Exploring Jerusalem’s Springs

There are dozens of natural springs in the hills and forests surrounding Jerusalem.  In fact this system of streams, pools and underground water sources has helped sustain settlement here for more than 3,000 years, providing a source of life for people, crops and animals. Now, many of these springs provide the perfect place for hiking, swimming and relaxing in nature, without even leaving the city limits. Just past the Jerusalem Zoo, on the outskirts of the city lies Ein Lavan, a spring surrounded by a well-kept park.  It is well-worth exploring any time of the year, but is especially refreshing in the late summer and early autumn. “It’s perfect for swimming, having a picnic or just hanging out,” says Susannah Schild, author of the blog Hiking the Holyland, which offers descriptions and tips for many hikes around the country, and can also connect visitors with hiking guides. Reached by a set of stone stairs leading up the hillside, Ein Lavan consists of two pools, which have recently been refurbished.  One of the pools is very shallow, and is great for wading in, or for children to play.  A larger pool is deeper.  Both pools are clean and clear, surrounded by stone patios and benches.  The grassy area around the pools has plenty of trees, so don’t forget to bring a blanket and a picnic lunch. Although you can drive, or take a short taxi ride, nearly all the way to Ein Lavan, it is also possible to walk via a 15-minute well-marked trail that starts at the end of the parking lot for the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo and Aquarium. Another way to experience some of these springs is a hike on the so-called “Trail of Springs,” or “Shvil HaMaayanot,” which also begin on the outskirts of the city. This easy, yet interesting, trail begins at the Seadim Ruins, a site with an ancient olive press, mosque and farm house, which is worth exploring for a few minutes. From here, follow the green trail markers, and after about a kilometer you will come to the first of several springs along this route.  The first pool is quite deep, which makes it cold and refreshing.  A few minutes later is another shallower pool that overlooks the hills. And then about 20 more minutes down the trail lies another spring, Ein Tamar, which is also shallow.  This one is surrounded by palm trees that hang over the water, and feels almost tropical.  There are also picnic tables and places for barbecuing. Without stops, it takes about an hour to walk from the parking lot to Ein Tamar; from here you need to turn around and trace the trail back to the parking lot.  But with the springs, as well as several caves along the way, it’s well-worth seeing the scenery twice. “It’s an all-around great hike,” Schild says.  “It’s beautiful, and it’s really special to find a place with so much fresh and clean water right in Jerusalem.”   For those interested in other activities, including outdoor options like the Jerusalem Botanical Garden and the Biblical Zoo, as well as attractions like The Begin Heritage Center and the Tower of David, in addition to a number of tours, there are special discounts for Inbal Hotel guests.