It is a
serene place on the terraced slopes of Mt. Eitan,
where ancient mountainous agriculture is practiced
as it was by the Israelites thousands of years
ago. The 250-acre (1000 dunam) site is maintained
by the Jewish National Fund, as a reconstruction
of ancient agricultural methods. All the work is
done by hand, or with the help of farm animals,
without any machinery or use of pesticides. The
place is Sataf, where the remains of a 4,000 BCE
Chalcolithic village with some of the oldest
agricultural traces in the region as well as the
remains of a pre-1948 Arab village are clearly
visible. Two springs, Ein Sataf and Ein Bikura
flow into the Sorek riverbed, below.
There is no mention of a village named Sataf in
the Bible and the first occurrence of the name in
writing, is from Ein Karem, during the Mamluk era.
Most of the remains found in the Sataf are from
the Byzantine era. The Arab village of Sataf
numbered about 450 people around the middle of the
19th century. A short time after the War of
Independence, a small group of immigrants from
North Africa settled here – but they were only
here for a few months. Later, the area served as a
training area for the IDF’s 101st and paratrooper
units. In 1985, the KKL-JNF began the restoration
of ancient agricultural practices in the area,
with the help JNF supporters from Switzerland.
The primary crops in the Judean Hills in
ancient times included vineyards, olives, figs and
pomegranates. In this rocky-hilly region, dry
farming (which relies only on rainfall for
irrigation) was practiced using an elaborate
system of terraces and tunnels. The springs here
were not plentiful, so the existing water supply
had to maximized. This was achieved by tunneling
into the water-bearing strata. An ingenious system
of channels (parts of which are clearly visible)
conducted the water that was stored in large pools
to the terraced plots.
The word `terrace' is derived from the Latin
word ‘terra' for 'land'.The agricultural terraces
were constructed by a process described in the
Bible as clearing the rocks, izuk, and
transferring them to the edge of the natural
terraces, sikul.The stones that were cleared
provided the necessary support for the terrace
walls into which new soil was placed.
Watch towers were built to guard the crops as
described in the Parable of the Vineyard, "My
beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He
dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it
with choice vines; he built a watching place in
the midst of it, and hewed out a vineyard in it."
(Isaiah ). The Sataf includes a ‘prototype’
vineyard such as the one described in the parable;
the vineyard includes 26 ancient types of vine
that were known to have grown in Eretz Israel.
There are five different trails in the Sataf,
each indicated by a different color; orange,
yellow, blue, red and black. Most of these trails
are between 3.3 – 4.8 miles (2-3 kilometers) and
are intended for experienced hikers.
At Sataf you can visit one of the two springs,
the Eretz Israel Tree Garden, where fruit trees
that are considered to be the original indigenous
varieties are cultivated, see an ancient wine
press (Gat in Hebrew). You can also see plots that
are irrigated by traditional methods.
At Ein Sataf you can also carefully enter a
cave, from which the spring flows, walk through a
tunnel and exit at the other side (be sure to
bring a flashlight or candles). Near Ein Bikura
you will be able to make out 'stairs' on the
terrace wall. Whether you choose a short or long
route – Sataf promises a very enjoyable outing.
The Sataf also includes a project called the
Bustanof, where residents of Jerusalem and its
neighboring areas can work plots of land and grow
vegetables, flowers etc.(using all the modern
technology including irrigation systems with
timers – if they so choose).
There are a number of ways to reach the Sataf –
which has three parking lots. Sataf Junction is
located at the intersection of Routes #395 and
1)From Jerusalem – take Route # 1 (Tel
Aviv-Jerusalem highway) to the Harel interchange
(near the Castel) then onto Route # 3965 and Route
# 395, toward Kibbutz Tzuba.
2)From the Beit Shemesh-Beit Jamal – take Route
# 38 North to Route # 395 where you will make a
right turn (east) toward Kissalon, Ramat Raziel
and Tzuba (you’ll pass by the Scroll of Fire.
3)From Ein Karem (Jerusalem) take Route # 395
toward Kibbutz Tzuba. Web site:
http://www.kkl.org.il, KKL-JNF Jerusalem Visiting
Hours: During daylight hours (unless evening
events scheduled). Entry fees: Free.