October 18, 2013 and October 23, 2013
Day 1 mileage: 15.2 (24.5km)
Day 2 mileage: 8.4 (13.5km)
Total mileage since Tel Dan: 310 (501 km)
Day 24’s segment was very special — I finished at my home. So I’ve now run from the border with Lebanon/the Golan Heights all the way to my home in Jerusalem. 302 miles — roughly half way to Egypt. I just find that very cool. It was also nice that my daughter Katherine joined me for this special — and tough — segment. 15 very hilly miles. We had a total of 2,200 feet climbing and 1,900 feet of descending. So most of the time we were either going up or going down.
The Israel Trail does not actually go into Jerusalem — from Sataf it goes south to Even Sapir. But at Sataf it connects to the Jerusalem Trail, so those who are inclined can do a loop that includes Jerusalem. It’s an extra 25 miles or so, but well worth it. It took a little getting used to looking different markers — instead of the Israel Trail tri-color, the Jerusalem Trail mostly uses white-blue-white, although they also have some very elaborate ones with Jerusalem lions on them.
My wife drove us to the start at Sataf, we were out on the trail around 8:30 in the morning. For the first three miles the trail is fairly flat, some modest ups and downs as it goes through forests and olive groves around the outskirts of Mivaseret Zion. Mivaseret is a suburb of Jerusalem. It’s been inhabited since antiquity — it has a strategic location near the entrance to Jerusalem. It was the scene of some fierce battles in 1948. The town’s more recent claim to fame is that it’s the home of the world’s first kosher McDonald’s, which opened in 1995. The trail continues past Motza Ilit, a moshav (rural community) that was established in 1934 after Arabs attacked Motza, further down the hill, murdering many residents. The trail goes right past a stable in Motza Ilit, and descends past a vineyard to cross under Highway 1. Once past highway 1, the trail ascends through the Arazim Valley towards Jerusalem.
Much of the Arazim Valley has been set aside as a park with pedestrian and bicycle trails. It’s also home to Israel’s 9/11 monument. Towering above the valley are gigantic pillars for the high-speed rail line that will eventually link Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in 28 minutes. Not sure which will come first, the messiah or the completion of the long overdue rail line. They currently say it will be operational in 2017. We’ll see…
Climbing out of the upper end of the Arazim Valley the trail comes to the abandoned Arab village of Lifta. Lifta has been inhabited since antiquity. Ottoman Empire records show it was a village with 396 people back in 1596. The Arab population was driven out during the War of Independence. It’s very strategically located, right at the western entrance to the city. It’s been the sight of some recent controversy: there was a proposal to demolish the abandoned stone structures and put in luxury housing. Some of the former owners petitioned Israel’s high court to preserve the area as a museum, and they prevailed. I was surprised to find an outdoor mikvah being used by Orthodox Jews for a pre-Shabbat dip at the upper end of the village.
From there the trail makes a steep climb and enters the city itself, passing near the Calatrava Bridge and Central Bus Station. The bridge serves the light rail and cost over 250 million shekels. A lot of us locals think that money could probably have been better spent on something other than a fancy bridge. Once in the city there are no more trail markers. I modified the route some. The official Jerusalem Trail goes up to Mt. Scopus and the Mt. of Olives. I decided to shorten it a bit, and went down Jaffa Road to Mamilla Mall and into the Old City. Katherine and I enjoyed a stop for coffee on Jaffa Road. I really do like the Israel Trail sections where I can take a coffee break, or at least have coffee or food waiting for me at the finish.
Jaffa Road is closed to all traffic except the light rail for most of its length, making it a pleasant area for a stroll or a run. From Jaffa Road we cut through Mamilla Mall a relatively new and upscale mall filled with boutiques and restaurants just outside Jaffa Gate. This part of the city was the worst neighborhood in Jerusalem before ’67 — Jordanian snipers on the walls of the old city periodically took pot shots at residents. Now it’s the most expensive.
We ran in Jaffa Gate and did a run through the Christian Quarter of the Old City, coming back out Herod’s Gate and continuing around the outside Walls of the Old City. At 12 miles into the run, we had the short but steep climb up the southern side of the Old City. From there we came down Derech Hevron, “Hebron Road” which does actually go to Hebron, and picked up the tayelet, a beautiful promenade with awesome views of the Old City and the Dome of the Rock before arriving home.
Five days later I did the second part of the Jerusalem Trail, this time by myself. It was a special treat starting a run on the Israel Trail from my door! I ran down Derech Beitlehem, “Bethlehem Road,” which does not actually go all the way to Bethlehem anymore (Hebron Road does). Derech Beitlehem has a few shops and restaurants, it’s the main commercial road for the Baka neighborhood, where a lot of immigrants from English speaking countries live. From there I connected to Emek Refaim and rejoined the “official” Jerusalem Trail. A little further on the trail goes through Hashoshanim Garden, across the street from the Hartman Institute, one of the top “Jewish think tanks” in the world. Whenever I can, I join the Hartman Institute’s summer institute for rabbis (my wife calls it “rabbi camp”). Always great learning.
From the Hartman Institute it was a short jog to the Jerusalem Theater, Jerusalem’s premier theater venue, and around the corner from there the President’s House. Leaving the neighborhood of Talbiy, it’s a loop through the older, upscale, downtown neighborhood of Rehavia. The neighborhood is known as the bastion of the Ashkenazi intellectual elite. David Ben Gurion and Golda Meir lived in the neighborhood, as did Haile Selassie, deposed emperor of Ethiopia (OK, he’s not Ashkenazi). Lovely buildings and lots of trees. From Rehavia it was loop through Jerusalem’s “Central Park,” Gan Sacher. At about 4 miles into the run, it was a loop through the government quarter past the Supreme Court building and then past the Sheikh Badr Cemetery, which was a new discovery for me. Practically in the shade of the Supreme Court, this small cemetery was started in 1948 during the Arab siege of Jerusalem. The cemetery has not been in use for over 50 years. Past the cemetery the trail does a swing through the Rose Garden across from the Knesset, and then heads toward Mt Herzl. It goes past the national military cemetery and the Herzl Museum. I’ve never gone to the Herzl Museum, and especially since I know the guy who was driving force behind it I really should go. Soon. Just passing the museum, 7 miles in, the trail connected with a dirt road going down to the village of Ein Kerem. Ein Kerem is a beautiful village on the outskirts of Jerusalem, which Christian tradition holds is the birthplace of John the Baptist, hence there are many churches. It’s a charming location, very green, nice architecture, interesting history. In the Bible it’s called Beit Hakerem, but it’s the same place — it’s been around a long time. The only bad thing about Ein Kerem is there are very few kosher restaurants, and one of the few the town had recently closed. But I found a place for breakfast a “gourmet yogurt” establishment which made a good quiche. My wife picked up…logistics are much simpler close to home.
“Wikiloc maps: http://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=5454331
From Israel Trail Days 24/25 – Sataf – Jerusalem – Ein Kerem. Posted by Barry Leff on 10/19/2013 (128 items)
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