Hiking Israel's springs before winter

Ein Mata is a delightful spring that is partially hidden under a cluster of fig trees, which provides plenty of shade for visitors.

EIN MATA (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
EIN MATA
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Since the cold season is at our doorstep and we have been (at least temporarily) released from lockdown, it’s time to enjoy one last water hike to some of Israel’s best natural springs. This week, I’ll be taking you on a visit to one of my favorite destinations in central Israel that’s perfect for a family outing. It’s a good place for easy hiking, with lots of shade and beautiful scenery.
The circular trail, easy to walk and short (1.5 km.), passes through shaded areas of the Mateh Yehuda region as its snakes its way to Ein Mata and Ein Tanur, two lovely springs with lots of cool water. There are a bunch of trails that lead to these springs, but for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to describe here only the shortest one, which begins at Hurvat Hanot.
Hurvat Hanot, also known as Khan Mata, functioned as a church from the 6th century during the Byzantine period until later the Mamluks turned it into a khan or inn, where travelers could spend the night as they made their way to Jerusalem. Archaeologists have uncovered a number of interesting artifacts that help us understand how significant this place was at various moments in history.

EIN MATA’S spring is partially hidden under a cluster of fig trees. (Yaakov Shkolnik/KKL Archive)EIN MATA’S spring is partially hidden under a cluster of fig trees. (Yaakov Shkolnik/KKL Archive)


As you stand there at Hurvat Hanot, look below your feet and the sand and you’ll see a magnificent mosaic floor with an inscription in Greek that was installed when the ancient church was first built. Although entrance to Hurvat Hanot is free of charge, it is extremely important not to step in places that are off limits. Because the mosaic is open to the public, we must take extra-special care to protect it.
After viewing the fascinating remains at Hurvat Hanot, it’s time to continue on toward Ein Mata and Ein Tanur. Follow the blue trail markers until the path splits. At this point, switch to the black path, which will lead to Ein Mata. As you walk along the path, make sure to take the time to look around at the gorgeously terraced hills which were used for agriculture in the olden days and are now filled with greenery. Soon, you will meet up with the blue path again, which you should follow until you reach Ein Mata.
Ein Mata is a delightful spring that is partially hidden under a cluster of fig trees, which provides plenty of shade for visitors. This is a wonderful spot to stop at, spread out a sheet, lie down and relax without a care in the world. The air smells so good here, and you can hear the sounds of the water running and the trees rustling in the wind. When you’ve rested enough, it’s time to set off to our next stop: Ein Tanur.
To reach Ein Tanur from Ein Mata, retrace your steps along the blue trail until the last fork you passed on your way there, but this time continue along the red trail instead, which will lead you all the way to the top of the spring. A tunnel was hewn out of the stone up to the top of the spring so that the water, which reaches about knee high, can flow out freely.

TUNNEL VISION: Hewn out of the stone, reaching the top of the Ein Tanur spring. (Nurit Hertz)TUNNEL VISION: Hewn out of the stone, reaching the top of the Ein Tanur spring. (Nurit Hertz)


If you want to reach the source of the spring, you’ll need to climb up into the tunnel, which is much easier to do if you bring a flashlight along with you. It’s very exciting being inside the tunnel, especially for kids, so make sure not to miss out on this.
When you’re ready to go, all you have to do is follow the red trail back to the parking area.
Level of difficulty: Easy, appropriate for the whole family.
Length: Half-day.
Notes: Bring a flashlight.
Season: All year.
Directions: Drive along Road 375. Follow signs for Mata Forest and Sha’ar Hanot.
Takeaway options
Gepetto Pizza Bar
If you like the idea of eating a picnic lunch in one of the shady spots along the trails leading to Ein Mata and Ein Tanur, but would rather not have to prepare it, then you’ll be thrilled to know there are a number of local eateries that will prepare a lovely picnic lunch for you and your family. The Mateh Yehuda Tourism Department is providing picnic baskets free of charge, which you can then fill with lots of tasty foods prepared by a number of eateries that offer takeaway options. For example, you can contact Gepetto Pizza Bar in Tzur Hadassah ([02] 588-9499) which offers a variety of Italian dishes, including pizza, calzone, focaccia, pasta and salads. Orders must be placed one hour in advance.
Argentinian Grill
Another option is the Argentinean Grill in Moshav Srigim (054-434-1282), which offers a variety of grilled meat and chicken options, alongside salads, chorizo, chicken wings made with its signature sauce, as well as a nice selection of local wines and beers. Orders must be placed 24 hours in advance.
Sabim Shotim
Sabim Shotim (054-487-4898) is a boutique business run out of Tzur Hadassah that sells locally made products. It will prepare for you customized sandwiches, with special cheeses, spreads and homemade appetizers, alongside beer and wines produced locally in the region. Orders must be placed 24 hours in advance.
For more information regarding picnic baskets and local eateries with takeaway options, visit: tour-yehuda.org.il

Translated by Hannah Hochner.