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.
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:
FLAM Winery - This is one of the best boutique wineries producing non-kosher Israeli wine.
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.
The Judean Hills are the mountain range on which Jerusalem is located.
Key Words: Judean Hills, Soreq Caves, Avshalom Nature Reserve, Stalactite Caves, Castel National Park, Israel National Trail, Wineries