Touring Tel Tzova

On the way to Israel’s capital, there are countless charming trails with water springs and beautiful views.

Tel Tzova (photo credit: HADAR YAHAV)
Tel Tzova
(photo credit: HADAR YAHAV)
Multitudes of people flock to Jerusalem to stroll through the narrow alleyways, shop in the markets and visit ancient sites. But sometimes we are so focused on reaching the capital that we miss out on all the charming places we could stop and see on our way.
Many treasures can be uncovered in the mountains surrounding the capital.
If we turn off of Highway 1 on our way to Jerusalem, we can discover a world of flowing springs, abandoned villages, pristine forests and wide open fields.
There are many beautiful places to hike in the Jerusalem area that are not too strenuous and easy to reach by car. This is a wonderful area of the country to get to know, and there are endless caves, gardens and historical sites to visit.
Today, I would like to describe one of my favorite places in the area: Tel Tzova.
Although I’ve been there numerous times, I’m always happy to go to Tzova again with visitors, or just hop over there for a relaxing weekend walk.
Tel Tzova is located within Kibbutz Tzova, with which many people are familiar due to its popular children’s attraction, Kiftzuba. The kibbutz offers a special 1+1 package, in which parents can visit the archeological site while letting their children expend all their energy in the amusement park.
At the bottom of the hill, there is a makeshift parking area where you can park your car. Then, follow the blue trail markers and climb to the top of the hill. The remains from the ancient town do not cover a large geographical area, but they do go back pretty far in time – all the way to 586 BCE. Some of the remains can be traced back to the Arab village Suba, which was built on the ruins of an ancient Jewish community that existed here in the days of Joshua, and a Crusader fortress. There are also caves and tombs that residents used throughout the ages.
As you will see, the mountain (and its many inhabitants) experienced great turmoil throughout history. One extraordinarily turbulent period was when the Crusaders arrived in the area. They recognized the strategic importance of the location, building the Belmont fortress on top of the mountain in 1170 to enable them to protect the road leading to Jerusalem.
The fortress was conquered just 20 years after it was built by Saladin and his army, and the village Suba was subsequently built on this site. In 1834, the Abu Ghosh family took refuge here in an attempt to flee from Egyptian military forces, but the latter attacked and destroyed the fortress. The village was subsequently rebuilt and was the scene of fierce fighting in the War of Independence, due to its strategic location overlooking the road to Jerusalem. Egyptian forces that controlled the hill would attack Jewish convoys trying to reach the capital from Tel Aviv; the village was conquered by the Palmah on July 13, 1948.
As you climb up the hill, you will see many signs that describe the battles that took place there, and when you reach the top of the hill, you will be rewarded with the most spectacular panoramic view of Jerusalem. If you look around, you will also see wells and buildings that were used by villagers.
When you start climbing back down the hill, there will be a sign that directs you towards ancient olive and oak trees. Turn here and continue walking for about five minutes until you reach these trees, which are between 800 and 1,200 years old.
When you’ve finished looking at these incredibly ancient trees, walk back to your car and drive to another lovely site – some might even consider it the highlight of the day – the Ein Tzova Spring. The flowing spring is open to visitors, although on weekends a small fee is charged at the entrance.
Taking a few moments to splash around in the spring (which is within the boundaries of the kibbutz) is especially fun for the children, who would never forgo an opportunity to get wet – even on cool days. To get there, you can drive with your car and follow the signs to the parking area. From there, walk down by foot on the green trail until the path splits in two. Turn right and continue another 50 meters, until you reach the entrance of the spring. To enter the narrow spring, crouch down low and then lean over as you walk toward the big stone structure from which the spring water flows.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.