Adulam-France Park - A Biblical Landscape

Adulam-France Park. Photo: Shutterstock
Adulam-France Park is an open space which brings together nature, agriculture and historical sites. It is an area of round and low hills, covered mostly with Mediterranean growth. The ravines between the hills have been used for agriculture for thousands of years, mostly to grow wheat and grapes. In the winter and in the spring, the hills are covered with colorful flowers. KKL-JNF has established walking and cycling tracks in the park and in collaboration with the Israeli Antiquities Authority, arranged for archeological digs in its historical sites. On the paved roads, travelers can arrive by car to the main sites. KKL-JNF is developing the park with help from its friends in France. The park is named after the biblical Adulam, widely believed to be located in what is now Tel Adulam (Hirbet a-Sheikh Madkur), a site within the park.
  • How to get there

    On the road from Beit Shemesh to Beit Guvrin (Highway 38) turn east at Givat Yeshayahu Junction and immediately right to the main road through the park.
  • Geographic location-

    Jerusalem - Judean highlands and surroundings
  • Area-

  • Special Sites in the Park-

    Adulam Ruins, Etry Ruins, Burgin Ruins, Adulam Woodland Nature Reserve.
  • Facilities-

    Picinic area, Archeological or Historic site, Lookout, Marked path.
  • Other sites in the area-

    Ella Valley, British Park, Luzit Caves.
  • Type of parking-

    Accessible parks,Picnic parks
  • Interest-

    Hiking and Walking Tracks,Bicycle track,Archeology


Adulam-France Park is situated in the heart of the Judean Plain, south of Beit Shemesh. Nahal Ha'ella (Highway 375) marks the northern boundary of the park, and Nahal Guvrin (Highway 35) defines its southern boundary. The Beit Guvrin – Beit Shemesh Road (Highway 38) defines the park on the west, and the “green line” marks its eastern limit.
Adulam-France Park covers an area of 50,000 dunams, and together with British Park and American Independence Park, creates the green expanses of Central Israel. The northern part of the park is in the drainage basin of Nahal Ha'ella, while its southern part is in the drainage basin of the Nahal Guvrin. Both of these watercourses are tributaries of Nahal Lachish, which flows into the Mediterranean Sea near Ashdod.
Landscape view from the park


The Adulam Park, like the whole Judea plain, is a geological syncline. During the Eocene period (34 to 56 million years ago), when the whole middle east was widely flooded by seawater, chalk and marlstone rocks have sank in the area, containing different amounts of flint. These rocks have largely been swept away from the anticlines, as the Judea mountains anticline, but they were preserved in the Judea plain synclines, including the area of Adulam Park.
The chalk rocks in the park are of two formations – Maresha and Adulam. The Maresha formation is made of solid rock, containing mostly chalk and marlstone and appear in the area in thin layers on and off, where flint lenses can be seen. The rocks of Adulam formation are hollow and allow rainwater to flow deeply.
The ancient residents of the Judea plain knew well how to differentiate between the two formations. Maresha rocks allowed carving building blocks easily. Therefore, the Bell Caves, that have been used in the past as quarries, where all carved in Maresha rocks. The caves in the caves at the Judea plains are almost all man-made, and not natural.
A new formation revealed at the Tel Adulam area is the Tekia formation. The rocks of this formation precede the chalk rocks (Paleocene – 55-66 million years ago). They are built from grey-greenish chalk shales, made from thin layers of clay that went through mild metamorphosis under pressure from the rocks above them. Clay is a plastic rock which tends to change its thickness when pressed between hard layers. Rocks of Tekia formation do not flow and sometimes, small streams are created at the point of contact between them and the rocks of Adulam formation. One such small stream (Ein al-Maliach) have in the past flowed at the foot of Tel Adulam, near the Adulam wells.
Moraea sisyrinchium

