Ein Mata, one of the Eila Valley's best-kept secrets

What could be better than chilling out at a refreshingly cool spring on a hot summer day?

Moshav Mata vista. (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Moshav Mata vista.
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
It’s August once again and temperatures outside are boiling. If you still want to spend time outside in nature, the first thing you need to do is look for a nice shady spot.
One place that has lots of shade and a couple of springs is Caesar’s Trail in the Judean Hills, where you can enjoy the refreshing water of Ein Mata and Ein Tanur.
You can reach the springs a few different ways, but the shortest path begins at Hurvat Hanut, which is where you should park your car; this path is part of the Israel National Trail. The ruins that sit just above the parking area are also known as Khan Mata, in which a church from the Byzantine era is located. Later, the church was used by the Mamelukes as an inn for merchants visiting from Jerusalem.
As you walk inside the church, pay special attention to the floors, which are covered with an incredible ancient mosaic.
When you’re ready to begin the trail, look for the blue trail markers and follow them until you come upon the black trail. Switch onto the black trail and follow it until you reach a small stream that you will cross on your way to Ein Mata. If you look around as you’re walking, you’ll notice that the greenery along the trail is relatively lush and that there is a lot of agricultural terracing that was constructed by people who lived here centuries ago.
When the black trail ends, continue along the blue trail again all the way until you reach Ein Mata. The incredible spring is conveniently located next to an ancient fig tree. This is a great place to stop and have a light picnic before moving onto the second spring, Ein Tanur.
To reach Ein Tanur, go back the way you came on the blue trail, but when the path splits, take the red trail, which will bring you all the way to Ein Tanur. When you’ve finished enjoying the water, continue along the red path, which will bring you all the way back to the parking area.
Although driving to the Eila Valley region does not take that long, the best way to enjoy your day is by staying on for a night. So if you’re inclined to spend a night or two in the area, in order to get to know the area’s special people, there are a number of bed-and-breakfasts where you can stay.
Unlike the plethora of guest houses available in the North, the Eila Valley region feels very authentic and rural.
One guest house that I’ve stayed at is Odem Ha’ela, which is located at Moshav Mata. The guest house is relatively new (it just opened two years ago) and is run by Dudu (who happens to be MK Shaul Mofaz’s brother). Dudu’s two luxurious cottages are situated at the site of the old chicken coops; each sports a minibar, access to a heated saltwater pool, a dry sauna, a Jacuzzi and kitchenette.
The cost for one night (including breakfast): NIS 1,250 during the week, and NIS 1,500 on weekends.
Ofer’s Place
It’s absolutely impossible to come to Mata without stopping in to see Ofer Aviv. A jack of all trades, he is an artist and chef, and a few years ago decided to open up his garden to the public to show off his wares – homemade beer and smoked meat and fish.
Aviv began his love affair with cooking while working as a flight attendant, traveling the world. Now, at the age of 48, and with a few years of working in hi-tech under his belt as well, he is making time to fulfill his ultimate dream: Serve guests authentic homemade food.
Aviv holds events and romantic meals in his garden, in which he builds individualized menus including smoked meats and fish, Moroccan and wheat salads, stuffed grape leaves and warm focaccia. In addition, Aviv serves his guests a variety of beers he brews at home. On top of all this, the view from his garden is gorgeous.
Aviv loves to prepare special evenings for young artists and singers who are just starting out in their careers.
For reservations: 054-791-0480.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
Location: Judean Hills.
Type of outing: Easy, appropriate for the whole family.
Length: Half-day, with option of overnight stay.
Bring flashlights.
Season: All year long.
Directions: Drive on Highway 375. Follow signs for Mata Forest and Sha’ar Hanut.