Tel Tzafit – A Beautiful Walk Through History

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Trail MapHike it with Google EarthTerrain View
Distance: 3kmTime: 2 hoursDifficulty: Easy - Moderate
Ascent: 153mTrailhead and Markers Gallery

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We’ve had a lot of luck with forest hikes lately.  It seems that every week, we discover a beautiful, dark, deep forest to walk through.  This week, we decided to embark on another woodland journey: through Haruvit Forest near Beit Shemesh.

We set out with the intention of following a circular trail through Haruvit, a KKL Park.  But before we began, we wanted to drive just a little bit further to explore Tel Tzafit – an ancient settlement turned National Park on the other side of Ya’ar Haruvit.

Tel Tzafit was beautiful and fun, with caves to explore, ancient ruins, and a 3 kilometer circular path that led all the way around the hill.  As a compulsive planner, it hurts to admit it – we got so wrapped up in Tel Tzafit that we never actually made it to the forest.

Tel Tzafit
Finding somewhere to get lost.

But we did discover a great little trail at Tel Tzafit that’s perfect for a family hike or a romantic walk.  It’s quiet, gorgeous, and full of interesting history.

Here’s what we saw on Tel Tzafit:

The New Plan

As we pulled into the parking lot at Tel Tzafit, we saw that there really was a lot to explore there.  A sign marked the trailhead and gave a brief description of the area.

Tel Tzafit lies on the remains of the ancient biblical city of Gat, the hometown of Goliath.  Since its initial destruction, the city had been repeatedly inhabited until about 1948. 

Tel Tzafit
Ready to tackle the Tel.

There are archeological excavations throughout the trail, where teams have discovered ancient artifacts verifying the city’s long history.

The trail itself was going to be about 3 kilometers long, running around the hill past caves, beautiful views, and towards a lookout up top.

Cave People

We got started on the trail, happy for the change in scenery.  Rather than forests, we were out in the open today, passing by interesting trees and cacti on the way to white caves.

We approached the caves ready to explore.  On the outside, the stone was white and chalky.  Rubbing the rock brought back memories of erasing the blackboard with my hands as a child.  The white stone simply dissolved into a cloud of dust at the touch.

Tel Tzafit
Clouds of dust.

Beyond the stone, there were small caves.  And large rocks full of fossils sat in chunks around the opening, remnants of the distant past when this area was completely under water.

As we examined the caves, our attention was capture by loud squawking.  Up in the tree, we saw a trio of parakeets (parrots?), colorful and bright against the cloudy gray sky.

Don’t Mind Me, I’m Just an Ancient Olive Press

We continued walking around the bend, past views of Dalia Power Station on one side, and towards rolling green pastures on the other. 

As we walked, we stepped over remains of ancient history.  A stone shaped like an olive press sat discarded on the side of the path.  Walking on a tel means that history is literally underfoot.

Tel Tzafit
Beautiful views and ancient history.

Soon, we reached the beginning of the easy ascent up to the top of the hill.  On the way up, we noticed many perfect little stopping points for a picnic.  We chose one, with tree roots providing an impromptu bench for gazing out into the rolling green hills beyond.

Breakfast for Hungry Existentialists

Over hot coffee and muffins from our favorite local bakery, this tree seemed like a great place to discuss the comings and goings of history.  Sitting on a pile of ancient cities really is food for thought.

Tel Tzafit
Place to consider life and carrot muffins.

Sometimes, all it takes is a little bit of perspective to see that our big problems are actually pretty small in the scheme of things.  And getting outdoors anywhere (but especially on a walk like this one!) can help us see that.

Inevitably, we sat there for much, much longer than we had planned – enjoying the view, the cool weather, and conversation.  When we finally picked ourselves up, it was clear that we weren’t going to be making it back to Haruvit Forest that day.

Cows, Cacti, and Carpets of Green

The trail continued on past abandoned archeological digs towards some modern-day farmland.  Cows stood grazing beyond rows of cacti (used in ancient times as a method of separating sections of land).

Tel Tzafit
Ancient ruins turned farmland.

As we walked, we couldn’t help but notice just how green things looked now that the winter rains had come in full force.  Carpets of grass grew beneath every tree.  The plains in the distance were lush and verdant.  It was a particularly pretty time of year to walk on Tel Tzafit.

As we neared the trailhead, we began to see caves again.  This time, we were able to climb all the way inside for a peek.

Tel Tzafit
Picture window.

The cave was cool.  But the coolest part was looking out into the colorful world beyond the monotone of rock.  Winter season in Israel really is beautiful.

Full Circle

We followed the trail past the last of the signposts (there had been signs all along the trail giving bits of information about the city in biblical times).  The white rock of the caves faded into the distance as we tramped down the path through a field of green clover.

Maybe we didn’t exactly stick to our plan.  But experiencing this mini adventure around Tel Tzafit was worth it.  At Tel Tzafit, history and beauty are wrapped together in one fun excursion.

We’ll save Haruvit Forest for next time.

Tel Tzafit
Fun at Tel Tzafit.

Hikers’ Notes:

Here’s what you need to know before taking this hike:

  • This is a circular trail.
  • There isn’t a lot of shade, so this hike is best suited to fall, winter and spring. But it’s only 3K so you could hike it in the summertime. It’s probably not nearly as beautiful, though!
  • Suitable for dogs.
  • There are plenty of signs and lots of information on the trail. Good for families and kids who like to learn.
  • Trail colors: green, then blue back to the car.
  • You can use the trail map in the table up top and my trail marker gallery to find your way. The trail is very well marked. It would be extremely difficult to get lost.

Don’t forget to read my guide to the navigational features in this post before you hit the trail.

Trail map from Amud Anan.

Questions? Have you hiked Tel Tzafit? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Tel Tzafit
Green up above.
Tel Tzafit
Green down below.

Hiking can be dangerous and is done entirely at your own risk. Information is provided free of charge; it is each hiker’s responsibility to check it and navigate using a map and compass.

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