Flora and Fauna

The Adulam Park hills are covered with a grove containing carob trees, among them large pistacia lentiscus bushes. In general, the grove is low, but several carob trees grow large. This kind of grove is typical of the relatively dry and warm area of the Mediterranean climate.
After hundreds of years of neglect, the grove can now rehabilitate itself at Park Adulam. This phenomenon is especially noticeable in the plains that face north, where higher moisture conditions exists. In these plains, the grove changes into a formation where common oaks and Pistacia palaestina are common. Common accompanying trees and bushes are Rhamnus lycioides and Phillyrea latifolia.
On the steep plains where the hard calcrete rock does not exist, low bushes dominate, especially poterium. Common bushes and shrubs are Salvia fruticose and Origanum syriacum. At the end of the winter and during the spring, the park is covered with a wide variety of seasonal flowers.
Large Atlantic terebinth grow withiin the park, especially near Tel Adulam. At the edge of the park, especially on its northern and southern parts, Jerusalem pine tree forests, planted in the 1950s, grow. The ravines between the hills are cared for as they were in ancient times, used mostly to grow wheat and grapes.
Large mammals are well represented in the park. Among others, Israeli deer, golden jackals, common foxes, wild boars and field rabbit live here. They are joined by several rodents: hedgehogs, porcupines, gerbils and mole rats. Among the many birds in the area, the most notable during the summer is the short-toed snake-eagle. In the park's caves, jackdaws are nesting.

The Park Road

The main road in the park is almost fully paved and accessible to private vehicles. This road leads to the main sites in the park. Its overall length, from the main gate to the northern entrance near Roglit, is about 12 kilometers.
The archeological garden at the KKL-JNF offices near Givat Yeshayahu, is outside the park road. The access to it go from Road 38, as detailed below.
The Road and the Sites
The Park Gate: from the access road to Tzafririm, turn right on a paved road (marked in green) and drive about 1.4 kilometers.
Adulam Park Recreation Area: 700 meters from the park gate. It's a small, intimate recreation area, the only one in the park.
The Burgin Ruins: from the recreation area, a paved road (marked in green) leads to the rear gate of the town of Tzafririm. After another 1.2 kilometers, on a T-junction, a left turn and additional 600 meters leads to the entrance to Etri ruins, which travelers should skip. On the next junction, after 2.3 kilometers (near a large carob tree), a left turn leads to the Burgin ruins parking lot (marked in blue), which is about 800 meters away.
The Etri Ruins: the same way that leads to the Burgin ruins, with a left turn (marked blue) on the junction. Another kilometer leads to the ruins' parking lot.
Tel Adulam: from the Etri ruins, one kilometer north leads to a T-junction. A right turn at the junction and 2.5 kilometers later leads to another right turn (marked in red) which was previously the IDF patrol road. After 100 meters, a left turn leads to Tel Adulam. After 1.5 kilometers, the road reaches the foot to the site.
The Atlantic Terebinth Site: from the turn to Tel Adulam, another 1.1 kilometers on the paved road lead to a right turn to another paved road that becomes a dirt road. The road surrounds an "island" of Atlantic terebinth trees. The largest tree is about 600 meters from the turn.
The Northern Gate: from the Atlantic terebinth site, another 2.5 kilometers north lead to the northern gate (Road 367) near Roglit.
The village center at the Etri Ruins

The Archeological Garden

The archeological garden, built in collaboration with the Israel Antiquities Authority, is in the KKL-JNF offices near Givat Yeshayahu. It presents archeological findings, mostly taken from the Park Adulam sites and their surroundings. The findings include olive presses, wine presses, pressing and threshing tools, building stones and recreations of burial caves – all teaching about the everyday lives of the area's residents in ancient times.
Entrance is free of admission throughout the week from 8:00 to 16:00. On Saturday, cars can be parked in the small field outsie the gate and enter the garden through the small foot travelers' gate.
Arrival instructions: the KKL-JNF offices are about 200 meters north of Givat Yeshayahu (Road 38, near the 8KM mark).

The Main Gate

At the park's gate, KKL-JNF has set signs containing the park's maps, general explanations about the locations and QR codes that can be scanned in smartphones to get more detailed information about travel paths in the area.
About 700 meters from the main gate, in a small pine grove, is the only recreation area in the park. KKL-JNF avoids opening more recreation areas in the park, in order to keep it as open as possible for travelers. Those interested in having a picnic can do so in one of the many recreation areas in Britain Park, along Road 38, a few minutes' drive from the park.

