Tour Israel: Discover Prat, a stream in the desert landscape

IF a visit to the monastery and swimming in the pool are not enough, you can take a short drive to Ein Mabua spring or Ein Kelt.

How many times have you sat in traffic on Route 1 driving to Jerusalem or the Dead Sea? Did you know that along the way there are magical springs and streams where cool water flows all year round? Sometimes you just have to open your eyes, ignore the traffic, and discover beautiful secrets close by.
One of the main streams is the beautiful Prat, which naturally blends into the desert landscape. The stream, also known as Wadi Kelt, is created by natural spring water and flows over 28 km. from Jerusalem until it spills into the Jordan River.
Nahal Prat is the largest water source in the area. One of its main springs is Ein Mevoa, which is located right in the middle of the three springs that define the stream. The stream and the springs are the responsibility of the Nature and Parks Authority, so there is signage in place, which makes it very easy to get oriented. Most visitors to Wadi Kelt choose to take a circular route. This is ideal for families and anyone who want to avoid extra physical exertion in the scorching sun on the long route. The route starts at the Nahal Prat Nature Reserve parking lot and goes through the Ein Prat pool. From there it goes to the Chariton Monastery and returns to the enchanting Ein Tamar, which is next to the parking.
I love this route so much because with an easy turn from Highway 1 we arrive at a fascinating hike with spectacular views, history at its best, wonderful springs and a different experience. Other than the circular route, there are two other hikes that can be done along the stream. One trip leads from Ein Prat and to Ein Mevoa, a non-circular hike of medium difficulty. Ein Mevoa is a spring that flows from a cave to a round concrete pool, and is one of the three springs that make up Nahal Prat.
A third option is the long route that starts from Ein Mevoa and ends in Ein Kelt. This is not an easy hike and involves walking in water. Before going on one of the last two tracks, check the security situation.
On hot days, I would recommend staying close to Ein Prat's parking area, the first (west) stop of Nahal Prat, and simply enjoy the Ein Prat and Ein Tamar pools. A few steps away a bit of history awaits, and you can hop to the Chariton Monastery or Dir Firan, located on the south bank of the Porat River, above Ein Prat.
THE MONASTERY is still active today and monks live there. You can visit by appointment (call: 052-539-9075). Dir Firan was founded some 1,700 years ago by a monk named Chariton. Many legends have been associated with the monastery and its unique location. One legend says the monk was captured by bandits and put in a cave. A snake entered the cave, but instead of biting Chariton, the monk took the snake’s venom and poured it into the bandits' wine bottle. The bandits drank the wine, died and Chariton was saved.
In fact, what we see today is not the original 4th-century CE building, as the monastery was destroyed by Persians passing through the area. The building we see was restored in the 19th century with help from the Russian government. As you enter the building you see a system of paths that connect a number of seclusion chambers built around the natural caves scattered on the mountain.
The monastery dress code is modest and respectable, which means wearing long pants or skirts instead of shorts or bathing suits.
If you don’t want to visit inside the monastery, you can observe from outside, where you might see some monks, along with the breathtaking scenery.
On the way back, you can stop for a picnic in a peaceful eucalyptus grove planted by the British. After a short picnic you can cool off in the Fig and Tamar pools. The Tamar pool is relatively compact and rectangular, on the upper margin of the grove.
How to get there: Take Route 1 toward the Dead Sea. Turn left onto Route 437 leading to the Almon settlement. Turn right into the settlement and follow the signs to the Nature Authority post and continue until you reach the parking lot.
IF A visit to the monastery and swimming in the pool are not enough, you can take a short drive to Ein Mabua spring or Ein Kelt.
Ein Mabua is a rhythmic spring whose waters flow out of a cave to a circular concrete pool. The spring water was once pumped for use by Jerusalem residents, but not anymore. The spring is within the rocky channel of the stream, which means the view surrounding it cannot be ignored.
A rhythmic spring is a spring whose water does not flow at a steady rate, but comes out in rhythmic beats. The water does not come out in a steady flow because some of the groundwater is "imprisoned" in hollow spaces inside the rock. As soon as the spaces fill up the water comes out. This is a unique and rare phenomenon. Today, the water from the stream flows to an aquifer and from it to a circular pool. You can see the level of water in the round pool changing, and watch the pool fill and then completely empty as the water moves to an outdoor pool.
How to get to Ein Mabua: Drive on Route 1. Turn left at Kfar Adumim junction. At the Delek gas station, take the second exit for Alon Road – Route 458.
EIN KELT is the third flow of the Prat River near the settlement of Mitzpe Jericho. Ein Kelt in Hebrew means "The Water Cavern." Coming down from the parking lot to Ein Kelt you can see, to the left of the road, the remains of aqueduct from the time of Herod. Also near the stream are water pipes that were built in the late 1930s in order to transfer water from the stream to Jerusalem. Right nearby, inside a large building from that period, a service center was set up for visitors of the Nature and Parks Authority, which operates a kiosk that allows guests to enjoy drinks and snacks.
On the other bank is another ancient building where a regional flour station once operated. Further along are the remains of an ancient church. Along the trail you can go in the water and walk as much as you wish and search for the sources of flow that are hidden among the stones. The water is wonderfully cool and gives a pleasant contrast to the hot desert sun. Part of the northern cliff of the creek is a climbing wall, so climbers can incorporate a bit of extreme sport into the experience.
How to get there: Drive on Route 1 in the direction of Mitzpe Jericho. Just before the entrance to Mitzpe Jericho, turn right. Drive past the parking lot and descend to a stream on a dirt road. One kilometer down the road you can park on an even surface.
Translated by Alon Einhorn.

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