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Deniz Bensason



Jerusalem Trail Blog:

Day 1: From the Sataf to the Chords Bridge at the western entrance of Jerusalem (Part 1)

Panorama of the western approaches to Jerusalem - © Deniz Bensason

Panorama of the western approaches to Jerusalem

Deniz Bensason - Jerusalem Trail

Deniz Bensason
Jerusalem Trail


Start point: Sataf Forest


Finish Point: Lifta Spring, and the entrance to Jerusalem


Section Length: approximately 14 Km




      Starting point: 600 m


      End point: 800 m

      Lowest point: 545 m

Trail sign: Blue

Map of Day 1. Jerusalem Trail

Map of Day 1. Jerusalem Trail

Section Map

For reasons best understood by Google, unlike the Israel Trail, Google has not as yet marked the Jerusalem Trail on its maps.

However, when Google disappoints there are other alternatives. (Click on the + sign in the picture to expand the map).

For the record…

Just like in the Israel Trail blog, this is not intended as another “From A to B” blog about the Jerusalem Trail, but rather, an opportunity for me to share with you, my readers, a personal glimpse at some of the sites, along with my perspective and thoughts about the route.

The Jerusalem Trail Day - Day 1, Part 1:

When people think about Jerusalem, they may think of history or politics or religion, but few would think to associate it with gems of nature and watering spots. Yet just minutes from the highway leading to the capital, some of these secret treasures are revealed as you leave the beaten track and start on the Jerusalem trail.

Although the trail starts (or ends) at the Sataf, 10 kilometers west of Jerusalem, right outside Maoz Zion (part of Mevaseret Zion), it bypasses the site’s wide range of attractions. It is much advised to carve out some extra time to explore it.

Jerusalem Trail: KKL signpost with map of the Sataf and rules of conduct - © Deniz Bensason

Welcome to the Sataf!

The Sataf

Nestled onto the mountainside, the Sataf provides a magnificent view of the Jerusalem hills, the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital and Medical Center, and the Monastery of St. John in the Wilderness.

Green and shady year round, the site attracts visitors to hike its trails and explore its two springs--Ein Sataf and Ein Bikura--which attracted settlers as far back as the Chalcolithic period some 6000 years ago. Remains of their early settlement can still be seen here.

Pools built beneath the springs collected the fresh spring water. When the early Israelites settled the area thousand of years ago they wanted to farm the land. To do so, they first needed to clear the rocks from the arid soil of the Judean hills and mountains. The stones removed were set into retaining walls, built to stop the topsoil from being washed down the mountain, and then filled with fertile soil, to construct the first local agricultural terraces. Remaining stones were used to build shomerot, lookout towers, for the men who watched over the crops. Irrigation channels were dug from the collection pools to water the fields.

This process of building terraces is described in Isaiah 5:2, in the parable of the vineyard:

  (כרם היה לידידי...)   וַיְעַזְּקֵהוּ וַיְסַקְּלֵהוּ, וַיִּטָּעֵהוּ שֹׂרֵק, וַיִּבֶן מִגְדָּל בְּתוֹכוֹ, וְגַם-יֶקֶב חָצֵב בּוֹ;  
(My beloved has a vineyard…) and he fenced it (referring to the terraces), and removed the stones from it, and planted it with the best vines, and built a tower in its midst, and also hewed out a winepress there. 

Reconstruction work carried out by the Keren Kayemeth L’Israel -Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) restored the springs’ collection pools, the Ein Sataf’s aquifer, and the irrigation channels dug from the springs and pools.

Jerusalem Trail: Walking through a conifer forest by the Sataf - © Deniz Bensason

Conifers and Hikers

The project also included the building of new shomerot and the planting of twenty-six varieties of ancient grapes and assorted native fruit trees (figs, almonds, olives, etc.). These plantings are cultivated using the same methods practiced by the early Israelites.