The Burgin Ruins

The Burgin Ruins are at the top of one of the many hills at Adulam Park. Archeological digs in the ruins revealed fascinating remains of burial caves, bell caves, houses from the Roman period, a church and hiding cave. From the top of the hill there is a splendid view of the Judea plains.
Archeologists Boaz Ziso and Amir Ganor of the Israeli Antiquities Authority have identified the Burgin Ruins with the village of Bish. A village by that name is mentioned by the Romano-Jewish historian Josephus Flavius in his book "The Jewish War". The village, which was actually a large fortified town, surrendered to the Fifth Roman Legion during the Great Jewish Rebellion (in the first century).
Trip length: about two hours.
Special equipment needed flashlight.
1.The numbers in the trip's description refer to the numbers of the sites with signs.
2. Do not stray from marked trails, there are dangerous pits in the area.
3. Entrance is allowed only to the sites mentioned in this page.
4. The trip in the cave requires crawling – come with trousers and flashlight.
Get on the Road
The parking lot as at the northern feet of the Burgin Ruins. Signs and a map make it easy for travelers to find their way in the ruins, where many different sites have been discovered.
The first stop can be found by walking on the dirt road east following a green mark, and turning right to a ruined structure near a palm tree. This is the Arak Hian Ruin (1). Like many other Adulam Park hills, the site contains the remains of a town from the Byzantine and Ottoman periods. Due to the many pits in area, wandering around is not recommended. Near a nice carob tree is another ruined structure. Veteran travelers probably remember the two stone arches that decorated the structure before. The arches collapses, and their remains are now scattered around.
The Necropolis
Necropolis – Greek for "The City of the Dead" – is the area built underneath or near a city, where the dead were buried. In the ancient world, marvelous tombs were dug, with the belief that it will serve the dead in the next world, helping their eventual resurrection and return.
The trail marked in green goes through a section of the necropolis of the town that existed in the Burgin Ruins during the Roman and Byzantine eras. It passes near a carving in the rock where a square opening leads to a burial cave. It appears that the carving stopped at some stage. A visit to the cave is forbidden. From this point, the trail goes through a series of impressive burial tunnels.
The Pillars cave (2) – the entrance to the cave, carved during the Byzantine era, goes through a terraced corridor. A staircase replaces the original stairs that were carved in the rocks. At the heart of the carved cave, two pillars remain that support the natural rock ceiling. The carvers only designed the front of the pillars, and did not bother with the back part. The title of each pillar was ornamented with a circle that surrounds a cross (the ornaments were eroded with time).
The cave contains eight burial niches, where bodies were placed. In 2008, the tunnel went through reconstruction, after being damaged by antiquity robbers.
A Second Temple era burial cave (3) – a steel staircase, replacing stairs carved in stone, goes down to a large yard. The yard leads to a room in which only a part of the ceiling survived. The room leads to the burial cave. Near the cave's opening is the stone used in the past to seal the cave's opening whenever a person was buried. The cave was in use by Jews during the Second Temple era. Similar sites have been discovered in Jerusalem.
On the cave walls a niches where the bodies were placed. Each niche was sealed with its own stone. On the western side of the tunnel is a hole where the bones were collected. During the Second Temple era, the dry bones were transferred to a coffin placed in the site.
At the cave's exit, an opening of a carved tunnel is on the side of the yard. The tunnel was used for hiding the Bar Kokhba and the carving of the yard damaged it. On the opposite side there was a pool, used for rainwater drainage.
The Bull's Head Cave (4) – is about 30 meters south of the trail. It is easy to spot by the original carved stone steps that descend into it. The cave's ornaments are typical of the Roman period, chief among them is a bull's head embossment, representing a sacrifice to the gods. Burial niches are carved along the walls, and some of the graves' covering panels survived to this day.
