard in front of the winery, the deep cellar and the winery building. At Kibbutz Harel is the building where Yitzhak Rabin commanded the Harel Brigade in 1948 can be found within the vineyards. Today this same building is one of Israel’s best new estate wineries Clos de Gat. The old wine press situated in the vineyards (the “gat”) dates from pre-Roman era.
Near Bet Shemesh is Kibbutz Tzora. The Tzora Vineyards is one of the most interesting wineries in Israel. Most of the grapes come from the surrounding vineyards and the Kibbutz Members run the winery.
The Ella Valley Vineyard is a commercial winery. Apart from the interesting visitors center they offer tours of the vineyards.
Christian pilgrims have the option of visiting three winery monasteries in the area: Domaine de Latroun, a Trappist Monastery and the wine is French in style, Mony Winery at Dir Rafat Monastery – an Israeli-Arab family owns the Mony winery which is named after their deceased son and Cremisan at Beit Jamal – Salesian Monastery and the wine is Italian in style.
Judean Hills – The Judean Hills are the mountain range on which Jerusalem is located.
A trip to Israel would not be complete without visiting JERUSALEM. It’s a must especially for first timers.
Jerusalem the Golden is the Capital of Israel and is like no other city on earth. Sacred to the worlds three major monotheistic religions, and was fought over for three millennia by a variety of peoples and nations.
Old City of Jerusalem – The landmarks within the ancient walls of Old Jerusalem are very much alive today. You can hardly move without strolling into another picturesque building or fascinating site or excavation.
Visit the Western Wall, all that remains of the Temple of Solomon which was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC. Experience the Jewish rituals of praying here every day, leaving their messages scribbled on pieces of paper and hiding them within the stones of the Wall. You may even get the chance to see one of the many Bar Mitzvah Celebrations celebrated at the Western Wall.
The Holy Sepulchre is the holiest Christian site in Jerusalem, the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection. The Church contains the Chapel of Golgotha and the Three Stations of the Cross where Jesus was crucified and the Sepulchre itself marks the place of his burial and resurrection.
Walk along the Via Dolorosa, which is also known as the Way of the Cross, a network of streets through which Jesus dragged the Cross before his crucifixion. There are 14 Stations along the way commemorating different events. You will hear Muslim calls for prayer intermingled with Christian chanting and the shouts of market traders selling their merchandise.
The beautiful golden Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount dominates any view of Jerusalem and is a masterpiece of Islamic architecture. The Rock is believed by all three of the world’s main religions to be the place where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son to God. For Muslims the same Rock is the place from which Mohammed, in a dream, ascended to Heaven.
The Citadel or Tower of David was constructed in the 1st century BC as a fortress for King Herod. The tallest tower of the Citadel is the place to appreciate a magnificent view as well as an orientation of the Old City. The Citadel contains the Museum of the History of Jerusalem, featuring interesting displays of the city’s past and serves as a constant reminder of how many times Jerusalem has been conquered and re-conquered over the centuries.
New City of Jerusalem
The New City of Jerusalem also has many important sites. The Yad Vashem Memorial to the Holocaust provides a multifaceted tribute to the millions of Jews who died during World War II. The focus of the Museum is to commemorate and document the events of the Holocaust and provide ongoing research and education.
The Israel Museum has achieved world-class status with its remarkable collections that span prehistoric archaeology to contemporary art. Perhaps the most famous exhibit are the Dead Sea Scrolls that date from the 3rd Century BC to the 1st Century AD and were discovered in 1947. Other places of interest are the new Supreme Court Building and Mt. Herzl to visit the grave of the assassinated Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin.
Places of Interest for Children in Jerusalem If you are traveling with children there is plenty to see. A visit to the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo which is situated n southwest Jerusalem. The zoo collection includes species mentioned in the Bible and many other rare animals. The landscape of the Zoo is very unusual as it is surrounded by the Jerusalem Hills. The Bloomfield Science Museum specializes in interactive exhibitions in science and technology.
Shopping in Jerusalem Excellent shopping can be found in Jerusalem, whether in the markets situated in the Old City of Jerusalem or at shops situated close to the hotel area where you will find Judaica, arts, crafts and souvenirs. You can also visit the Mahneh Yehuda Market a bustling outdoor food and goods market.
Nightlife in Jerusalem There is plenty of nightlife in Jerusalem. One of the best places to go for a light meal or dinner is the Nachalat Shiva area with its sidewalk restaurants and small boutiques and shops. Just walk through the streets and admire the beautiful old stone houses. One of the many restaurants or cafes will surely be to your taste. Ben Yehuda Street is a very lively area at night and there are many bars and restaurants in and around it.
Culture in Jerusalem The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra offers a great standard of performance for classical music lovers. The Israeli Festival of music and performing arts is an annual event in Jerusalem featuring both Israeli and International Performers and 2006 saw the first Jerusalem Jazz Festival.
Over the years, the City of Jerusalem has undergone many changes which have made it one of the most interesting cities in the world as well as an important focal point for tourism in Israel.