Abraham Path – Southern West Bank Trails (scheduled tour)
Abraham Path – Southern West Bank Trails (scheduled tour) Itinerary
FROM ARTAS TO TEQUA’
Start from Solomon’s Pools down to the village of Artas, where we can have tea with local families and visit the convent built to commemorate the ‘closed garden’ mentioned in the Biblical Song of Songs. We walk south from Artas to the village of Tequa’ – an ancient village believed to be the birthplace of the prophet Amos. The ruins of an early Byzantine church built over the prophet’s tomb can still be seen today. After exploring the archaeological site we are invited by the women of the Tequa’ Women’s Society to drink tea and learn about the traditional embroidery and hand woven carpets made by their cooperative. We stay as guests with families in the village.
TOTAL WALKING TIME: 5 HOURS
TERRAIN: FOOTPATHS AND DIRT ROADS
OVERNIGHT: HOMESTAY IN TEQUA’
DOWN THE WADI JIHAR TO THE DESERTS OF RASHAYDEH
We leave the village on foot, descending into the spectacular Wadi Jihar – a deep limeston canyon that winds down into the desert towards the Dead Sea. There has been a human presence in this wilderness for millennia – flints points found in one of caves above the Wadi date from the Middle Paleolithic period, which reaches back almost 300,000 years. We emerge from the valley at a place called Rashaydeh, where we spend the night with a Bedouin family.The grandfather of this family, Ali, is a wonderful storyteller who still remembers the old ways of the Bedouin.
TOTAL WALKING TIME: 6 HOURS
TERRAIN: ROCKY DESERT TRACKS
OVERNIGHT: HOMESTAY WITH BEDOUIN FAMILY IN RASHAYDEH
DESERT SUNRISE IN RASHAYDEH, AND ON TOWARDS BENI NAIM
Early risers can watch the sun rise over the desert, before leaving camp on foot to walk up towards Beni Naim. Along the way we pass the ruins of an early Byzantine monastic community founded at the very beginning of the sixth century. More than 120 hermit monks once dwelt here in isolated cells cut from the limestone, including Saint Sabas, the leader of the monastic movement in Palestine. From the monastery the trail climbs steadily out of the desert, towards the cultivated zone around Beni Naim, with spectacular views back across the Rift Valley. We reach the farming country around Beni Naim in the evening, where we are welcomed as guest of a local family.
TOTAL WALKING TIME: 7 HOURS
TERRAIN: ROCKY DESERT TRACKS, SOME ASPHALT, MOSTLY CLIMBING
OVERNIGHT: HOMESTAY WITH FAMILY IN MASAFER BENI NAIM
BENI NAIM AND HEBRON / ALKHALIL
We walk to the almost unknown sacred site of Beni Naim an ancient ‘high place’ or sanctuar in the southern hills of Palestine, said to the mountain from which Abraham watched the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in the valley below. This is the most evocative of the old Abrahamic places, unchanged since it was first described by the great Arab traveler Ibn Battuta in around 1325. From here we walk the final few kilometers in Hebron / Al Khalil itself, ending our walk at the burial place of Abraham in the heart of the old town the focus of our pilgrimage across Palestine and the end of our long journey on foot. After we’ve visited alHaram al Ibrahimi, there may be a chance to meet with the leaders of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, who are working to restore the old town as the centre of civic and commercial life in Hebron. We transfer by road from here to Bethlehem.
TOTAL WALKING TIME: 5 HOURS
TERRAIN: ACROSS ORCHARDS AND FIELDS, + SOME ASPHALT INTO HEBRON / ALKHALIL
Based on a minimum group of 4 people, the cost of this tour is US $550 per person, which covers transfer by Van between Bethlehem and the trail, all accommodation and meals while on the walk, plus the services of the guide.
The walk is moderate to challenging. Distances are not too long – never more than 12 miles per day with a maximum total ascent per day of 400 meters. Note that the terrain is often rocky underfoot, with lots of stepping up and down, and there are some significant uphill and downhill sections. Light scrambling is required at some points. The path is a combination of old shepherds’ tracks across rock and thorn scrub, good dirt roads and occasional asphalt. In Jerusalem and Bethlehem, you will be staying in hotels or simple guesthouses with private rooms. While on the trail, you will be staying in family homes in Palestinian villages, meeting the kids, grandparents and extended families, and sharing their home-cooked meals. The Palestinian homes you will stay in all have electricity and running water. However, Palestine is among the most water-poor countries in the world, so please 6 use water with great care. You will be able to have a quick shower or wash after each walk. There will always be plenty of bottled drinking water. Men and women usually sleep separately, on mattresses on the floor of the family’s main living space. A private bedroom should not be expected, although some families may be able to provide one for older married couples. If this is important to you, please make this known at the time of inquiry, so that you can get appropriate advice. It is advisable to bring your own sheets or cotton sleeping-bag liner. You will be eating traditional Middle Eastern food. In the villages, this means home cooking, freshly prepared and local. Meals, including breakfast, usually consist of flat bread, cheese, yoghurt, humus, olives and salads. Dinner will include a typical Palestinian cooked dish, often including rice with chicken or meat. The walks include one or two very simple picnics of bread, cheese and salads.
