In and around Jerusalem

He doesn’t just hike. He also established a website – – to document his hikes as a resource for others, “to appreciate the beauty and significance of Jerusalem."

The Palm Pool at Ein Fesh’ha (photo credit: ARNOLD SLYPER)
The Palm Pool at Ein Fesh’ha
(photo credit: ARNOLD SLYPER)
Not content to sit in an easy chair, watching the sun rise and set over Jerusalem, retired physician Dr. Arnold Slyper was determined to remain active and keep making meaningful contributions during his retirement.
He made aliya to Ma’aleh Adumim at the age of 66. Four years later, the semiretired full professor of pediatrics works as a pediatric endocrinologist two days a week and runs a pediatric obesity clinic for Clalit Health Services.
When he’s not caring for children and their families, he’s out walking and hiking in and around Jerusalem.
“This is my hobby. I love walking and hiking. In fact, I get restless if I’m not walking through the city or in the countryside at least once a week,” Slyper told In Jerusalem.
He doesn’t just hike. He also established a website – – to document his hikes as a resource for others, “to appreciate the beauty and significance of Jerusalem and the areas around Jerusalem.”
The website contains almost 100 pages of information about hikes in the Judean Mountains, the Judean Desert, north and south of Jerusalem, the hilly lowlands of south-central Israel known as the Shfela, walking tours in Jerusalem as well as options for outdoor swimming and family cycling. According to Slyper, everything his web- site documents is within a 75-minute car ride from Jerusalem. “Many people do not have cars, and information is therefore provided about public transport and whether a bus stop is located close to the beginning of the hike. My web- site is purely a resource and contains no paid advertising,” Slyper emphasized.
When hikes are with an organized group, there is often a bus that deposits the hikers at one end and picks them up at the other end of the hike. For those hiking individually, especially without a car at either end, this requires walking all the way back to the starting point. To further assist the individual hiker, Slyper makes an effort to find and document circular hikes.
Slyper and his wife, Judy, have enjoyed walking wherever they have lived. Making aliya and walking in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas have been a source of joy. The Slypers found “Jerusalem and the countryside around Jerusalem, and Israel as a whole, a wonderful place for hiking.”
Initially, even using existing books, websites and blogs, the Slypers “found it difficult to find moderate-length trails appropriate for just a few hours of hiking. Often, the instructions given were confusing, and the significance of the places we were visiting was not always clear. I find many organized walks choppy and easily forgettable, since they provide no overriding context,” he commented. Wanting his website to be truly useful for others, Slyper includes brief essays on the history, geography, botany and geology of each site.
“I also love learning about Jewish history and studying Bible. So researching topics in Jewish history has been an extension of this interest,” he said.
“More often than not, people don’t want to rush home after completing a hike, but are looking for other interesting and fun places to go to,” he noted.
As an added service, for most of the listed hikes, he includes descriptions of places of interest nearby including museums, restaurants and shopping options. Asked about his favorite hikes, Slyper said it was hard to name just one. “The hike in the Sataf reserve [is a favorite]. I often take visitors there to introduce them to the Jerusalem mountains. The views are gorgeous, and its displays of what ancient terrace agriculture was like are extremely well laid out.
“Shvil Hama’ayanot is also one of my favorites. It’s easy to get to by public transport, the starting point being only a short distance from Hadassah hospital. The views from this trail are as spectacular as what some people would go hundreds of miles to see in a national park in the states.
“And, of course, Ein Mabua. This spring and stream are only a short distance from Jerusalem. Many people don’t even know it exists. It’s as beautiful as Ein Gedi but without the crowds, and there are pools for swimming and a trail for hiking.” How does Slyper, an Orthodox Jew, deal with sites of Christian interest? He decided not to ignore Christian sites but, rather, to explain them for the benefit of both Christian and Jewish website visitors. “The reality is that Israel was a Christian country during the Byzantine and Crusader periods, and it is impossible to ignore such a big chunk of Israel’s history. Elements of Christian and Jewish interest are also closely linked. For example, King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion is beneath a Crusader church, while the Last Supper Room is above in the church. There is also much of interest below ground on the Via Dolorosa, since Jewish Jerusalem was covered up when the Romans built their new city of Aelia Capitolina, and this can be seen via the churches.” Reflecting on the project as a whole, Slyper commented, “I wanted my retirement to be meaningful, by which I mean being able to give over to people something worthwhile. Being new to a country and with imperfect language skills limits somewhat what one can do. I was fortunate in finding a project that I felt was needed, that was helpful to people, and that I very much enjoyed doing.
“I think it’s important that immigrants to Israel get to know the country. The Jewish people have been given a wonderful gift of the Land of Israel and, like any gift, it needs to be examined and appreciated. Those born in Israel or arriving at a young age see the country through school trips and the army. Those arriving later in life have to figure it out for themselves.
“Many visitors to Israel, and even residents, feel that Israel is best explored with an organized tour. There is definitely a place for this, but with a bit of instruction, everyone can get to wonderful places in and around Jerusalem by car or using public transport and explore the country one of the best ways there is, which is by foot.”
The website is still under development. New hikes and maps are being added, and the descriptive essays are under constant revision.
“Working on the website has been an exciting venture, discovering new trails and new sites, and thinking up new topics to discuss,” Slyper said.
Regarding hikes for families with strollers or wheelchairs or other mobility limitations, Slyper noted that “most of the web pages include information for those with strollers and wheelchairs. There are two nice walks in the Shfela, at Neot Kedumim and the Beit Guvrin National Park, which have paved paths. Many of the walks in Jerusalem can be done with a wheelchair. Some of the bike paths in and close to Jerusalem are paved and could also be used for wheelchairs. But since I get this question often, I’ll create a separate webpage with a listing for strollers and the disabled.” Slyper concluded, “If I had been offered a job researching and writing up a hiking website, I would have jumped at the opportunity, and appreciated my good fortune in having the time in my semi-retirement to be able to do it. It makes it doubly pleasurable for me that not only do I have such a job, but I’m the boss and have the freedom to make the website exactly as I feel it should be – although it does keep me pretty busy lately!”