Bring a flashlight and wading shoes so that if time allows, you can visit the springs and explore their source. Enter Ein Sataf through a stone antechamber built into the mountainside. Right past the inner opening are a few stairs that descend to the spring. Brace yourself, and step right in. Brrr, the water is cold, but it’s only about ankle high, and one soon gets used to it. To the left is a narrow water channel that serves to increase the flow of spring water and also leads the water to the collection pool further down. If you want, you can stoop to wade through it, but watch your head: only the very young can walk it upright!

Once outside, continue down the terraces, and head towards your left, passing some fields cultivated using biblical methods. Soon you’ll see the collection pool outside Ein Bikura. If you wish to see the spring’s water source, enter the narrow slit into the mountain, but give a shout to make sure no one is on their way out: there’s no room for passing once you’re inside. After a few feet, you have to scramble up a ledge to see the water source. The ledge is large enough to accommodate a group, and is a great location for ghost stories… Descend the ledge and exit the way you entered in order to return to the trail.

Jerusalem Trail: Jerusalem Trail starting point with trail emblem and general information - © Deniz Bensason

…and welcome to the Jerusalem Trail

Back to the Trail

Near the Sataf’s upper parking area, we cross Route 395 near the traffic circle to access the Jerusalem Trail. A small set of stairs leads up to the dirt trail which wends its way through bushes of rosemary and Spanish broom. Below us, to the right, Nahal Sorek - one of Israel’s longest streams - it separates the mountain we are on from the Jerusalem hills. Nahal Sorek winds its way from near the northwestern corner of Jerusalem to Jerusalem’s southern corner, and then turns westward to the Mediterranean Sea.

The word sorek is thought to come from an early word for prime vines (which appears in the verse from Isaiah quoted above), and refers to the grapes grown in the Judean hill region.

Across from us, the the low rooftops of Even Sapir spill down one hill, while on the next hill, the new buildings of the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital and Medical Center tower above the complex’s earlier structures and draw the eyes up towards the sky.

Jerusalem Trail: View of Hadassa Ein Kerem Hospital and Medical Center - © Deniz Bensason

Health with a view: A glimpse of Hadassa Ein Kerem Hospital and Medical Center

Mount Kheret and the Kheret Spring

The trail sign on Mount Kheret changes to green. As the path ascends, it zigzags through a pine forest with many cedars and cypresses. In between the trees, we catch views of old bunkers built to safeguard the capital in the early years of the Jewish state and views of the Jerusalem skyline from different angles. From the conifer forest, we exit into an ancient olive grove once watered by the now dry Kheret Spring, which is just beyond the old orchard. Like the springs at the Sataf, the Kheret Spring was another of the perch springs typical to the area. The spring once watered the fruit trees in the orchard below it, where the remains of another old watchtower can be seen.

There just are too many pictures that tell a tale. I am including a mini gallery below. (Click on pic to enlarge)

  • Jerusalem Trail: Signpost to Har Kheret and stairs leading up to Maoz Tzion
  • Jerusalem Trail: Old Ruin on Mount Kheret
  • Jerusalem Trail: The Winding Trail
  • Jerusalem Trail: Glimpses of Jerusalem
  • Jerusalem Trail: Glimpses of Jerusalem
  • Jerusalem Trail: Ein Kheret Spring - Where has all the water gone?
  • Jerusalem Trail: Maoz Tzion to the left, Motza at the bottom of the hill, and Jerusalem’s southwestern neighborhoods on the hills in the background
  • Jerusalem Trail: A glimpse of the outskirts of Jerusalem and the new train bridge for the much anticipated Tel Aviv-Jerusalem railway line

The path begins to descend and we turn right onto an asphalt road, where we now follow a black trail-mark.

Jerusalem Trail: 'The Castel' as seen from Mevaseret Zion - © Deniz Bensason

'The Castel' as seen from Mevaseret Zion (taken another day)

Maoz Zion, Home of the Castel

The paved road beneath our feet soon turns back into a wide dirt track, with no vegetation to block our view. To our right we can see a wider view of the southwestern hills of Jerusalem, with Hadassah Hospital still visible to the right as well as Moshav Ora, and some of the southwestern Jerusalem neighborhoods. To our left are a few of the lowermost houses of Maoz Zion Alef.