The Burgin Saddle
After the Bull Head's Cave, the trail leave the Necropolis and reaches the Burgin Saddle, a place with a junction. The trail marked green continues south as the Adulam single (created for cyclists).
Foot travelers have two options at this spot:
1) Continue on the short path marked in red straight to the site's center and the hiding caves.
2) Continue on a slightly longer path, marked in blue, leading the bell caves and an overlook at the top of the Burgin Ruins.
Note the large pit from which a palm tree grows. This is "The Jackdaw Pit" – a site where members of the noisy bird specie reside. The Jackdaw is easily recognizable by its black color, and it lives in large packs.
The blue-marked path passes through a water pool of the Ottoman period (5) and reaches the Bell Cave. The Bell Cave (6) connects two large bell caves. A corridor carved in the rocks leads to the first cave, in which most of the ceiling has collapsed.
Bell caves have been dug at the Judea plain since the Hellenistic period (third century BC), until the early Muslim period (tenth century AD) and were used as quarries. Sometimes they were used for other purposes as water pits and storage spaces. In our case, at the side of the cave near the corridor, small niches for raising doves can be seen. It appears that the cave has been used at some point for animal storage. An opening in the cave leads to a second bell cave, which managed to survive in its entirety. Visitors are advised to bring flashlights with them.
From the Bell Cave, the trail goes upwards to the overlook (7) at the top of the Burgin Ruins (417 meters above), where the beautiful landscape can be seen. The height differences between the lower and upper plains, the Jerusalem Mountains and Hebron Mountains can be seen here. Many sites can also be seen from the overlook, including Tel Azeka, Nehosha, Beit Shemesh and Gush Etzion. The structure remains at the foot of the overlook mark the location of the Um al-Borj village, which existed here during the Ottoman period.
The path marked in blue goes down south, passes by the prickly pear cactus hedge, and reaches the entrance to a large site revealed in archeological digs (8). The remains of the byzantine church discovered here are not open to the public yet, but the remains of a Roman villa with a mosaic floor are open for visitors. The signs at the site lead directly to the hiding caves.
The Hiding Caves
The hiding caves system (9), which is dated to the Bar Kokhva rebellion, uses ancient quarries from the Hellenistic period. When the caves were dug, houses were found above them, which is a common phenomenon in many other hiding caves at the Judea plain. It is possible that the tunnel and room system was used in times of peace for storage and artisanship, since the depth of the ground have a cooling effect. In times of war, the caves provided warriors with hiding places.
The hiding cave system has five openings, marked in Hebrew letters. Entrance to the caves is through the "Aleph" openings. In cases of a large number of visitors, the other openings are available for exit.
The walking path is marked with arrow signs. Visitors should carry flashlights and wear long pants. The path includes short crawling sections in narrow tunnels.
The Aleph opening leads to a staircase, which descends into a large space. A short walk leads to another big space supported by walls built by KKL-JNF (with an exit). Another level down leads to a 10-meter crawl into a  columbarium from which there is another 15-meter crawl to a small space (with an exit).
Another short crawl and a descent down a steel ladder leads to a lower level with another space. Then comes another short crawl, with to additional spaces, leading to a small bell cave, with an exit.
During the trip, travelers can see "bottles" – round carved openings that are at least a meter deep. These places may have been used for storage. Another interesting phenomenon is sub-tunnels that lead nowhere – it is hard to say why they were dug this way, but some of them may have been dug to mislead invading enemies.
After leaving the caves, a walk on the blue-marked path leads back to the starting point. On the way is a carved wine press (10), revealed in archeological diggings.