Palestine is primarily a Muslim country, and so no alcohol will be offered during the walk. Be prepared for endless tiny glasses of sweet tea, often served with mint, and for grainy, delicious Arabic-style coffee after meals. The trail also passes through Taybeh, home to Palestine’s first brewery. If you pass through in October, you might find the Taybeh version of Bavaria’s legendary Oktoberfest in full swing – two days of Palestinian celebration, music and culture. The tours start from Jerusalem. Traveling to Jerusalem is straightforward for European and North American travellers. Arrival is at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel-Aviv, about one hour’s bus ride to Jerusalem. If you are coming from a tour from other parts of the Middle East, you will need to check on specific border 7 crossings and routes.
For the walk, you will need a pair of good boots, walking socks, and a hat or headscarf that covers your head and neck. Because the trail goes through rural areas, both women and men are advised to dress conservatively showing respect to these communities. We advise women to wear long pants, and either wear long-sleeved blouses or carry a scarf in their bag for covering shoulders and arms as needed. It is also best to avoid low-cut shirts, tank tops or sheer clothing. Men can wear shortsleeved shirts, but are also advised to wear long pants. If you are walking in the summer, wearing light fabrics like linen and cotton can help keep you comfortable. In the winter, it can get cold and sweaters and rain gear are recommended. Women are not required to cover their heads except in mosques and other holy places. There are no special health issues concerned with walking in Palestine. The greatest risks are from heat stroke/exhaustion, sunburn, dehydration and traveler’s diarrhoea. Walkers should take the usual health precautions, carry water at all times, ensure that they drink only bottled water, protect themselves from the sun and carry a small personal first aid kit (see ‘packing list’ below). The UK’s NHS Travel Health website offers detailed and reliable information about vaccinations and other travel related health issues.
The Palestinians are a friendly and hospitable people with legendary respect for guests and visitors to their land. The path in Palestine has been established just over a year ago, and since then, several hundred people from many countries, including the USA and UK, have walked all or part of the route without safety or security incidents of any kind. You will be walking in rural areas, and will be accompanied at all times by a professional Palestinian guide who knows, and is held in great respect and affection by the communities along the route. Without exception, travelers on the Masar have been welcomed with warmth and kindness by the people of Palestine. Despite the marked increase in security in the West Bank in recent years, it is clearly not possible for the Abraham Path Initiative or its partners to guarantee the personal safety of every traveler to Palestine. Visit the website of your home government for travelling to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (see below for relevant web links). Travel insurance is the traveler’s responsibility. It is strongly advised to take out adequate travel insurance before traveling, including emergency health care and repatriation cover. 8 Street markets abound in all the major towns selling everything from fruit and vegetables to sweets, toys and small jewellery. Every village offers a roadside shop for drinks, food and snacks. Good quality souvenirs and clothes are best sought in Jerusalem’s Old City where the covered markets offer hours of great browsing, but prices can be higher than in other locations.
MAKE YOUR OWN JOURNEY
Please contact our local tour operator if you wish to arrange a special tour or guided walk that suits your requirements. In general, the price will depend on the perperson cost, which increases with a smaller group size, motor transport and the number and distance of the excursions you require.
WALKING WITH CHILDREN
Although the Palestinian culture is itself very ‘child-friendly’, we do not recommend bringing children under the age of 12 due to the nature of the terrain, which can be challenging. Teenagers, who are more adventurous, and willing to try local food, would probably enjoy the journey. The path in Palestine has proven to be a memorable and even transformational event for some of the young teenagers who have walked the trail.
CARRYING YOUR GEAR
Baggage transfer between villages can be arranged, so that the hikers do not need to carry all of their gear while they are on the walk. It is advisable to bring a small daypack on the walks, and one other small suitcase. If you would like to carry your backpack throughout the trail, we recommend that you keep the weight of the backpack not more than 10% – 15% of your body weight.
• Hiking boots or walking shoes and walking socks
• Lightweight footwear for evenings
• Long sleeved shirts and full length trousers (for protecting limbs against scratches, sunburn, etc)
• Hat or head covering
• Hiking poles (not essential, but very useful on this terrain)
• Water bottle
• Sunscreen – high SPF
• 9 Light fleece or sweater, even in summer, for the evenings
• Light rain jacket (not needed between June – August)
• Cotton sleeping-bag liner, if require
• Light pyjamas
• Small flashlight or head-torch
• Small first-aid kit (Band-Aid, antiseptic wipes, oral re-hydration salts, Compede or other blister treatment) Sanitary items and other basic pharmaceutical goods as required
• A journal