We are too far down the mountain to view the Castel Fortress which is situated (in Maoz Zion Bet) on the mountain peak. The Romans built the first fortress or Castellum on this strategic site. Then, as now, the location overlooks the primary route which, since ancient times, has connected Jerusalem to the coastal plain and the Mediterranean. Centuries later, the Crusaders claimed the mountain and dwelled in its fortress.

Role in the War of Independence and the Seige of Jerusalem

During Israel’s War of Independence, the Castel played an instrumental role in the siege of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Trail: Urban dwellings bordering with nature – The best of two worlds - © Deniz Bensason

Urban dwellings bordering with nature – The best of two worlds

At the time, the Castel, along with many of the other mountain tops on this side of Jerusalem, was in Arab hands, effectively cutting Jerusalem off from the rest of Israel. The one-lane road that later grew into the wide, modern Highway 1 was a narrow ribbon winding among the mountains, and it served as the city’s one connection to the rest of the country and to the city’s main sources of food, water, and fuel.

On November 27, 1947, the United Nations passed a resolution to divide British Mandatory Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state, provoking Arab riots throughout the country. In one of the many violent incidents, fighters ambushed a bus travelling to Jerusalem and killed seven Jews. Israel’s War of Independence and the siege of Jerusalem had begun.

Vehicles used for travel to Jerusalem were plated in steel and organized in convoys for greater protection. Although once past the British police fort at the edge of the plains at Latrun convoys were open to attack, the British would inspect travelers on the convoy to make sure they were not carrying weapons. And when the slow-moving vehicles entered the mountain foothills at Shaar Hagai (Bab el Wad), they were frequent victims of Arab ambushes and fire. The Castel, with its excellent view of the road, served as the command center.

By the end of March, the food supply in Jerusalem was so severely depleted, that strict food rationing needed to be introduced.

Fearing that Jerusalem would be forced to surrender, the Hagana launched its first major operation: Operation Nachshon, aimed at opening the Jerusalem corridor and lifting the blockade. In a series of battles and changing of hands, the Castel was taken and retaken, and the blockade was lifted long enough to allow three of four attempted large convoys to renew the supply of food to Jerusalem.

The battles of 1948 in this area were commemorated by a Hebrew song, Bab el-Wad (Gate/Gateway of the Valley), with words by Haim Gouri and music by Shmuel Fershko.


באב אל וואד

Originally performed by Yafa Yarkoni
Text: Chayim Guri
Music: Shmuel Farshko

במקור מבוצע על ידי: יפה ירקוני
מילים: חיים גורי
לחן: שמואל פרשקו י

Here I pass, by the stone.
An asphalt road, rocks and ridges.
Night slowly descends; a sea-wind blows
Light of the first star above Beit Machsir.

פה אני עובר, ניצב ליד האבן
כביש אספלט שחור, סלעים ורכסים
ערב אט יורד, רוח ים נושבת
אור כוכב ראשון מעבר בית מחסיר

Chorus: Bab-el-Wad
Remember our names forever,
Convoys broke through, on the way to the City.
Our dead lie on the road edges.
The iron skeleton, silent like my comrade.

פזמון: באב אל וואד
לנצח זכור נא את שמותינו
שיירות פרצו בדרך אל העיר
בצידי הדרך מוטלים מתינו
שלד הברזל שותק כמו רעי

Here pitch and lead fumed under the sun,
Here nights passed with fire and knives.
Here sorrow and glory live together
A burnt armored car and the name of someone unnamed.

פה שצפו בשמש זפת ועופרת
פה עברו לילות באש וסכינים
פה שוכנים ביחד עצב ותפארת
משוריין חרוך ושם של אלמוני

    Chorus: Bab-el-Wad . . .

    פזמון: באב אל וואד …

And I walk, passing here in silence,
And I remember them, one by one.
Here we fought together on cliffs and boulders
Here we were together, one family.

ואני הולך, עובר כאן חרש חרש
ואני זוכר אותם אחד אחד
כאן לחמנו יחד על צוקים וטרש
כאן היינו יחד משפחה אחת

    Chorus: Bab-el-Wad . . .

