Holy Land tour in Judean Hills, Jerusalem

This tour takes you into the hills surrounding Jerusalem to explore [1] goat cheese farm in Nataf, [2] 12th Century churchOriginal Israeli art and Christian sites in the Arab village of Abu Ghosh, [3] boutique winery HaMasrek in Beit Meir, [4] Flam Winery, Tavlin Cafe, and Bnei Brit Cave hiking trail in the Eshtaol Forest, [5] Domaine du Castel Winery in Ramat Raziel, and [6] family amusement park, and the Cave of John the Baptist, as well as the remains of a Crusader castle, and a kosher winery in Kibbutz Tzuba.

Accommodations in the Judean Hills:

Kibbutz Hotel

Self-catering 2-storey cottage

Self-catering units + pool & jacuzzi overlooking forest

Romantic B&B units – some with jacuzzis

Nataf to Eshtaol, Israel map

[1] Nataf

Rte 3975

From Jerusalem: Exit the city on Rte 1, and look out for the turn off to Abu Ghosh on Rte 425, on the right side of the road. Follow 425 through the Christian Arab village of Abu Ghosh to the signs for Maale HaHamisha. Make a sharp right up a steep hill at the sign. Follow the road to a left turn off to Nataf. Har HaRuach is in the forest to your left at the Memorial to the Jews of Poland. The cheese farm is approx. 700 m. inside the forest.

From Tel Aviv: From Rte 1, exit at Hemed Interchange, cross over the highway and bear to your left. Follow the road to a traffic circle, and then the signs to Abu Ghosh. Enter the main street of Abu Ghosh, Rte 425, and follow the signs to Maale HaHamisha. Make a sharp right up a steep hill at the sign. Follow the road to a left turn off to Nataf. Har HaRuach is in the forest to your left at the Memorial to the Jews of Poland. The cheese farm is approx. 700 m. inside the forest.

Har HaRuach Goat Cheese Farm

Har HaRuach Goat Cheese Farm organic goat and sheep cheese farm is located in a forest in the village of Nataf, high above Abu Ghosh – literally in the middle of nowhere.The cheeses are heavenly.

  • Opening Hours: Friday, 10 AM – 4 PM
  • Saturday: 11 AM – 5 PM
  • T: 054.466.3353; 054.493.4566; 02.534.5660

[2] Abu Ghosh

Abu Ghosh is a properous Christian and Moslem Arab village on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Popular among Israelis from around the country, the Middle Eastern restaurant of Abu Shukri is famed for authentic hummous (chick pea salad) dishes. Packed over weekends! Bakeries with Middle Eastern delicacies, and nargilla (water pipe) smoking areas – on low couch-like seating – are also worth exploring.

[2A] Crusader Church of the Resurrection

This 12th Century church is the site of the standing-room-only Abu Ghosh Vocal Music Festival which takes place during the Succot (October) and Shavuout (May) holidays. The church has excellent acoustics, particularly suitable to Gregorian chants. Visitors are welcome throughout the year.

  • Mon – Wed, Fri, Sat: 8:30 – 11:30; 14:30 – 17:00
  • T: 02.534.2798

[2B] Church of Notre Dame of the Ark

This 20th Century church was built on the site of a Byzantine church; it is said to be the last stop of the Holy Ark on its journey with King David to Jerusalem. Mosaic art and murals depict this scene. Visitors are welcome throughout the year.

  • Open daily: 8:30-11:30; 14:30 – 17:00
  • Overnight accommodations: Single and double rooms are available.
  • T: 02. 534.6070

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Sounds of Silence

Hills of Jerusalem

Return to Rte 1. Our next stop, Moshav Beit Meir, is in the hills on the opposite side of the road. Drive in the direction of Tel Aviv. Exit at the Shoresh Interchange and cross the road to Rte 3955. Climb the mountain, passing Shoresh, and enter the gates of the moshav. Follow signs to the winery.

[3] Moshav Beit Meir

Rte 3955

HaMasrek Winery

HaMasrek Winery is located on Moshav Beit Meir off Rte 38, the Greengrass brothers converted the 3-generation family poultry business into a winemaking and bottling plant in 1999. Vintner Nahum studied winemaking in France and returned with the know-how necessary to produce quality Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Gewurtztraminer wines. During our tasting session, we learned how wines are bottled differently to distinguish a Burgundy froma Merlot, for example. Kosher.

  • Open daily by appointment. Closed on Saturday.
  • T: 02.570.1759

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[4] Eshtaol Forest

[4A] Tavlin Dairy/Fish Restaurant

Rte 395 in Eshtaol Forest

Next to Flam Winery, find Tavlin spice shop and open-air restaurant. Set in a pastoral landscape, this al frescoSign to Tavlin and Flam Winery cafe/restaurant serves dairy and fish dishes (no seafood). Or buy cheeses, wine, bread in the spice shop and take the goodies on a picnic. The shop offers a shuk-like variety of spices, rose petals, jams, olive oils, dried herbs, sheep and goat cheeses.