The Etri Ruins

The Etri Ruins are at the top of a high hill (406 meters high). Archeological digs in the site revealed impressive remains of a Jewish town from the Second Temple Period, which existed until the days of the Bar Kokhva rebellion. The villagers made their living from agriculture and pasture. Other findings point to other economic ventures: dove raising and sawing.
The town, which reached its peak in the first century, spread across 48 acres. The remains testify that the town was badly hurt by the Romans during the great rebellion (69 AD). A shard discovered in the site, which is a part of agricultural export document, bears the name "Etri". Josephus Flavius mentions a town with a similar name, Etra, and notes that the Romans destroyed it during the great rebellion.
After the great rebellion, Jews returned to the site and rebuilt their houses. Toward the Bar Kokhva Rebellion, on 132 AD, the residents dug hiding caves and a system to collect rain water. The town took part in this rebellion as well, leading to its final destruction.
The place was deserted for another 70 years, and around 200 AD, a pagan population, probably of Roman army veterans, settled in the site. The Israeli Antiquities Authority's staff, in collaboration with the KKL-JNF staff, have maintained and recreated structures in the site.
Travelers should bring a flashlight in order to visit the caves.
In the winter, caves may be flooded. When the caves are flooded, they are closed to visitors.
To the Embossments' Cave
From the parking lot a wide path marked in green goes about 200 meters to the entrance gate, where KKL-JNF has placed guiding signs and a map of the site (the numbers in the brackets correspond to the site numbers in the Etri ruins.
From the entrance gate a path that uses a route from the Roman period leads to the top of the hill (1). On a crossroad of paths (2) travelers should continue forward. On the west (right) side of the path is the northwestern living quarters, dated to the Second Temple period, a peak time for the site. The structures are organized in columns of rooms that surround inner yards. The outer walls, made of large stones, have been used as walls against invaders. The area was abandoned during the rebellion, as coin inscriptions from the era tell us.
At the top is a large Mikveh (3), carved and painted in white. It includes a rectangular entrance and its capacity it over 40 square meters.
The path continues to the entrance of a small cave known as the Embossments' Cave. To visit the cave, travelers should bring a flashlight with them. On the cave's sidewalls are three burial niches. The niches' fronts are ornamented with engravings typical of the Roman culture.
The Village Center
Before the village center is a view point of it (5) with an illustrated sign which describes how the village looked in the past. At the entrance to the main street, on the right, are the remains of a Mikveh (6). A shocking evidence of how the village was destroyed was found here, with the discovery of the bones of 15 people.
The main finding here is the public structure (7). The structure contains three square artworks. In the yard, at the feet of the structure, a bench was discovered. Archeologists speculate that the structure was a synagogue – an unusual phenomenon, since most of the synagogues and community structures in the land, where most synagogues were built after the destruction of the Great Temple.
On northwestern corner is the opening of a hiding cave (8). Carved stairs go down to a 20-meter tunnel. Visitors can crawl through the tunnel (a flashlight is required) and get out in another structure. The tunnel is a part of a large system of tunnels dug as a preparation for the Bar Kokhva rebellion. In the winter, the tunnel is flooded and closed for visitors.
The Wine PressIn the southern edge of the residential area (9) is a large wine press (10). In the center of the press is a pit used for squeezing the grapes. The easiest way to return from the wine press to the starting point goes through a path that surrounds the site from the east. Note the rich grove on the way, with common oak, pistacia lentiscus and rhamnus lycioides trees that grow along poterium bushes.

Tel Adulam

Tel Adulam is widely considered to be the place of the same name mentioned in the bible, in the list of the 63 kings of the land of Canaan that wear beaten by Joshua. The place overlooks the road passing through the Elah Stream, which gives it strategic importance. Until the Six-Day War, the ceasefire line between Israel and Jordan passed through the top of Tel Adulam. In the 1950s, KKL-JNF planted a forest in the part that was under Israeli control.The foot of Tel Adulam is accessible for vehicles, and its top can be reached by foot through a trail marked in black. The top overlooks a splendid eastern landscape of the plains, the Hebron Mountains and the Jerusalem Mountains. Note: the caves in Tel Adulam and its close vicinity are closed to the public.

A Walking Trip at Tel Adulam

Parking at the foot of the site, where the road becomes paved, is recommended, since the walking trip also concludes here (those who only want to visit the top of the site can keep driving almost all the way, and owners of 4X4 vehicles can get to the top without any trouble).
After walking on the paved road between common pine trees for 100 meters, a left turn leads to a path marked in green. The path goes up the hill and close to the security fence, which creates a detour to leave a ravine with olive trees in the territory of the Palestinian Authority. When the green path reaches almost to the top of the site, near a large stone fence, it meets another path marked in black. The black path continues for another 100 meters, bringing travelers to the large flat surface at the top.Here, at the top, among pine trees, it is recommended to turn east and walk about 50 meters to the edge of the site. There, travelers can enjoy a stunning view: the Elah stream underneath, and the fields and olive groves of the towns of the plains. Beyond them, the Hebron mountains and glimpses and of the Jerusalem Mountains can also be seen.
Tel Adulam is widely considered to be the place of the same name mentioned in the bible, in the list of Canaanite cities inherited by the Israelites (Joshua, 12:15). According to the bible, Judah married the daughter of Shua of Adulam, with whom he had three sons: Er, Onan and Shelah (after whom a stream is named at the park). In a cave at Adulam, David and 400 of his men and family members found shelter from Saul (Book of Samuel 1, 22:21).
King Rehoboam has fortified Adulam (Book of Chronicles 1, 11:7) and the site demonstrates why he did, as it overlooks important strategic routes.
King Sennacherib of Assyria destroyed Adulam. The Zion Returners have rebuilt the town. The town also existed during the Hasmonean period; according to Josephus Flavius, Judas Maccabeus gathered his men in the place before an important battle.
At the end of the trip, the black-marked path leads down between the trees planted by KKL-JNF, including a few good looking Atlantic terebinth trees. The road leads left, with a ravine on the right and the forest on the left, reaching the foot of the site, where the travelers' parked cars are waiting.

