Botany and Birds 250.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Joe Yudin owns Touring Israel, a company that specializes in “Lifestyle” tours of Israel.
is no better way to experience the Land, the people and the Book of
Israel than by seeing it with your feet. You can study the Bible and
read through its pages in your home, school or house of worship, but you
cannot understand it completely unless you go out to where it all
happened and use all five of your senses with your Bible at the ready.
This week is a terrific week to be touring Israel with the biblical stories in mind as Shavuot is right around the corner.
hiking the many trails that criss-cross Israel this time of year, one
cannot escape the biblical story of the Moabite Ruth, who after losing
her husband, and helping her mother in-law Naomi return to the land of
her tribesman in Judah, gleans the wheat “fallen” from Boaz’s cart
during the Shavuot wheat harvest. Boaz apparently took a liking to Ruth
and “dropped” vast amounts of wheat off the cart which the Torah
commands must be left for the poor to reap. Returning to Naomi with all
the wheat Ruth is instructed by Naomi to pamper Boaz while keeping her
virtuous ways, and Boaz takes her from the fields to be his wife. Of
course a celebration ensues.
From the peak of Mt. Eitan I gaze
over the Judean Mountains where stately Jerusalem crowns the highest
hilltops. The white clouds gently float over the heavenly city, barely
moving. Only by taking the time to sit and stare in awe over this
picturesque setting do I realize that yes the clouds are moving across
the heavens. I look down at the ancients fields once inhabited by my
forefathers and I can see Ruth, gently washing the feet of Boaz after a
long day at work in the fields and I know that their union will produce
the royal line of the House of David. And as I begin to hike down the
mountain, I smell the fennel, feel the ancient olive trunks and hear the
faint laughter of children splashing in the springs and I too wonder
when God’s promise of a messianic age through David by way of Ruth will
The Hebrew Bible calls Shavuot the “Festival of
Reaping” and the “Day of the First Fruits”. Even though this is
mentioned in the Bible, these names reveal Shavuot’s more traditional
roots. Here in the Land of Israel early June brings with a warming of
the cool spring air and a ripening of the first fruits, wheat and
barley. The mulberries turn from a tart bright red to a sweet dark
black, and the apples go from green to red and the greenish wheat to a
golden brown. The tractors come into the fields and the Kibbutznicks
often accompanied these days by Thai workers, head into the fields to
pick the fruit and reap the grain.
This Shavuot, hike Mt. Eitan and the ruins of Sataf overlooking the
Sorek Valley. Remains of this settlement date back to the Chalcolitic period,
but it was inhabited in turn by Canaanites, Israelites, Jews of the
Hellenistic and Roman times as well as Byzantines, Mamlukes and Arabs.
From Jerusalem take Route 386 west through the beautiful village of Ein
Kerem and at the circle at Ein Kerem Junction take Route 395 west to Mt.
Eitan Junction and follow the signs to the Sataf Springs. There is a
huge parking lot in front of a large wooden building that houses a JNF
information booth and a terrific café with incredible views of Hadassah
Hospital, the Sorek Valley, the Mountains of Judea and the village of
Check out the map and beyond the café you’ll find trail markers and
signs leading down the mountain to the Sataf Springs as well as a wide
variety of other trails. Notice the ancient terraces that have been
refurbished and reused over the millennia. All along the trail you will
see a wide variety of crops, some still tended with some growing wild
amongst the ancient terraces. Wheat, barley, oats, grape, olive, almond,
fennel, mustard, walnut, mulberry fig, sage, hyssop and many other
species can be smelled, tasted and enjoyed on the way down to the water
system built during the Hellenistic period in the 2nd century.
The villages burrowed out several tunnels to catch the rainwater seeping
through the limestone rock and channel it out into giant “water towers”
which allowed pressure to build and the water to be channeled through
out the terraces at will and all year round. Explore the tunnels, enjoy
the water and check out the locals swimming in the pools under the
“Swimming Forbidden” signs. Bring shoes for walking in the water, hats
and flashlights.Joe Yudin
became a licensed tour guide in 1999. He completed his Master’s degree
at the University of Haifa in the Land of Israel Studies and is
currently studying toward a PhD.Send us your stories and photosShavuot
is fast approaching, and as well as spending time with family and
eating cheesecake, the festival is traditionally associated with the
mitzva of “bikkurim” – to represent the time when farmers brought the
first fruits to the Temple.Please
send us a short description of a "first" which has been significant to
you. We also want to see your pictures from the event so please send
them in too.Email stories and pictures to email@example.com.