  • Open daily.
  • 8:30-19:00. Summer hours until 22:00. Call to confirm.
  • T: 02.992.4995

[4B] Flam Winery

Rte 395 in Esthtaol ForestFlam Winery in Eshtaol

Established in 1998 by brothers Gilad and Golan, from a winemaking family. Vintner Golan studied oenology in Italy. Award winning wine starts in the vineyard and is brought to its peak with the aid of modern technology and equipment, advocates Golan. Influenced by the Italian school of winemaking, white wines are stored in stainless steel vats, not in oak barrels, in order to allow Chardonnay and Cabernet Blanc the full fruity aromas and flavors without oak influence. Flam's vineyards are in the surrounding Judean hills and in the Upper Galilee. Wines include Unoaked Chardonnay and Cabernet Blanc, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon.

  • Wine tasting and tours by appointment.
  • Wines are not under kashrut supervision.
  • WinkRequest the full wine tasting tour with explanations about wine types and varieties, vineyard tour.
  • Closed Saturday.
  • T: 02.992.9923

[4C] Bnei Brit Cave

Rte 395 in Eshtaol Forest

Look for brown sign on the left side of the road, immediately after the turn-off for Tavlin and Flam Winery. There is a marked hiking trail going up the mountain and picnic tables on the level area. The cave, a memorial to the Holocaust by Bnei Brit, is not open.

[4D] Forest of the Holy – Yaar HaKedoshim

(not noted on the map above)

Continue up Rte 395 in the direction of Ramat Raziel. You will see a sign for Yaar HaKedoshim. This JNF forest of 6 million trees was planted in 1951 in memory of victims of the Holocaust. At an altitude of 600 meters, the forest offers a cool respite from summer heat. In spring, the blossoming flowers are a delight to all the senses.

At the center of the forest, next to Moshav Kasalon, you will see the bronze memorial designed and built by sculptor Nathan Rappaport. The 12-ton Torah Scroll monument was brought over from Italy in 1968. The entire history of the Jewish people, starting with the destruction of the Second Temple, to the declaration of the State of Israel.

Picnic tables, walking paths.

You are now very close to Domaine du Castel.

[5] Ramat Raziel

Domaine du Castel Winery

Rte 395 in Ramat Raziel

Located in Ramat Raziel, Domaine du Castel was started in 1988 by Eli Ben Zaken. Produced from the fruit of local vineyards, wines are exported around the world: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Chardonnay.

An hour long wine tasting tour is offered to serious buyers. Basically, you are expected to buy a case of wine. They will ship overseas.

  • Kosher.
  • By appointment only – for serious buyers.
  • T: 02.534.2249

[6] Kibbutz Tzuba

Rte 395

CoolOvernight accommodation: Hotel Belmont has fully equipped family suites in a rural setting.

  • T: 02.534.7000
  • Gift shop and Craft shop on premises.

[6A] Cave of John the Baptist

Only discovered in 1999 in the orchards of Kibbutz Tzuba, the cave is believed to be the place where John sought solitude in the wilderness, and where he practiced the rite of baptism.

Guided tours available by appointment. Request to visit Crusader Belmont Castle, the springs of Ein Tzuba, and the First Temple burial caves of Bamat HaSela.

  • T: 534.7000

[6B] Kiftsuba Family Activity Center

And now something for the kids! Check out Kiftsuba, an indoor/outdoor activity park, complete with trampolines, bumper cars, arcade, petting zoo, inflatables.

Summer months and school vacations:

  • Sun-Thurs, Sat: 10:00 – 19:00
  • Fri and holiday eves: 10:00 – 17:00
  • T: 02.534.7952
  • Fee

School year:

  • Sun-Thurs: 13:00 – 19:00
  • Fri and holiday eves: 10:00 – 17:00
  • Sat: 10:00 – 19:00
  • T: 02.534.7952
  • Fee

[6C] Tzuba Winery

This young winery produced its first wines in 2005 from the grapes of Tzuba vineyards planted in 1997. The red varieties include Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Sangiovese and Mourvedre, as well as white varieties Chardonnay, Semillion, Viognier, and Sauvignon Blanc.

On Fridays, visitors are invited to brunch in the hotel lobby, together with wine tasting. The Tzuba Winery Visitor Center is slated to open in 2007.

  • Reservations required for Friday brunch and wine tasting.
  • Winery and vineyeard tours can be arranged with advance notice.
  • T: 02.534.7000
  • Tzuba wines are certified kosher.

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