by Yael Adar
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 #3965
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.
Visiting Hours: During daylight hours (unless evening events scheduled). Entry fees: Free.