Starting point: upper parking lot.
End of the track: lower parking lot.
Length: about three kilometers.
Color markings: blue.
Track type: linear. Travelers should arrange for a vehicle to pick them up. The track can be made circular and shorter, starting and ending at the middle parking lot (see details at the end of this section).
Water pit and Residential Cave
The trail goes down from the upper parking lot through steps and immediately reaches a crossroad. It passes through the edges of the KKL forest, and 100 meters later passes near an ancient water pit (3). While there are two streams in the Sataf, it can be assumed that the residents made use of the water when attending distant fields. The pit was dug in the natural rocky surface and its sides were plastered to stop water from running through holes in the rock.
When Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai wanted to demonstrate the memory strength of his apprentice Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurcanus, he described him as "a plastered cistern that loses not a drop". The water pit is carved in the stepping surface of an ancient wine press. It can be assumed that the site was active during the Byzantine period. After the Muslims conquered the country (during the 7th century) the wine press was no longer needed, and the water pit was probably dug then.
Near the water pit is a large cave, with a stone wall inside and an opening with a large doorpost stone. The cave is not large, but it provided comfortable living. Like other caves in the Sataf area, it was used for seasonal residence, or flock maintenance, and the pit appears to have supplied the residents with water.
The trail continues in a pine grove and reaches a system of abandoned agricultural steps, and another half-built cave beside it (5). At the spot there is a splendid view of the dryland farming steps and the remains of the Sataf village.
From here the trail leads to a pine forest with picnic table, where travelers can rest before continuing. The "blue" trail goes down from the parking lot and follows the paved road for about 50 meters before reaching the lower parking lot. The road turns right following the blue markings and reaches the Sataf's dryland farming sections.
The sight of the agricultural steps, that were recreated with great effort, as well as that of the vineyards that grow in the area is beautiful. This is where generation of Sataf residents grew trees that do not need extra watering, including olives, grapes, figs and pomegranate. This dryland farming is named Ba'al Agriculture in Hebrew, after the god Ba'al in the Canaanite mythology – the god of sky and thunder, rain and fertility. From here comes his original name – Ba'al Shemin (husband to the sky). The rain fertilizes the land and makes the seed inside it grow.
The first stop on the track is the vineyard (6). The wine press looks like an earthly incarnation of the famous biblical wine press allegory: "My beloved had a vineyard on a rich and fertile hill. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines." (Isaiah 5:2). Indeed, to create a vineyard here the residents have cleared the small stones and built the agricultural steps from them, along with the tower – the Shomra, which we will get to later. A vineyard needs a fence to stop animals from eating the leaves and fruits. The fence is also mentioned in the vineyard allegory: "I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground" (Isaiah 5:5).
The vineyard was considered as one of Israel's natural treasures, as it could not be grown in Egypt or Mesopotamia, the two major cultural centers of the ancient world, and wine was an important product of the era. In those days, mixing water with wine as means of disinfection was a common practice.
Beyond the vineyard, between the terraces, travelers can see olive, fig, pomegranate, carob and pistachio trees. This collection of 16 different species of trees was brought here from all over the country courtesy of the Biblical Fruit Society of Israel. These tree species have been adjusted over thousands of years to the soil and climate conditions of Israel. The tree collection, which also include 25 different types of vine, is a genetic treasure, given that many of these species are no longer actively grown. When the trees bloom, travelers can taste their fruits, but not fill their bags.
Guard Shack Trail
The track continues along an ancient trail (7) which served the farmers and village residents in the area for transportation across many generations, possibly even during the Roman period. The trail uses the rocky steps of the Sorek formation – a geological formation built from layers of hard dolomite stone and soft marlstone. This structure is good for the creation of agricultural steps, since the marlstone layers between the hard rocks can be easily processed. The marlstone layers are waterproof, and they carry the Sataf streams and other streams in the Jerusalem Mountains.
The great stones that support the trail imply that it was meant for animals carrying crops. Such a trail is described in the story of Balaam in the bible: "And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way. But the angel of the Lord stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side" (Numbers, 22:23-24).
Above the trail is an old stone structure (8). This is the guard shack, lacking any inner space, 2X3 meters in size. Near the structure is a cave used for residence. During the harvest season, the farmer guarded his crops from the roof of the guard shack. A nearby cave was used for residence and storage. This may be the tower mentioned in the biblical vineyard allegory mentioned above.
Above this guard shack is the upper guard shack, a more complex structure, with an inner space used for residence and storage. Stairs led to the roof. Both shacks were built in a spot overlooking the surroundings.
The trail leads to a crossroad (9). The blue markings go through a large olive grove (10). Olives, like grapes, were considered as Israel's natural treasures, since the olive oil was used for lighting and healing.
The Winepress and Oak Grove
The trail goes through a Mediterranean grove that took over the surroundings and demonstrates the grove's ability to regenerate naturally in the Jerusalem Mountains. Beyond the grove is a large winepress house, carved in the rock, dated to the byzantine era.
The pressing floor, where grapes were pressed to make the wine, is covered by a white mosaic. From the pressing floor, the wine was collected and passed to the winery. Note the hole in the middle of the floor; this is where the grapes were place after they were pressed, to collect the remaining wine. The extra pressing was usually done by a pole. Slots around the pressing floor were used to place the grapes. In the bible, there is a description of the pressing: "And they went out into the field and gathered the grapes from their vineyards and trod them and held a festival" (Judges, 9:27).
Near the winepress is the Oak Grove (12). The large trees provide generous shading and create a wonderful resting spot. Common oaks of this size are a rare sight in the Jerusalem Mountains. The nearby remains found in the area were probably a byzantine church near a water pool. It is possible that across the generations, the local residents have considered the trees as sacred, and cared for them for this reason. The Sataf's Arab residents called the place Sheikh Obid.
South of the Grove is a cave with steps in its opening (13). The walls contain the remains of plaster, used to block the passage of water, and it is obvious that the place was used to collect water.
End of the Track
The trail continues through an olive grove as well as almond, apple, pear, plum and pistachio trees. After walking 150 meters, travelers can stop and watch the John in the Desert Monastery on the opposite mountain slope. The monastery, belonging to the Franciscan Order, was built during the 19th century in honor of John the Baptist, who was a resident of Ein Kerem. The Christian tradition tells that in the cave in this monastery, John the Baptist hid from soldiers of King Herod the Great. The current structure was built in the 19th century on the foundations of other, more ancient monasteries.
The trail reaches steps that go up to the Sataf stream. From there, the trail marked in green leads to the lower parking lot, and a paved road offer a three-minute walk to the middle parking lot.