    פזמון: באב אל וואד …

A spring day will come and cyclamens will bloom,
Anemones will redden the mountain and the slope.
He, who will go on the road we went,
He will not forget us, Bab-el-Wad..

יום אביב יבוא ורקפות תפרחנה
אודם כלנית בהר ובמורד
זה אשר ילך בדרך שהלכנו
אל ישכח אותנו, אותנו באב אל וואד …

The siege of Jerusalem does not always have to be remembered in pathos. Playwright and songwriter Dan Almagor reminisced about it humoristically in a poem.

In 1969 the poem was adapted to a song: “One Cup of Water.” (music by Dani Granot)

A Single Cup of Water

כוס אחת של מים

Text: Dan Almagor
Music: Dani Granot
Originally performed by: The Khan Theater, Jerusalem, 1969
Translation: Mirel Abeles

מילים: דן אלמגור
לחן: דני גרנות
במקור מבוצע על ידי: תאטרון החאן ירושלים, 1969
תרגום לאנגלית: מירל אבלס

I had one cup,
One cup of water,
During the siege,
In the city of Jerusalem.

היתה לי כוס אחת,
כוס אחת של מים.
היה זה במצור
בעיר ירושלים.

I took from the cup
One or two sips,
I swear, it was
Just to wet my lips.

לגמתי מן הכוס
טיפה אחת או שתים.
רק ככה, להרטיב
קצת את השפתיים;

I wet my lips!
Then took the water in no rush
And carefully
My teeth did brush.

הרטבתי את שפתי!
נטלתי את המים,
ובזהירות רבה
צחצחתי ת'שיניים.

    Chorus: I had one cup ….

    פזמון : היתה לי כוס אחת….

Brushed my teeth
And in the remaining H2O,
Must admit, a pair of slacks
For a wash did go.

צחצחתי את שיני
ובשארית המים,
כיבסתי, במחילה,
זוג של מכנסים.

I washed my slacks,
The water turned slate.
So in that same cup,
Washed socks, one pair, to date.

כיבסתי מכנסיי,
השחירו קצת המים.
אז באותה הכוס
כיבסתי זוג גרביים.

    Chorus: I had one cup ….

    פזמון : היתה לי כוס אחת….

I washed my socks
And then with that cup of water
I washed the floor
Cause after two months, I oughta.

כיבסתי את גרבי
ואז בכוס המים
שטפתי ת'ריצפה
שלא רוחצה חודשיים.

The damp floor rag
I wrung out with my hands,
To water a rose or two
Planted in cans.

את הסמרטוט הלח
סחטתי בידים,
השקיתי בעציץ
שושן אפילו שניים.

I wrung out a tiny drop,
And, thank the Lord above,
The toilet finally got
The much desired scrub.

סחטתי עוד יותר,
ובעזרת שמים
בבית השימוש
הורדו, סוף סוף, קצת מים.

Went back to the cup
Only one drop did linger.
So with that drop
I washed my finger.

חזרתי אל הכוס.
נותרה טיפה של מים.
אז בטיפה הזאת
רחצתי ת'ידיים.

I had one cup,
One cup of water
But no Hanukkah miracle
Took place again
In the city of Jerusalem.

היתה לי כוס אחת,
כוס אחת של מים.
נס חנוכה
שוב לא קרה
בעיר ירושלים.

Jerusalem Trail: Choices, choices, choices: On to Jerusalem, or back to the Sataf? - © Deniz Bensason

Choices, choices, choices:
On to Jerusalem, or back to the Sataf?

This blog is getting far too long.

I have three choices:

1. Cut and edit the above significantly

2. Continue and write a super long blog page


3. Call this Part 1 of Day 1 and write the remainder in Part 2

I will go for the third option.



Hi Deniz,

Nice blog.

I want to thank you specifically for publishing the song and lyrics of “A Single Cup of Water”. I have not heard this song for more than a quarter of a century.

Did you know that the stanza about washing the toilet caused quite a stir at the time? People objected to the “Lords Name” being mentioned in connection with and in the proximity of a toilet.


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