Atlantic Terebinth Trees Near Tel Adulam

The Atlantic terebinth trees grow near a low ruin called Id al-Ma in Arabic, or Id al-Mea (the hundred's holiday). The ruin contains water pits, the remains of ancient structures and caves testifying to the existence of a town during the Roman and Byzantine periods, replacing the original town in Tel Adulam. The site is mentioned in the list of town of Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea: "there is today a great village, about ten miles east of Beit Guvrin". The village residents were not Jewish.
The Arabic name, Id al-Ma, echoes the ancient name Adulam. The Arabs, who saw the town ruined, created their own legend to its name and fate, about a great dispute which broke out during a holiday, leading to the death of a hundred people and the destruction of the village.

Near the ruins, big Atlantic terebinth trees can be seen. The biggest of them all breaks a rock in two. In terms of climate, Adulam is at the Mediterranean frontier area, among the Mediterranean section that is typical of the country's drier areas. The Atlantic terebinth is common in this section at the Golan Heights and the eastern part of the Upper Galilee, in the Hula Valley and the Lower Galilee area, in Jerusalem and at the Judea plain and in the stream channels of the Negev Mountains.

Bicycle Tracks

KKL-JNF has developed bicycle tracks in the park for experienced cyclists and families alike:
Adulam Track – a 23-kilometer linear (not circular) track. The track goes from the gas station at the Ela junction, and through the Ribua, Etri and Burgin ruins, the Nehosha forest, ending at Road 35 near Zoharim. The track is for mid-level cyclists.
Kanim Track – a 23-kilometer circular track. The track goes from the parking lot near the KKL-JNF offices in Givat Yeshayahu (The Archeological Garden) and passes through the Kanim Ruins, Tel Adulam, the old Patrol Road, Burgin Ruins, Etri Ruins, Shua Ruins and back to the starting point. The track is for mid-level cyclists.
Family Tracks – two circular tracks, for basic-level cyclists, go from the "Starting Point" bicycle center near the rear gate of Tzafririm. The tracks lead to the Etri Ruins, where they split: the Shua River track (about 7.5 kilometers) go north and the Hahlil River (about 11.5 kilometers) track go south, through the edge of the Adulam Grove reserve and near the Midras Ruins. Both tracks go back to the starting point.
Cycling in the park

Did You Know? Water for King David

King David has escaped to the Adulam Cave from the philistines, whose forces camped at the time in Bethlehem (Book of Samuel 2, 23: 13-17). Thirty of the king's people came to visit him in Adulam and found that he was missing the taste of water from the well in Bethlehem. Three of his heroes have wished to please him, fought their way to the well, pumped water out of it and brought it to the king; yet King David refused to drink the water and instead poured them out in the name of God. The king believed it was inappropriate for people to risk their lives just to satisfy him. The story was immortalized in the Israeli song "Water for King David", written and composed by Akiva Nof and performed by the beloved Israeli comedy trio HaGashash HaHiver.


The assumption that nature reserves are enough to guard nature does not stand the test of reality. KKL-JNF is leading a new overall approach in Israel, which treats the person as a part of nature and the environment. This approach is expressed in the establishment of biospheres, and it considered the person as part of and as consuming the services provided by the environment. An important principal in this approach is raising the awareness of the communities to their environment. Indeed, the local residents and KKL-JNF are collaborating in planning the Adulam-France Park. This collaboration found its expressing in the struggle against the production of oil shales at the Adulam area. If this threat would have materialized, it would have jeopardized the entire area.
KKL-JNF have designed the park according to the biosphere principals, creating a long green space at the heart of Israel.

Phootgraphs: Yaakov Shkolnik, Gidi Bashan, Mira Chen and the KKL-JNF Photo Archive